Offertory: Veritas mea
The Offertory (Offertorium in Latin) is the Proper chant sung during the Offertory of the Mass, which marks the beginning of the Celebration of the Eucharist. The term Offertory refers to a tradition dating as far back as the 2nd century, in which the gathered congregation presented offerings to the celebrant to initiate the Eucharist, either by processing to the alter or contributing to a collection box. Originally, these offerings were the bread and wine that would become, through the miracle of transubstantiation, the body and blood of Christ. Later, bread and wine were replaced with monetary offerings, which were often given outside of the Mass ceremony. Thus, the Offertory chant came to accompany the second part of the Offertory ritual – the preparation of the Eucharistic consecration, in which the priest mixes the wine with water, offers incense, and ceremonially washes his hands.
Early Offertories were comprised of a respond and a number of solo verses. In the respond, a single phrase by the cantor was followed by a longer choral passage. Then, two to three solo verses alternated with a repetition of the choral portion of the respond, the aptly named repetendum. This structure created flexibility in the length of the chant, so that it could accommodate the time it took to complete the offerings in early Masses. In the late Middle Ages, as Masses became shorter and less participatory, these solo verses fell out of use. Thus, although Veritas mea comes from the plainsong repertory of the 8th century, only its respond appears in later chant sources, such at the 15th-century Sint-Donaas Gradual from the church of Sint-Donaas in Bruges from which this version comes (click below to see the original manuscript).
As is typical of Offertory responds, the music of Veritas mea is neumatic, with occasional longer melismas – this jubilance was traditionally meant to encourage generous giving. Veritas mea is in Mode 2, also known as the Hypodorian mode, with the final on D and an ambitus of exactly one octave, extending from the G below to the G above the final.
The text of Veritas mea comes from Psalm 88:25. Because Veritas mea belonged to the repertory of plainsong for the Common of Saints, it does not reference St. Donatian specifically. Instead, it is a statement of faith in the Lord appropriate for honoring any male saint belonging to the category of “confessor bishop,” such as St. Donatian. This Offertory also marks the first use of a first person text in the Proper of this Mass, perhaps reflecting the increased spiritual urgency of the Celebration of the Eucharist.
Anna DeLoi with M. Jennifer Bloxam
To learn more about Offertory chants, see:
Dyer, Joseph. 2001 “Offertory.” Grove Music Online. 29 Jul. 2018. www.grovemusiconline.com
Hiley, David. Western Plainchant: a Handbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. See in particular pp. 121-30.
Jungmann, Joseph A., The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development, Vol. 2. New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1955. See in particular pp. 1-31.