Music in the Lirurgy

11-11-2012Weekly ReflectionLucas Miller

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

As I type these words, I am anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Presidential Election. I pray that as you read this our religious liberty has been preserved, and that a step has been taken toward fostering and promoting the sanctity of life in our country through the election process. I would like to especially thank all of our Veterans who have helped uphold and protect these rights.

Being the Director of Sacred Music at Saint Magdalen’s, I have the privilege of assisting with an integral part of the liturgy every week. According to the tradition of the Church and reaffirmed at the Second Vatican Council, sacred music is a treasure of immeasurable worth. It is greater than that of any other art form. These are bold words from the Council, considering such sacred art masterpieces as Michelangelo’s Pieta, or the architecture of the Gothic Cathedrals. The music most suited to the liturgy and considered by the Church to be the ideal, is Gregorian chant, followed by sacred polyphony. While sacred music from our tradition is to be fostered and is central to the liturgy, the assembly is also called to full, conscious and active participation. It is the goal of the music ministry at Saint Magdalen’s to meet both of these challenges.

The new Mass setting that we are learning at the parish is an example of meeting both of these goals. The melody from the Sanctus and Memorial acclamation is taken from the chant, “Ubi Caritas,” which is sung on Holy Thursday during the washing of the feet. It is important to point out that we are meant to sing the Mass, not just sing at Mass. When we chant our responses to the priest and sing the responsorial psalm, we are fully and actively participating in Jesus’ saving work in the liturgy. We also actively participate even if we are just listening to the choir sing a piece of Gregorian chant or polyphony. In listening attentively, with special awareness of the sacred words and melody, we allow the music to assist our prayer during the liturgy. This requires patience and concentration because we may not be used to music like this, but it is well worth it to persevere. As people always on a tight schedule, it can be difficult for us to let go and be carried away by our prayer. Gregorian chant and polyphony assist in this in part because they have no recognizable beat. Thus, the sense of time is lost. This can be disconcerting at first, but is reflective of the “Eternal Present” of Heaven that is not marked by time. The same chants have nourished the spiritual life of the Church’s great saints for over 1000 years.

The Sacred Music program at Saint Magdalen’s offers many opportunities for people in the parish to take part. Our adult choir meets weekly for rehearsal and sings for the Sunday Mass at 10:30. We have two excellent choirs for children and youth led by Gina Niedziejko. We have a contemporary choir that sings at the Saturday 5pm Mass. This fall, we also began a Gregorian chant schola that meets alternating Thursdays, and will sing at special liturgies through the year. All of these groups are looking for more members, so please contact me if you would like more information.

In Christ,
Lucas Miller