Ecce Lignum Crucis (Behold the Wood of the Cross) is a chant antiphon (1) sung during the Veneration of the Cross on
Good Friday. Dom Gueranger explains the history and symbolism behind this chant and ceremony:
"The holy ceremony of venerating the Cross on Good Friday was first instituted in Jerusalem, in the 4th century. Owing to the pious zeal of the Empress St. Helen, the True Cross had then recently been discovered, to the immense joy of the whole Church. The faithful, as might be expected, were desirous of seeing this precious relic, and accordingly it was exposed every Good Friday. ... An imitation of what was done on this day at Jerusalem was a natural result of these pious desires. It was about the 7th century, that the practice of publicly venerating the Cross on Good Friday was introduced in other churches. ... Such was the origin of the imposing ceremony at which Holy Church now invites us to assist." (2)
As the priest gradually unveils the Cross (which until this point has been covered by a purple veil), this chant is sung three times, each time sung on a higher pitch (indicated by the priest). These three expositions symbolize the three preachings of the Cross: the first, which was made by the Apostles only to the few faithful disciples of Our Lord (for fear of the Jews);
the second exposition signifies the preaching to the Jews after the Descent of the Holy Ghost; and the third exposition symbolizes the preaching of the Cross to the whole world (the Gentiles), after the Apostles were rejected by the majority of the Jewish people.
Ecce Lignum Crucis is interpreted below by the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz. See also
this explanation by Italian chant master Giovanni Vianini, conductor of the Schola Mediolanensis.
Listen to Ecce Lignum Crucis by the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz
Ecce lígnum Crúcis,
In quo sálus múndi pepéndit.
Behold the wood of the Croos,
On which hung the salvation of the world.
Come let us adore.
For a high-resolution JPG of this chant, click here.