Thursday, February 19, 2009

A joyous, sunny song

in studying this chant for rehearsing it tonight, Arlene Oost-Zinner noted that the entrance chant from the Gregorian books for the first Sunday of Lent, Invocabit me, is in a major mode, which is not expected. It's quite a contrast from "Forty Days and Forty Nights," for example. It is a classic case of how the music communicates information about our history and faith that we otherwise might not know.

Here is what Dom Johner says:

We have now entered the serious season of Lent, the season of penance. Much is expected of us during this time. But the prospect should not dismay us; sadness or weariness are entirely out of place. For we are not to carry on the fight alone. Now more than ever the Lord will be our help. We may call upon Him, and He promises to hear us (first phrase). He will remove all obstacles, all ground for complaint; He will "deliver us;" He will even—Oh, the wonder of it!—glorify us (second phrase). And that which He now promises us is, moreover, to be our lasting possession, is to fill the yearning of our hearts for all eternity.

The words of the Introit found their fulfillment in the Saviour Himself. His long and fervent prayer was answered by reason of the piety with which He prayed. He was freed from all pain and from all His enemies; He was glorified, and both the fullness of days and the fullness of joy overflowed into His sacred humanity. That is the wonderful panorama which Mother Church unfolds for us on this very first Sunday in Lent.

We must also pray this Introit as if it were coming from the hearts of the catechumens. The station today is at St. John Lateran, the mother-church of all Christendom, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. There, on the night preceding Easter, the catechumens will find the dearest wish of their heart granted; there the Sacrament of Baptism will remove from them the power of their enemies and free them from the vicious world and from the darkness of sin. There they will be received into the Communion of Saints, obtaining thereby a claim to the glory of heaven.

These thoughts are of themselves sufficient to prevent us from giving a somber interpretation to the present Introit. The fact that it belongs here, to the first Lenten Sunday, will not hinder us from singing it as a joyous, sunny song, transfigured by the goodness of God.... All the depths of the soul, be they ever so profound, will find their perfect satisfaction in the glory of God.... Parallel sentence structure, clear delineation and presentation of what is important, pleasing contrasts and cadences: those are the features of this chant.

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