Friday, September 16, 2016

Candlelight Missa Cantata at Wyoming Catholic College for the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

In honor of the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a candlelight Missa cantata was celebrated last night at Wyoming Catholic College. The collegiate Schola sang the Propers of the Mass.

Several things struck me about this Mass. The stark juxtaposition of light and dark threw into great relief the priest and his actions at the altar. Since reading a missal was difficult or impossible, one simply gave up on the idea of reading, and watched with eyes made keener by the surrounding black and the flickering flames. It was easy to surrender oneself to the motions of the priest at the altar as he went back and forth with the incense, or bowed to recite a prayer, or genuflected. His actions became mine: he was doing all this on my behalf, and I was assisting him with my internal attention and love. The unity of his action and mine was somehow strongly apparent: this was not "his work" but ours, as the Mystical Body of Christ, head and members.

Another thing that struck me was how the darkness deepened the silence and augmented the chant. A church fully lit can be silent, too, of course, but the very fact of everything being lit up in all its distinctness and multiplicity can create a certain "visual noise" that makes the space busy, perhaps even distracting. When you are in a dark church, the space collapses to the region of light: this become the light shining in the darkness that the dark cannot comprehend. The resulting silence is one of concentration, fullness, expectancy. How often is it so quiet that you feel your heart beating? The dark silence also "amplified" those parts of the Mass that were audible; it furnished a suitable but contrasting setting for the chant, like a gold ring for a precious stone.

Some of these things I had noticed before at our nocturnal singing of Tenebrae, but this was different because it was a Mass, and because the Schola was in the choir loft looking at the altar from afar. I don't know how it was for the many others who were present, but I know that I went away with an enormous peace in my soul, a sense of having entered more fully and deeply into the mystery of the Passion of our Lord and the Compassion of our Lady. For this, I say, once again and always, Deo gratias.

At the Introit

At the Gospel


Before Communion

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