Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A First Friday Reflection (in a musician's eyes)

The absence of Masses due to the COVID-19 "pandemic" (I'm using quotation marks for the word "pandemic", because I firmly believe the left wing is politicizing the daylights out of this, but nonetheless) has prompted me to utter these thoughts...

May, of course, is the Month of Mary, and a most opportune time to pray to our Blessed Mother via the Holy Rosary.  Don't just pray once, but pray often.  Pray for an end to the "pandemic".  Pray for the opening of churches and the restoration of public celebration of Holy Mass in all our churches.  Pray for a "return to normalcy" (term stolen by President Warren Harding), or perhaps even better than "normalcy".  Pray for our parish, the continuing recovery of our fearless leader, Father Bucci, for each other, for ourselves and our families.  Do it!

This Friday is May 1, the beginning of the Month of Mary.  But oddly enough, the month starts with the feast honoring her spouse, St. Joseph, not so much as her spouse as we do on March 19 (aka, "zeppole day"), but under the title St. Joseph the Worker.  This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1955 and is celebrated on the fixed date of May 1.  In the traditional calendar, this feast is of the First Class, in other words, holding the same rank as the March 19 feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In the modern calendar, it has been relegated to Optional Memorial (the March 19 feast is still a Solemnity, much higher rank), but can be elevated in the case of, let's say, a  patronal feast of a parish or a diocese.

For many of us laid off due to COVID-19, this is also a good time to pray that we may soon return to work!

While the usual St. Joseph hymns may be appropriate for the May 1 feast, I'd like to call attention to a particular hymn, Jesus, Thou Divine Companion.  This is in the Hymnal 1940 (our maroon hymnal) at #511, and is set to the tune "Pleading Savior" (which many may have sung with the hymn Sing of Mary, Pure and Lowly).  The first verse is thus:

Jesus, thou divine companion, by thy lowly human birth,
Thou hast come to join the workers, burden bearers of the earth.
Thou the carpenter of Naz'reth, toiling for thy daily food;
By thy patience and thy courage, thou hast taught us toil is good.

OK.  You may ask, "OK, so this hymn talks about work, but what does this have to do with St. Jospeh?"  Some may remember, especially back in the late 1960's and well into the 1970's, a pew book simply called Monthly Missalette, which was published (in illo tempore) by J.S. Paluch Company of Chicago, Illinois.  Monthly Missalette included the same hymn, but the third line was altered thus to reference St. Joseph:

Son of Joseph, gifted worker, toiling for thy daily food

Another hymn from the maroon hymnal that I fell in love with doesn't reference Joseph, but does promote work!  Come, labor on can be found at #576.  Very stirring tune, and I'll post the first verse:

Come, labor on; who dare stand idle on the harvest plain,
While all around him waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say: GO WORK TODAY!

Stay safe, and pray without ceasing!

Quod scripsi, scripsi!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Improperia (aka, the Reproaches)

Today being Good Friday, I'd like to expose a piece that's important to Good Friday liturgy that is hardly ever seen in hymnals anymore, let alone sung - well, not in the Ordinary Form.  That piece is known as the "Reproaches", or more formerly, the "Improperia".

The Reproaches is a chant that is traditionally sung during the Adoration of the Holy Cross.  It is written in two portions.  Some may recognize this antiphon:
- My people, what have I done to you?  Or in what have I offended you?  Answer me! 
Or, in Latin:
- Popule meus, quid feci tibi?  Aut in quo contristavi te?  Responde mihi!

These are the words of Christ.  The verses are very strong as well.

Here is the entire chant, in English...

(Key: R./ = Response; V./ = Versicle)
Part I
Sung twice:
My people, what have I done to you?  Or in what have I offended you?  Answer me.

V./ Because I led you out of the land of Egypt, you have prepared a Cross for your Savior.

R./ Holy is God, / Holy and Strong, / Holy and Immortal One, have mercy on us.
(Traditionally, this is alternated with the Greek: "Hagios o Theos, / Hagios Ischyros, / Hagios Anthanatos, eleison himas,"  Each passage alternates Greek by chanters, then English as the response by full choir and/or congregation.  In a Latin Mass, it would be Greek then Latin.)

V./ Because I led you out through the desert for forty years and fed you with manna and brought you into a land of plenty, you have prepared a Cross for your Savior.  R./
V./ What more should I have done for you and have not done?  Indeed, I planted you as my most beautiful chosen vine, and you have turned very bitter for me, for in your thirst you gave me vinegar to drink and with a lance you pierced your Savior's side.  R./

Part II

V./ I scourged Egypt for your sake with its firstborn sons, and you scourged me and handed me over.

R./ My people, what have I done to you?  Or in what have I offended you?  Answer me.

V./ I led you from Egypt as Pharoah lay sunk in the Red Sea, and you handed me over to the chief priests.  R./
V./ I opened up the sea before you, and you opened my side with a lance.  R./
V./ I went before you in a pillar of cloud, and you led me into Pilate's palace.  R./
V./ I fed you with manna in the desert, and on me you rained blows and lashes.  R./
V./ I gave you saving water from the rock to drink, and for drink you gave me gall and vinegar.  R./
V./ I struck down for ou the kings of the Canaanites, and you struck my head with a reed.  R./
V./ I put your hand in a royal scepter, and you put on my head a crown of thorns.  R./
V./ I exalted you with great power, and you hung me on the scaffold of the Cross.  R./

I'm fixing to prepare a setting of this to be sung next year on Good Friday, God willing.

A blessed Triduum to you all!

Quod scripsi, scripsi!