Czech Christmas Mass (Czech: Česká mše vánoční; Latin: Missa solemnis Festis Nativitatis D. J. Ch. accommodata in linguam bohemicam musikamque redacta – que redacta per Jac. Joa. Ryba) is a classic pastoral mass written by the Czech composer Jakub Jan Ryba in 1796. Because of its opening words, it is also known as Hail, Master! or Hey, Master! (in Czech: Hej, mistře!). Czech Christmas Mass was composed in a frame of traditional Latin mass (with parts Kyrie, Gloria etc.), the story is based on Christian theme of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Despite this, the work has a rather pastoral character with emphasis on a Czech description of the nativity in a Czech setting. During the centuries, the composition became the most popular Christmas mass in Czech countries and one of the musical symbols of Czech Christmas.[1][2]



Jakub Jan Ryba

Ryba composed his most famous work in 1796, a year after he managed to resolve a dispute over his teaching methods with the priest Kašpar Zachar.[3] He wrote the music to his own Czech libretto; It was his only mass composed to the Czech text.[4] Ryba did not record this mass in his list of compositions created from 1782 to 1798; he mentioned only "seven pastoral masses, one of them in the Czech language".[3] The autograph manuscript was lost; today only the title page is preserved intact. Some parts of the composition were performed separately as pastorales and the text gradually adapted with changes in the Czech language. Though Ryba created more than 1,000 compositions, Czech Christmas Mass remains one of the few works performed regularly to date.

The music of Ryba's mass along with paintings by Josef Lada appear in a 2007 animated film called Česká mše vánoční (Czech Christmas Mass).[5]


The original key of the composition was A major, however, it was later transposed and arranged in various ways. Today the transposition in G major (a tone lower) is the most commonly used version.[3] The main form of the composition is called ordinarium and consists of six parts. The mass contains characteristic short melodic motifs inspired by the folk music, supported by colorful rhythms.[3] It is often considered a Christmas cantata, based on pastoral motifs. Because of its folk character and simplicity, it has been excluded from the Catholic liturgy. However, it still remains connected with the celebration of traditional Czech Christmas.[3]

The mass consists of nine parts:

Mohelnice nativity scene

Ryba’s work suggests the picture of a Czech Bethlehem, such as the wooden nativity scene called Mohelnice Bethlehem.

  1. Kyrie (full text) – The opening part begins with a well known verse "Hej, mistře, vstaň bystře!" ("Hey Master, get up quickly!"). A young shepherd wakes his master, they both wonder at various unusual phenomena of nature.
  2. Gloria (full text) – a hymn to celebrate the birth of Christ
  3. Graduale (full text) – Shepherds assemble the people from all the regions and lands. The part ends with an appeal: "K Betlému teď půjdeme, Boha slavit budeme." ("We're going to Bethlehem, to celebrate the God.")
  4. Credo (full text) – In the Czech Christmas Mass, Credo describes the preparations for the pilgrimage to Bethlehem.
  5. Offertorium (full text) – the gathering over the manger; People offer musical gifts to God and Christ.
  6. Sanctus (full text) – the shortest part of the composition, an angelic hymn
  7. Benedictus (full text) – This part with solo soprano in the central role is dedicated to the celebration of the newborn Redeemer.
  8. Agnus (full text) – parting with Christ, plea for protection of all people
  9. Communio (full text) – The final part ends with monumental choral hymn celebrating the Holy Trinity.

The original instrumentation of the work was 4 soli, choir, organ, flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, clarion (klarina; trumpet), 2 violins, viola, violon-double bass and tympani.

Published scores

  • Ryba, Jakub Jan: Česká mše vánoční (Böhmische Hirtenmesse, Czech Christmas Mass) – piano reduction. Prague, Editio Bärenreiter, 2004. M-2601-0325-2.



External links

This page uses content from the English Wikisource. The original article was at Czech Christmas Mass. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Religion wiki, the text of Wikisource is available under the CC-BY-SA.

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