Christus factus est – Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
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In the classical Roman rite, this text from Philippians 2:8-9, also part of today’s Epistle, was sung as the Gradual at Mass on Maundy Thursday. [The name “Gradual” comes from the fact that a soloist originally chanted the psalm (today’s text, unusually, is not from the psalms) from an elevated place, the step (gradus) of the ambo where the subdeacon had just read the Epistle.] However, since the promulgation of the novus ordoby Pope Paul VI in 1969, it has instead been employed as the Gradual at Mass on Palm Sunday.
Anton Bruckner’s (1824-1896) Christus factus est, this morning’s motet at communion, appeared in 1884 – the same year as the Te Deum for chorus, four soloists, organ and orchestra. More than any of Bruckner’s great motets, Christus factus est follows an almost symphonic path of motivic and harmonic development – a striking parallel to Christ’s journey of “obedience unto death”. All suggestion of triumphalism is avoided in the final quiet, almost mournful reference to the “name which is above all names”.
Christus factus est pro nobis obediens
usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.
Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.
Christ became obedient for us unto death,
even to the death, death on the cross.
Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him a name which is above all names.