Saturday, March 10, 2012

Music Notes for March 11

       Today’s Exodus reading is another chapter in the unfolding story of God’s covenant with His chosen people. The Ten Commandments were carved in stone on Mount Sinai and to this day in town squares, framed on courthouse walls and school halls. The question is, are they carved in our hearts?  Such is the promise of Jeremiah which we will hear in two weeks, and it is also the text of our opening hymn at the organ Masses. “Grant to Us, O Lord” is one of the hymns in antiphonal style written by Holy Ghost Father Lucien Deiss,  inspired by the tribal chants he heard as a missionary in Africa. Psalm 19 also sings of God’s law in sensual terms, a living, breathing entity, part of the fiber of our being. “The law of the Lord refreshes . . .  rejoices the heart . . . enlightens the eye . . . more precious than a heap of purest gold . . . sweeter than syrup or honey . . . ”  Our setting is by Michael Joncas, composer of much of our contemporary repertoire, including “On Eagle’s Wings.” Psalm 19 is also the text of our communion song, “Your Words Are Spirit and Life,” also written by Bernadette Farrell, who also wrote last week’s “Christ, Be Our Light.” 
       God’s law, which “gives wisdom to the simple,” is the source of the true wisdom described by St. Paul. God’s wisdom explodes language and logic, for “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”  Our closing hymn at the organ Masses is the second half of the Breastplate of St. Patrick, “Christ Be Beside Me,” sung to the tune of “Morning Has Broken.” It expresses beautifully the meaning of St. Paul’s statement: “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
       All human beings crave signs. Language itself is a series of signs, as are music, dream images, or frames of a movie.  We read the astrology column (for fun, of course) and look for signs of climate change and the “end times.”  Confronted with a series of signs, we want to know what they mean.  When the disciples saw Jesus transfigured between Moses and Elijah, they wondered what this might mean, as well as “rising from the dead.” In today’s gospel they are left to ponder the meaning of Jesus’ display of anger as well as his response to those who demanded some sign of his authority. Our offertory hymn, “God, Whose Purpose Is to Kindle,” is a prayer that wisdom internalized will move us to action. (It is sung to the Applachian hymn tune ‘Holy Manna.’) In our quest for the meaning of resurrection, we note that the temple must be destroyed before it is restored. There is no resurrection without death. How is this experienced by those whose beloved parishes have been closed? When sickness is cured or hurt is forgiven?  How many things need to be let go of before we are free?