Gregorian chant is distinguished by a certain Roman economy, scarcely ever repeating a text, except in the case of litanies. There are several offertories, though, which make repetitions within their texts, and they often occasion the question, why? In considering their texts, it is clear that these repetitions are for a variety of reasons.
Perhaps the most interesting repetition occurs in a pair of offertories, both beginning "Jubilate Deo," the first in mode five, the second, in mode one. (1) These two chants, though their texts come from different psalms, (2) take their main point of departure from their first two words, which they have in common: the injunction to sing joyfully, to jubilate. Their placement on consecutive Sundays suggests not only the joyful character of the Epiphany season, but also that their direct comparison is invited.
The musical injunction, "Jubilate Deo," forms the topic of the beginning of both chants, for musically speaking it is more specific than simply "sing joyfully"; rather, the joyful singing is accomplished through a jubilus, a long melismatic passage on a single syllable. Thus, the response to the injunction, "Jubilate" is a repeat of the text in which the jubilus occurs upon its accented syllable. In each chant this melisma is made more beautiful by its own internal organization. Each makes it clear that its repeat of the first word is anything but a simple melodic repeat.
In the first, Jubilate Deo omnis terra (Ex. 1), the initial intonation Jubilate rises to a c and then descends to …