Music at Mass Review: Corpus Christi, 2014

Today, got a chance to attend two Masses:

The 8:00 was  at a lovely local parish that I attend once in a while, with a cute church building that almost survived the inevitable remodel with its dignity intact – big, back-lit risen Christ where a crucifix belongs, and the tabernacle moved to a (at least, prominent) side altar. But, not too bad, all in all – nice stained glass and fixtures in an old-school cruciform timber-vaulted building. Most important, they have wonderful priests from all around – 5 continents have been represented over the last few years – and a reverent congregation.

Corpus Christi – big feast, with a very pointed message, and tons of brilliant music written for it. So, here’s the lineup:

Entrance: I Am the Bread of Life.

Style and technique wise, not my cup of tea. I especially dislike how, in every verse, the music changes to match the text, even though the text is manhandled (or, given the recent PC tune-up, perhaps ‘person-handled’ would be more appropriate). So, we lack the skill to paraphrase the text so that it fits a given melodic structure, but we’re not afraid to do a little brain surgery on it when we can’t even get it to fit even an new melody?  We’ve been singing this song since I was in high school, yet the congregation still mumbles through every verse other than the first verse, because each verse is, effectively, its own melody – and who can remember all that?

But: the text is straight outta John:6 – can’t ask for much more, liturgically or theologically. This tune has attained the status as a foot-stomping classic – a commentary itself. So: OK.

For the offertory: Here at This Table.

Based on this text, what nominally Christian sect would find this objectionable?

Come and be filled here at this table.
Food for all who hunger
and drink for all who thirst.
Drink of his love, wine of salvation.
You shall live forever in Jesus Christ the Lord.

1. You who labor for justice,
you who labor for peace,
you who steady the plow
in the field of the Lord,

2. You with lives full of pain,
you who sorrow and weep,
you, beloved of Christ,
come to him, come to him!

3. Children of ev’ry color
in ev’ry land,
you are his own,
he gathers you gently.
Don’t you grow weary,
for when you run,
you run with the Lord!

4. You, the aged among us,
holy, faithful and wise,
may the wisdom you share
form our lives and our world!

5. Let each woman and man
learn from the stranger;
we’re not so diff’rent
and so much unites us.
For we are one,
blest with the Spirit
and the power of love!

Any connection to the Real Presence is avoided, but the song does hit almost all the major design requirements of modern hymns:

1. We, not God, are the primary focus of the song. Never once do we direct our singing toward the Savior Who makes all the nice sentiments expressed anything other than pablum;

2. Justice and peace as our work. If God would just get out of the way and let us do it.

3. We’re not racists.

4. We’re not ageist.

5. We’re not sexist.

6. We’re multicultural.

Points for being somewhat more subtle at hammering home that It’s All About Us and burying church teaching under a fetid pile of warm fuzzies than many songs in this genre. We sang verses 1, 2, and 4 – 3 and 5 have a different tune entirely.

Communion: The Supper of the Lord.

This song, while having nothing much to recommend it as a piece of music, does, however, present completely orthodox theology on the True Presence:

Precious body, precious blood,
Here in bread and wine;
Here the Lord prepares the feast divine.
Bread of love is broken now,
Cup of life is poured;
Come, share the supper of the Lord.
Verse 1
This is the bread of God
Coming down from heav’n
Giving life to us, to all the world.
Verse 2
“I am the living spring
Of eternal life
You that drink from me
Shall not thirst again.”
Verse 3
“I am the bread of heav’n
giving life to you;
you that eat this bread
shall never die.”
Verse 4
“All those who feed on me
have their life in me,
as I have my life
in the living God.”
Verse 5
All praise to You, O Christ,
present in this feast,
in this bread we share
in one life, one Lord.

It’s no O Salutaris Hostia, but I don’t feel the need to take a shower, theologically speaking, afterwords. 

Finally, we ended with Sing of the Lord’s Goodness, a song whose major claim to fame is that it is in 5/4 time. So, 2 out of 4 get the theological seal of approval; one was lame, and one was random. So, about what one would expect these days. The Mass was beautiful, reverent and efficacious.

Then, caught a second Mass, an Ordinary Form Mass as it should, according to V-II, ordinarily be done: in Latin. It went a little like this:



Music was similarly reverent and to the point. So. yea, it was good.

Have a happy, holy and blessed feast day!

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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