Sunday, March 4
By Mark Scozzafave | Director of Worship Music
Grace Notes: More on Music
I believe OSP thrives on music that challenges with its text, energizes with its composition, and weaves a liturgical fabric of sacred word, ritual, and art—all in the context of our often troubling world. When planning music together with Dominic, careful thought also goes into our musical trajectory through the liturgy. Liturgy as music is a temporal art and, despite trading chronos for kairos, how we experience and pray with music sequentially through time stands as a worthwhile consideration. In this article I offer my perspective on today’s music and its relationship to our liturgy.
As the musical arc begins, the voice of our musical prayer gazes heaven-ward with penitent pleas to God to gather us and feed our hungers. Accompanied by minor mode sighing motifs, Alonso’s text consoles: “Surely you alone can save us”, while we, the lost and unsure, gather in our hunger for God’s boundless mercy.
Though it begins with the Ten Commandments, I think the Liturgy of the Word presents us with a deeper challenge when it comes to our hunger for signs, rules, and rule-breaking. The Lectionary prescribes Psalm 19 today and I am introducing a brand new setting of it by M. Roger Holland II, a prolific composer of ritual music in the Gospel idiom. It is worth noting that the refrain actually derives from Matthew and is particularly relevant to our Lenten theme. Holland frames the verses of Psalm 19 in the context of living, not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God—and that includes those Ten Commandments. The psalmist seems to be imagining something deeper though, a prescient vision of a “new commandment”:
The law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul;
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted, it gives wisdom to the simple
In the second reading, Jews demand signs and the Greeks seek wisdom. In both cases, a crucified Christ leaves these hungers paradoxically unsated and yet, we can imagine there is more to it. In the Gospel, Jesus’ commercially disruptive actions in the temple both disarm rule-abiding clerics, and provide a sign of upheaval to come. The crux arrives with the ultimate sign, when Jesus intimates his relationship to the Father—as Son of God—or as Paul had concluded earlier, Christ the powerful sign of God, Christ the Wisdom of God.
Stepping further into the liturgy, our musical voice emerges as more communal and less contrite; more personal and pragmatic, less pious. Having heard the soul-reviving word of God, our music becomes one of unity and invitation as we are called to bring our hungers to the table and be imitators of Christ.
Come, bring your joy to the Lord…
Come, let us worship the Lord…
Come, to the altar of God…
Come, wounded people…
As the Eucharist unfolds, Receive Who You Are spills over with Augustine Eucharistic theology. Through tropes for a healing and forgiving Christ, the verses re-affirm that it is not by bread alone that we live, but by bread transformed and broken as Christ’s body – much as we ourselves are!
In Come, Wounded People, Adam Tice’s talent for writing liturgical text captivated my attention. In his words: “Christ, though resurrected, remains broken. Resurrection does not always mean our wounds are healed, but that they are redeemed”. Immediately inspired to compose music for this text, I wrote what I am excited to share today and invite you to take a risk in boldly singing! For us, the community of Old St. Pat’s, these words need a voice:
Who stands excluded as we dine? And who comes empty, broken, dry.
As we break bread and pour our wine, too self-consumed to hear their cry?
But Christ invites the hungry in, and at our aching feet he kneels
He sees beyond what some call sin; his grace begins a feast that heals.
Sent forth with Jerusalem, My Destiny in its triumphal B-flat major, Rory Cooney’s unifying text reminds us that the journey makes us one.
We have progressed from minor key mercy-seekers to introspective finders of the Word-made-flesh. I hope that our music has strengthened the invitation to come wounded and whole, hear the voice of God the Signifier, and go forth with hearts ready to transform, having become what we received.