Bringing young adults into a deeper relationship with Christ through Eucharistic worship.
What is Beauty? Pt. II
Before I begin, I want to apologize for my lack of blogging. The schedule is so greatly packed, that there has not been much time to write blog posts. Combine this with the lack of internet availability on the campus during the night hours, when I’m free to blog, and you have little to no posting. I also, apologize for the failure to post Fr. Kirby’s lectures. We are having some trouble getting around the file size issues.
Earlier this week, Dr. Mahrt, CMAA President, posed the question, “what is beauty?” While posing a possible answer to the question, he remarked:
“Thus beauty gives delight in the truth, and thus engenders a desire in the truth. And to desire it because it is good.”
As promised, the music this week has been incredible. It has been incredible to learn, incredible to sing with such talented musicians, incredible to be conducted by such wonderful choirmasters but most of all incredible in its use in the sacrifice of the mass. In addition to the gregorian propers and ordinary of the mass throughout the week, we have had the chance to sing Palestrina’s Missa Brevis for the ordinary of the mass on Thursday, William Byrd propers from the Gradualia on Saturday. and Schubert’s Mass In G with orchestra on Sunday.
In our beginning chant class, Scott Turkington taught us that the form of Gregorian Chant is that of an arch, a roman arch (rounded) and not a gothic arch (pointed). That is to say, it is composed of several smaller arches that form a larger arch, lifting the melodies up and then back down again. What a wonderful image for so many other things in the liturgy, especially how we are lifted by God’s grace into a foretaste of the heavenly banquet through the sacrifice of Calvary and returned to earth.
The chant does not stop there, however, as Fr. Mark Kirby, OSB, lectured throughout the week. The texts for the propers of the mass, drawn from and in conjunction with the sacred scriptures from the lectionary, gather our mind to the words God is speaking to us through the liturgical action. The chanting of the propers makes the ineffable audible, adding that which cannot be said, but can be expressed through the melody. With the lectio (reading), meditatio (repetition), and oratio (praying) of the texts, we are drawn deeper into the liturgy and naturally closer to God Himself. Hence, “Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy.”
As exhorted by the church, the composers of the polyphony we have sung this week have given us musical gems. Building upon the foundation laid by gregorian chant, the interweaving of the melodies, combined with the text produces a work which words fail to describe. In the concert setting, it is magnificent, but in the liturgical setting it truly is beautiful. Recalling Dr. Mahrt’s remarks above about beauty giving delight in the truth, I will say this. The Missa Brevis, and especially the Byrd Propers have given me great delight in the truth this past week. More than pleasing, the melodies and the texts have lifted in prayer and thought to the Father. I kid you not when I tell you that Palestrina’s Agnus Dei from the Missa Brevis in its liturgical use, moved me to tear up as I knelt at the Altar Rail contemplating the mystery of the Lamb of God who, despite my unworthiness, would come to me as healer and sanctifier, that I might receive Him, poor though I am.
The truth that I have experienced this week, is that the beauty of the chant and the polyphony gives great delight to the Sacrifice of the Mass. They give delight as they drew deeper into the mass itself. Exposing partially the beauty of the Eucharistic Reality that is veiled, speaking partially that which is ineffable. This week, we experienced beauty.
God, through Holy Mother Church, has given us this treasury of music. What a blessing it is. We would be foolish to turn away from it in the name of modernism. This music reminds us of what is ever present and ever new and in some way lives that maxim as well. In the life of the church, for hundreds of years, has been present, but is ever new.
I look forward to seeing you all again soon and recounting my tales of the colloquium. In your charity, please pray for safe travel as we all depart Pittsburgh and return to our homes. Also, please pray for your priests and all priests in the Church.