Sunday, June 3
By Mark Scozzafave
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. In contemplating liturgy as a temporal art, I offer my perspective on today’s music and its trajectory through our unfolding liturgy.
We begin with the writing of Shirley Erena Murray reminding us that, when we are creators of justice and joy, God delights! Declamatory in tone, the text asserts a place at the table exists for all people; and that fulfillment of basic needs––clean water, shelter, bread––also exists. Our “justice genesis” comes in our decision to ensure a place is truly available. We sing Lori True’s setting, familiar to this community in its brightly dancing ¾ time, not “singsong” in style, but fully aware of its weight and challenge. More pointedly, our preparation song, Come, Wounded People, asks:
Who stands excluded as we dine? And who comes empty, broken, dry,
As we break bread and pour out wine, too self-consumed to hear their cry?
For this community of Old St. Pat’s, these words need a voice, and I invite you to take a risk in boldly singing them. In the author’s own words: “Christ, though resurrected, remains broken. Resurrection does not always mean our wounds are healed, but that they are redeemed”. On a solemn feast such as today, one where the readings overflow with proclamations of covenant and promise, I believe these challenging social justice texts have a place. It reminds us that in our covenant with God, we are also in community and in covenant with each other as co-owners of humanity’s brokenness.
Our Catholic tradition is host to an immense corpus of Eucharist-themed music. The psalms (including the one prescribed for today with its beautiful line in the third verse: “You are my promise for all to see”) are only the beginning of a long list that includes Panis Angelicus, Pange Lingua, and countless contemporary compositions. For today, our music purposefully connects with themes of brokenness, promise, and redemptive healing. Communion begins with John Bell’s gently patterned melody, which comprises a descending three-note motif paired with his rich, yet economical text. Consider internalizing this text before Mass if possible; you may even find yourself praying it from memory during communion.
This is the Body of Christ, broken that we might be whole; this cup, as promised by God, true to his word,
cradles our Lord: food for the good of the soul.
As the Eucharist unfolds, “Receive Who You Are” spills over with Augustine Eucharistic theology. With 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. I first experienced this piece while my wife Aimee and I were in Atlanta, participating in the Immaculate Heart of Mary music ministry. Our friends had recently written it and asked that I write the arrangement for piano, strings, and woodwinds. I brought it home to Old St. Pat’s, where it occupies, I believe, a treasured place in our repertoire.
Having received holy gifts, being a holy people of God’s covenant, and challenged by the words of contemporary social justice writers, we depart singing Tony Alonso’s “At The Table of Jesus” as we walk, led by our God, into a hungry world. Come, wounded people, and take your place at the table––it’s our responsibility to ensure that place exists, that it is life-giving, hospitable, and welcoming.
P.S. Next Sunday I am introducing a new setting of the Gloria to use through mid-July. It is written by Carroll Andrews in a through-composed style which means we will pray the Gloria from top to bottom. I look forward to taking this musical leap with all of you!