Saturday, March 3, 2012

Music Notes for March 4

       Having been told by Jesus not to talk publicly about the transfiguration they witnessed on Mount Tabor until after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples discuss among themselves what “rising from the dead” might mean. Perhaps that phrase can be our guide for Lenten growth: what does it mean to rise from the dead? In his poem “Resurrection,” Fr. Clarence Joseph Rivers wrote, “Death is not where we’re going to; death is what we’re growing from.” Our marching music could be our psalm refrain: “I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.” That perspective is a tremendous test of faith in view of the suffering that human beings continue to inflict on each other. Psalm 116, which is also the psalm for Holy Thursday, takes up the same theme. It could even be a rap testimonial about our close calls with death in all its many forms. Verse 15 is variously translated: “How painful it is to the Lord when one of his people dies!” Or: “Lord, you hate to see your faithful ones die.” That is the point of our story about Abraham and Isaac. Scholars tell us that this episode may be a counterpoint to the influence of neighboring ancient peoples who practiced child sacrifice. In II Kings we read that some of the Jewish kings fell into pagan rituals. We can also see the parallel between Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and God who “did not spare his own Son,” in the words of St. Paul.
       Paul’s Romans 8 passage begins with: “If God is for us, who then can condemn us?” What a powerful Lenten mantra!  We sing Grayson Warren Brown’s meditation on this line. The psalm refrain at 10:00, “Walk With Me,” was written by another African-American musician, Leon Roberts, who died in 2000 of esophageal cancer. The entrance hymn at the organ Masses, “Transform Us,” was written by Sylvia Dunstan, a poet who died prematurely in 1993 at age 38. At the organ Masses the communion hymn will be “Christ, Be Our Light,” by Bernadette Farrell, a cancer survivor from England. The closing hymn at 10:00, “Shine, Jesus, Shine,” is by another English composer, Graham Kendrick. In fact, I first heard this song on a BBC World Service program some 15 years ago. The closing hymn at the organ Masses, “Beautiful Savior,” is a traditional German text and tune which many of us used to sing as “O God of Loveliness.”