Saturday, August 15, 2009
HE WHO SINGS PRAYS TWICE
The CCC states that
“The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy.” (CCC 1156)
This combination of music (which speak to the heart) and words (which the intellect comprehends) is why St. Augustine said “He who sings prays twice.” Why does the Church insist that the eucharist is the highest form of Christian prayer? Because it is in the eucharist that words and music are given their ultimate expression though the liturgical gestures of the entire People of God.
Every Sunday as we enter into the Eucharistic celebration, we use all three dimension of our being – head, heart and hands - to give expression to Christ working in the Presider, His Word, The Assembly, the Eucharistic sacrifice, starting with the Processional song, the Kyrie (Lord have mercy), the Gloria, the Responsorial Psalm, the Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia), the Preparation of the Gifts, the Holy, Holy…, the Memorial Acclamation (Christ has died,…) the Amen, the Our Father, Lamb of God, the Communion song and concluding with the Recessional song.
Can you remember all the different liturgical gestures that go with the music and the words of the eucharist? Can you see how it is important that the music be truly liturgical in that it incarnates what we profess and sing?
As catechists, it is our duty to help our youth to appreciate this musical tradition of the Church by introducing and encouraging the singing of authentic liturgical hymns during the weekend catechism classes.
A good example of how the mood and theme of the liturgical season can be beautifully captured is found in the lyrics of the song “As I Have Done For You” by Dan Schutte. This song is most appropriately sung during the “Washing of Feet” at the Holy Thursday Mass. It can also be extended to be used for our lesson on the “The Last Supper”.
Music during catechism classes not only reminds students of its importance during the liturgical celebration but it also offers them a direct encounter with the living Christ when done well. The CCC records the effect it had on the young St. Augustine when he was thirsting for the Truth beyond what his intellect had already perceived.
How I wept, deeply moved by your hymns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears distilling the truth in my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my face - tears that did me good. (CCC 1158)
Let us strive to bring back into our catechism classes and our Catholic liturgy what the CCC calls the 'harmony of signs (song, music, words and actions)'. Indeed the CCC recommends that in order to do foster proper liturgical music
The texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine. Indeed they should be drawn chiefly from the Sacred Scripture and from liturgical sources. (CCC 1158)
As Catechist this will require on our part a strong conviction and experience of the power of the Church’s liturgical life to bring us into an encounter with the living God!