Sunday, November 25
By Mark Scozzafave
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
“Who is my neighbor?” is our theme for contemplation and action this year at Old St. Pat’s. The question comes from the Lucan account of the Good Samaritan, to which the punchline answer is “one who shows mercy” – and yet our readings today feature themes of dominions, oracles, end times, and even mistaken identity. In this article I offer my perspective on today’s music and its liturgical trajectory in the thematic context of today’s feast.
Instituted in 1925 by Pius XI, this relatively nascent feast was in response to growing secularism, toppling empires, murky post-war alliances, and contention over Rome’s own civil authority–– not much different from today. And yet I admit, I’ve often found the solemnity title aggrandizing. This year, in light of our theme, I found myself seeking another angle; if Christ is King-Universal, then we are universal subjects, subordinated to Christian service and obedience to the truth. We are universal, not necessarily as small-c-catholics but in our humanity. In the first reading, Daniel speaks of a vision in which “all peoples, nations, and languages serve him”. It is through that lens of service that I turn to our music in the first half of today’s mass.
Our opening song, in triumphal C major and based on the stately chorale theme in Holst’s Jupiter, I draw your attention to the third verse: “Then hear, O gracious Savior, accept the love we bring, that we who know your favor may serve you as our King.” In our psalm, written by gospel composers Richard Cheri and Jalonda Robertson, our cantors proclaim “save your servant” and “gladden the soul of your servant, for to you I lift up my soul.” And during offertory, in the poetic words of Rory Cooney, to the Alpha and Omega, we “lift our song, love ever new”. Lifting up our song, our collective souls, united as merciful servants to the neighbors in our midst: that’s not aggrandizing, it’s beatifying – and fit for a feast.
The music in the second half of mass represents the other half of the equation. In living as subjects to Christ––not cowering under some monarchal repression, but as free, true stewards of God’s creation––we envisage the Kingdom of God here on earth. At communion, we sing “Make of our hands a throne…in this mystery Lord, make us one with you”. Andraé Crouch, who was an American gospel singer, songwriter, record producer and pastor, wrote the iconic song Soon and Very Soon which contemplates the Kingdom, one free of tears and separation.
Finally, we sing the text for I Will Lift My Eyes which is inspired by a 10th century Celtic poem, Psalm 121, and the well-known prayer writings of Thomas Merton. Tony Alonso weaves them together as one and pairs it with his original music–– hopeful and invigorating in its equanimity––crafting this beautiful prayer that we sing together as we are sent forth.
These last pieces are prescient visions of the truth: the vision that Daniel had in his prophecy of the Son of man, the eyes of all people who will see Christ in the stranger, as proclaimed in Revelation, and, of course, the “vision” that eluded Pilate in the Gospel. It is the vision of a kingdom, the kingdom that with glad souls and eyes lifted, we continue to build in our service to others.
p.s. Dominic and I love bringing music into this church and even more, hearing it echo from your voices. Let it sing!
Mark Scozzafave | Director of Music Ministries | firstname.lastname@example.org