Monday, November 27, 2006

Ad te levavi

One of the reasons behind the Church's song is to convey the drama of the liturgical year in an audible way. This way, even if a person had no Missal, couldn't understand the homily, and had no access to scripture, the message of the faith could still penetrate. And though today we have printed material and access to a thousands of treatises at our finger tips, what we all miss is the musical score to the liturgical year that our ancestors knew so well.

After all, a person who knew the chant well could play a little game: name that day of the year in 4, 5, or 6 notes. But these days, even the most famed of all Proper chants are new to our generation. It's a sobering thought, but there is also some exciting about discovering new treasures week after week.

And so here is one for next week, "Ad te levavi," the introit from the first Sunday of Advent. The notes mark the beginning of the Church year. The tendency in the musical line is always up, up, up, lifting up our souls, waiting with expectation with eyes toward Heaven--notice the jubilant Deus meus--a musical line at once bright, beautiful, and mysterious, as if we are sure that something extraordinary and liberating is going to happen but we aren't entirely sure of the details.

To thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed. Neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded. Show, O Lord, thy ways to me, and teach me thy paths.

I love listening to this primitive MP3 of this chant, even with the accompaniment. I vaguely hear what sounds like someone there is singing the chant along with the monks. Was there ever a time when people were so inspired by the sound of the new Church year that they would spontaneously join in singing? Could it become that familiar over the generations? I can easily imagine it.

Familiarity starts with the first listening. Pastors of souls should insist that this song be heard again this coming Sunday. Perhaps in a few years, it will only require someone to hum the first 6 notes and we will all know immediately: it's Advent!

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