Friday, October 06, 2006

Fine and thanks, but what do you want?

Did a colleague or friend ever walk up to you to praise you and your work, and point out also that you are generally a wonderful person and good friend—really a model and ideal?

Your first thought is: ok, what does this guy want?

Sure enough, most of the time, our instincts are right. Our friend wants something from us. Maybe it's money. Maybe it's that he seeks allies in some dispute. Maybe he wants us on "his side" for some reason. It's not always the case, but it happens often enough.

Between the first statement about your glories and the following request for a favor, there is a change in tone, isn't there?

Well, the same scenario plays itself out in this weekend's communion chant, and the music beautifully illustrates the change in tone from the praise to the request to the final compelling beg.

We begin with a lovely and calming song, with words from Psalm 118. "In salutari tuo anima mea." My soul aspires after your salvation." Also, "et in verbum tuum speravi." I hope in your word.

But then the chant shifts, with the speaker imploring God to do something about the persecution he is enduring. The rhythm is in the form of a recitation, with a particularly emphatic lift on "me." "When will you judge those who persecute me?" the singer asks. Then he provides a repetitive emphasis with zealous fire on "persecuti": The wicked are persecuting me." Hysteria is just beneath the surface.

We end with the sound of weeping and imploring. "Adjuva me, Domine Deus meus." You can sense the singer on his or her knees, begging "come to my assistance, Oh Lord my God."

Here is MusicaSacra's version with Psalms that you can sing from this weekend.

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