Friday, December 31, 2010

Midnight's First Song


Are your vocal chords ready? You should know the words by now. If not, here is the complete poem penned by Robert Burns:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
May God, Who holds all time in His hands, grace the coming twelve months with abundant blessings. May you draw closer to He Who loves without end. May He shine through you brightly.

Happy New Year!

Another Yearly Wrap-Up

In my life, 2010 will simply be known as "The Year of Chant".

Just three weeks defined the other forty-nine, but those three were very memorable. The three trips I took this past year--to Charleston, SC; Pittsburgh, PA; and Houston, TX--to be introduced to Gregorian Chant and its rightful place in the liturgy are the obvious highlights of what was just another year of holding my own. While discovering this art form in more detail was rewarding, the new relationships I forged with people from around the country made it even more worthwhile.

What have I gained from my sojourns? As an amateur musician, I have found a welcome challenge which forces me to continue to improve my skills. As a lay person who volunteers to help with the liturgy, I continue to gain insight into how to reverently give proper worship to God. And as one on a journey to meet God face-to-face, I have another avenue in which to encounter Him, one which seems to suit my personality.

There are questions of prudence, since I still struggle with limited financial resources. But God did provide the means necessary at the right time. This is a blessing from Him; His grace helped find the way. It was a small act of faith on my part, but one I perhaps was ready to make.

And now, as I prepare to enter my sixth decade of living, I have to wonder what the future will hold. What opportunities will 2011 bring? Which ones will I seize? Will I be able to take a larger step as I "Go Forward"?

More prayer. Much more discernment. Even much more exercising of my will in accordance with His. These are the paths I must take to answer those questions.

"Come grow old with me. The best is yet to be."

Until tomorrow.

Until the new year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 Christmas Card


"Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!" As we celebrate the Word becoming flesh this day, may the Christ Child bless you and those you hold near and dear. May His throne be your heart and His reign bring life, peace, joy, and love.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Different Birth Announcement

Again this year at Midnight Mass I will be intoning the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ.

However, befitting The Year of Chant, I have more than a few options.

It will not be the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' official text.

I found three other sources. The first is the Vatican Edition in Latin (the date according to the lunar calendar will have to be adjusted). The second is a literal rendition in English done by John Birchfield of the St. Teresa's Gregorian Schola, again with the lunar date needing updating. (Fedora Doff to Jeffery Tucker, lead 'blogger at The Chant Cafe, for the information.) The third is a combination of the USCCB's official text with the Latin chant, done well by Aristotle A. Esguerra, who 'blogs at The Recovering Choir Director.

My plan is to use the English rendition of Mr. Esguerra. With only last night and today to work at it, its repetition should make it easy for me to use for tonight.

St. Cecilia and St. Gregory the Great, pray for me.

2010 Christmas Eve Reflection

Personally, I would have to call 2010 "The Year of Chant". As I have delved into the wonders of Western Plainsong from both technical and spiritual angles, I have been exposed to a pedagogy that is slowly deepening my understand of God and how loving He truly is. I am learning more about my faith in a way which supplements the study I undertake in what little spiritual reading I do. The fruits of this remain to be seen; hopefully, a seed has been planted in good ground.

Part of the repertoire of Gregorian Chant are the Propers of the Mass. They are the Introit, the Graduale, the Alleluia or Tract (used during Lent), the Offertory, and the Communion. These antiphons used in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass have been replaced in the Ordinary Form by the Processional (Entrance) Hymn, Responsorial Psalm, Gospel Acclamation, Offertory Hymn, and Communion Hymn.

This is not the time and place I wish to enter debate on the merits of what is better for the liturgy and all the tangled web that has been woven since Vatican II. I would like to present for your meditation some thoughts using the Propers for the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord celebrated at Midnight. Since the Propers are usually in Latin, I will use the English translation.
The Lord said to me, "You are my son; this day I have begotten you."

Psalm 2:7b
This verse is used for both the Introit and the Alleluia. It is the Father speaking to the Son. While Christ has always been with the Father and the Spirit from all eternity, these words take on a different meaning tonight. Rather, one should say "this day", "today". Hodie. For when this is chanted in its rightful places, as the priest processes to the altar, figure of the Christ Child in hand, ready to be placed in the Nativity scene, and when the book of the Gospels is processed to the ambo, the Word in Its many words and forms, the magnitude of what has and will happen comes to the forefront.

The Babe, the Son of Mary is placed in the manger; the Word is among us. The story of His birth as told by St. Luke (2:1-14) is made flesh by the proclamation of that Gospel; the Word, in that sense, is among us. We have waited for the coming of Jesus for four weeks. Now, His Advent into the world is here. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory,..." (John 1:14a). Now, Emmanuel--God is with us. Now. The only time God sees--past, present, and future all at once. The infinite has made His way into the finite.

We humans cannot wrap our finite minds around this mystery; the choirs of angels, less so. All we mortals can do is join in their heavenly song and give glory. We stand in awe. It is really the only proper response to such a great act.
Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor; before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.

Psalm 109:3
This verse is used for both the Graduale and Communion (only the second half). Again, note the similarity of theme. "The King of Glory comes, the nation rejoices." In its place between the First and Second Readings (Isaiah 9:1-6 and Titus 2:11-14), it also speaks of the manifestation of the Savior. As we proceed to receive Him in the Precious Body and Blood, we are made aware of another manifestation. Born in "the house of bread," the Word made flesh, through the words of the priest, in the act of consecration, in a sense another begetting, manifests His Real Presence and fulfills the promise He made before His crucifixion.

Again, another mystery beyond our comprehension. Bread and wine trans-substantiated into His Body and Blood. While the heaven hosts are able to eternally gaze upon Him as He truly is, we only have this shadow, Real as He is.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;...before (the face of) the Lord, for He comes.
Psalm 96:11a, 13a
This is the verse use at the Offertory. Again, He comes. Only this time, it is not Mary who carries Him within, not quite ready to be born. We, like Mary and Joseph, he of the house of David, in a sense "travel to Bethlehem", to a sanctuary and, while there, completes our days of confinement through the hands of the priest, who finishes the knitting of earthly and heavenly natures in the consecration.

"Let heaven and nature sing" about this new joy to the world. The angels certainly did. The shepherds were muted, but must have been glad. The Magi understood, but had to keep their song quiet. Simeon and Anna rejoiced forty days later. We as well join in with our "Gloria".

Emmanuel. God is truly with us. He has come.

Hodie Christus natus est.

Final Preparation

The four weeks have passed. Only a few hours remain to prepare our hearts for his coming. In 1736, Charles Coffin penned these words; they were translated by John Chandler in 1837. They set the tone for this last day of Advent:
The advent of our King
our prayers must now employ,
and we must hymns of welcome sing
in strains of holy joy.

The everlasting Son
incarnate deigns to be;
himself a servant's form puts on
to set his servants free.

Daughter of Zion, rise
to meet thy lowly King,
nor let thy faithless heart despise
the peace he comes to bring.

As Judge, on clouds of light,
he soon will come again,
and all his scattered saints unite
with him in heaven to reign.

Before the dawning day
let sin's dark deeds be gone;
the old man all be put away,
the new man all put on.

All glory to the Son
who comes to set us free,
with Father, Spirit, ever One,
through all eternity.
Ero Cras.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Countdown To "O"

This Advent season has really flown by for me. It is hard for me to believe there are only eight days left until Christmas.

Once again I offer my series of meditations on the "O" Antiphons. As is my wont, I continue to add to what I have done in the past. This year, along with the meditations of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf from his 'blog "What Does The Prayer Really Say", I introduce to you Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB. I met him at the CMAA's Colloquium XX, where he presented a series of talks on how the Propers of the Mass provide a theme to the liturgy that day. His 'blog, "Vultus Christi", will be the source of those additional thoughts.

The "O" Antiphons are sung during Vespers and are also the Gospel Acclimation during Mass the next seven days. Seemingly my most popular posts, I once again hope you enjoy this "something old with something new, some things borrowed, all things true."

Come back this evening. Let us continue to "wait in joyful hope".

Monday, December 06, 2010

Metamorphosis

At this time of the year one can wander across stories about how a fourth century Catholic Bishop became the symbol for the Christmas season.

I wondered as I wandered over this (PDF file).

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.