José de Valdivielso (1560-1638) was a priest who served as Mozarabic chaplain of the Primatial Cathedral of Spain during most of his life. The Mozarabs were Catholic Iberians who maintained their culture, orthodoxy, and the original Iberian liturgy of St. James that was distinctly indebted to the See of Jerusalem, who were forced to live under Arabic dominion after the latter’s invasion in 711 A.D. until the peninsula was finally reconquered over a period of several centuries.
Valdivielso was very popular as a writer and befriended many illustrious contemporary artists, poets, and playwrights of the Spanish Golden Age after the Council of Trent, such as el Greco, Lope de Vega, Miguel de Cervantes, and Luis de Gongora.
The following poem, that he entitled “Romance a Cristo Nuestro Señor, misacantano,” is densely theological. His Castilian metered verses cannot be literally translated into another language without losing the rich connotations of his words. Even the term “misacantano,” when put into English, requires several words since it designates a priest intoning his first Mass, although in this poem it also refers to our Lord musing as a new born infant about Himself intoning the Mass that is one with His life as Man. Along with profound allusions to dogmas, here and there Valdivielso even makes indirect references to his beloved, magnificent, ancient primatial Cathedral in Toledo.
A remarkable example of the Catholic Baroque imagination, the narrative describes to faithful, both hearers and readers, the eternal intention of the Second Person of the Trinity, now incarnate as a new born Infant, to bring about the Salvation of mankind and creation as He begins His earthly journey towards His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
In truth, Valdivielso forged a marvelous monstrance in verse so that faithful might contemplate ever anew, throughout future generations, the magnificent mystery of Christmas.
This splendid poetic jewel from the Spanish Golden Age, previously only available in manuscripts, along with similar creations dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament throughout the centuries that were composed by other authors in the great Primatial Diocesan See of Toledo, Spain, are available again in the valuable book authored by Dr. Elizabeth Wilhelmsen, Cantores del Corpus Christi: Antología de Poesía Lírica Toledana (New York/Bern: Peter Lang, 1996).
Ballad to Christ Our Lord, the Eternal Priest’s First Mass-Singing
He wished that He ordain Himself for Mass
that divine Master,
Who in the schools of Infinite and Almighty God
apprehended all through Himself.
The Holy Eternal Father ordained Him
to be Eternal Priest,
anointing Him with Chrism
of the Eternal Divine Paraclete.
He granted unto Him fullness of power
on Earth and Heaven,
that He might administer
all seven Sacraments.
His Father wishes that he may go forth
to sing Mass to all His peoples,
for this have venerable elders
long and greatly desired.
And before He might intone it,
a servant was first sent
to see if in Holy Mary
they might give Him ornaments,
because it is this Holy Church
that is greatest above all things of earth,
wherein there is the precious Tabernacle,
in which would reside the supreme good that excels all the world.
And they responded with gracious generosity
to said Messenger
Who then came to serve her,
for He is the Lord of all.
At the instant He descended
He was adorned with the ornaments most sacred
by the Eternal Three Persons of Heaven.
And He came forth from the sacristy,
yet without breaking the seal,
for He left it as intact
as it had been before He entered.
The royal chapel then,
with sonorous instruments began,
with sweet verses the Introit within the world.
Shepherds and Kings spoke to Him their profession
confessing Him to be truly God,
though they saw Him to be equally Man.
On the altar of the crib
between two deacons placed,
were Mary and Joseph,
and the Gloria was chanted by Heaven.
He bespoke the Dominus vobiscum
after the Dominus tecum,
and with His eyes gazing Heavenward
He did say the prayer in the garden.
Saints Paul and John chanted
the Epistle and Gospel,
and all the Holy Apostles,
in tongues varied,
He then made the Offertory,
His Blood verily to be drunk
and His Flesh consumed.
The Sanctus of that Mass
by nine angelic choirs was sung,
and the Benedictus
by pure voices of the folk.
Raising on high the Host,
those revering struck their breasts with blows,
some as with stones
and others with small bells.
The Chalice was filled
with affliction immeasurable and Passion most bitter,
while Mementos with profound devotion
were whispered for living and dead.
After He did say the Pater noster,
then a thief, adveniat regnum;
and John intoned Agnus Dei,
for to him it had first been taught.
Peace there was, except for Judas,
who, as dispenser of evil,
would betray that Sacrament Most Blessed
for thirty pieces of silver.
Yet He didst consume our sins
even unto death,
for in bespeaking Ite missa est,
He foretold consumatum est.
And extending His blessing
over all earth and heavens,
there came forth innumerable thanksgivings
for this first Mass-Singing.
It was truly the Mass of Salvation,
healing all the infirm,
even those in the sick-bed of Limbo
who arose now healthy and well.
And beholding His Venerable Mother,
font of His luminous deeds,
He voiced His tender affection
within her unending loving embrace.
And as there are so many invited,
may all who wish to partake with them
be granted this Holy Sustenance
with His Eternal Father forever in His Everlasting Kingdom.
[translated by Dr. Michael Berton]