Thursday, April 29, 2010

St Peter of Verona, Martyr, O.P.

2 Timothy 2:8-10; 3:10-12 / John 15:1-7

Images of St Peter of Verona do not generally sit well with modern viewers. There he stands, in full Dominican habit, adorned with a halo and, at least in the earliest images, standing like his fellow saints in a field of gold. What makes this odd, however, is the cleaver embedded in his head, the very instrument of his murder, his martyrdom, still stuck in his skull. We don't know what to say. Either such a vision is too grisly, too horrific, making a lie of the real tragedy of the brutalization of those persecuted and killed for the faith. Or else, we think it comic, ludicrous, risible. We wonder what kind of spirituality, what kind of faith would put stock in a heaven where wounded heroes still walk about with weapons lodged in their bodies.

But, then, what about our crucifixes? We craft them lovingly of the best we have — of wood and paint, of marble and precious stone, of silver and gold, and especially in this Eastertide we surround them with beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers. How can we laud and hold up the broken body of the Lord affixed to the awful Tree when he reigns in heaven where death has no more dominion over him? On the other hand, how can we show as beautiful what was in so many ways brutal and ugly, a miscarriage of justice played out through the ruthless and systematic abuse of a helpless man?

The Christian faith, however, insists that it is not our vision of Christ and the saints, but the vision of the world that is confused. For the world, suffering and flourishing are incompatible. A life is only human, only fully alive, insofar as it is not marked by the scars of this valley of tears. The world fears that, even if there should be a glorious life beyond this one, a cosmic future of paradise when the last star has cooled and gone dark, pain and suffering will still stand in judgment over an eternity of bliss.

St Paul, on the other hand, tells us that all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Jesus himself reminds his faithful that everyone that does bear fruit in his life in Christ, the Father prunes, purges, so that he bears much fruit. A life truly alive, the mark of a life well lived, a life which can be said to have flowered into full bloom, will not be untouched, but marked with its own scars of suffering, its own cleaver, nails, or crown of thorns.

But why is this not bad news? Brothers and sisters, while we wait for the coming fullness of God's redeeming work in Christ, God does not wait for us! He is already at work, not in spite of our sufferings, but in and through them, and if we let him, he will make of us vines unimaginably fruitful with the wine of the New and Everlasting Kingdom from grapes grown on the branches of our lives, crushed indeed in the winepress of sadness and suffering, but not for that reason bittersweet.

The Christian vision is neither masochism not vulgar comedy. It is the sure and certain hope that the way of the Cross is the way of Life, and that where Christ has gone before, we need have no fear to follow.

Heinrich Isaac and the Choralis Constantinus in Hungary

For those interested in the music of Heinrich Isaac, as well as its celebration both in concert and in the context of the Mass, and especially for those who happen to be in or near Budapest, you might want to check out the following links:

Choralis Constantinus 500 is a Hungarian project to sing through the entirety of the Choralis Constantinus of Isaac. The site includes multilingual booklets of the pieces sung at the concerts & Masses, as well as handouts of the chant which is sung altenatim with the polyphony. The project began on November 30, 2008, and it is scheduled to be completed on November 22, 2011. The site itself is in Hungarian, German, and English. They have a Facebook page as well.

If your Hungarian isn't too rusty, check out Capitulum Laicorum Sancti Michaelis Archangeli who are involved in this very worthy project.

God bless Hungary, Shield of Christendom!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Usus antiquior and Renaissance Polyphony in the heartland

An invitation from the Doctoral Seminar in Choral Conducting at the Jacobs School of Music to a

Curated by Father Professor Dominic Holtz (Aquinas Institute of Theology, St Louis, Missouri)
and Professor Giovanni Zanovello (Jacobs School of Music)

Title LECTURE - Liturgical History and Musical Performance Practice: Issues to consider for a performance of a Missa Tridentina
DateWednesday, April 28, 2010
Time 4 p.m.
Location Sweeney Hall

Lecturer: Father Dominic Holtz, Professor, Aquinas Institute of Theology, Saint Louis University.
Assisted by Professor Giovanni Zanovello, Musicology, Jacobs School of Music
and Professor Carmen Helena Tellez, Choral Conducting, Jacobs School of Music

Title Doctoral Final Project -
Date Thursday, April 29, 2010
Time8 p.m.
Location Saint Paul Catholic Church

Doctoral Seminar in Renaissance Choral Conducting Final Project

Missa Tridentina (in Latin, celebrated by Fr Dominic Holtz, Aquinas Institute of Theology, Saint Louis University)
Music from Heinrich Isaac's Choralis Constatinus

Saint Paul Catholic Church,
1413 East 17th Street
Bloomington, IN 47408-1602
(812) 339-5561

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, o christicolae?

Jesum Nazarenum crucifixum, o caelicole.

Non est hic; surrexit sicut praedixerat. Ite, nuntiate quia surrexit de sepulchro!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chrism Mass

James 5:13-16 / Mark 6:7-13

A tale is told of a cobbler and a rich man. The cobbler was happy, and in his happiness, he sang every day while he worked. None knew the cause of his happiness. After all, he had to work every day simply to keep the roof over his head and put a few meager scraps on his table for his wife and children. Some days he made a little more, but often he made nothing at all. Even so, every day he sang, happy with his trade, his family, his life. So joyful was his song that all who heard it were comforted: the weary had rest, the lonely and sorrowing made glad, and the children filled with delight.

Across the street was a wealthy merchant who, unlike his cobbler neighbor, had more than he needed, in food, in clothing, in richness of life, save for one thing. What the merchant lacked was sleep. Day and night he worried over his treasures, and whenever he thought he would find a moment of solace, his mind returned to his many things, and anxiety overtook his soul. Why, he wondered, can my neighbor who is so poor be happy and sing with such joy while I, who have so much, can never find rest?

So, the rich man visited the cobbler. Discovering the cobbler's poverty, he offered him a rich sum of gold. At first, the cobbler was overjoyed. No longer did he fear the lean days when no one bought his shoes. No longer did he fear whether he would be able to feed his wife and children, to support her when he could no longer work or leave an inheritance for them all when he had died. However, he also found that he could no longer sing, nor in the days that passed, to sleep. Like the merchant, he found his heart drawn ever to thoughts of the money he had been gifted. Every footfall of a cat his mind thought to be the steps of a burglar. Every visitor he imagined, or dreaded, might be coming to ask for a handout. Every day he imagined that his secret cache of gold might be found out, and he would be left again penniless.

So, the cobbler, returned to the merchant with the gold. Receive back your gold, he said, and give me back my songs. The merchant replied, How odd this is, indeed! For the last few days, I find I neither missed your music nor missed a minute of sleep, and for the first time in ever so long, I have been happy.

The life in Christ, the life of a Christian, which is to say, the life of one anointed with the oil of gladness, the sacred anointing of prophet, priest and king, is a life of joy. It is a life of abundance, of sweet-smelling unguents coming from the very depths of ourselves. Our life in bound up in oils. Oils which seal in the waters and life within us and keep us firm, young, and supple. Oils which soothe the burns, the aches and pains of our life. Oils suffused with medicines that heal our ills. Oils that burn brightly, cleanly, sweetly to light the darkness with their warm glow and give healthy fragrance to the air. Oils that adorn and perfume, directing others by sight and smell to notice the beauty and dignity that is ours by new birth in Christ.

This is the rightly unctuous life of faith. The world about us, like the merchant, so rich in blessing and all the same unable to enjoy them, puzzles over our joy, and offers us a share in its own paltry but enticing wealth. Our songs it neither recognizes nor finds refreshing or delightful, even if it grudgingly admits the pleasure and release it grants to those who hear with faith. So it sets before us gold, a place at the tables of power and influence, a place where we need not fear the vagaries of the days to come. Perhaps even a world free from the scandals and darkness of our past that threaten, if not for Christ's promise, to raze the whole edifice of the Church to its foundations. The world suggests to us a trade — abandon your priests and the priesthood, be with us fellow men of good will and do all the works of justice you desire. Sing no more your songs, but have security instead.

How very different the advice of James: Is any of you sad? Let him pray. Is he cheerful in mind? Let him sing. Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

But perhaps we find it had to pray. Perhaps we find it difficult of late to sing. Perhaps we are even less inclined to turn to the priests of the Church in our afflictions. If so, it may be time to return the merchant's gold. It may be time to cross the street and hand back whatever in our life has taken the rightful place of the oil of gladness which alone can make us happy and give us peace. It may be time for us to return to the song that gives us joy, the song that alone can make us glad.

O Redemptor, sume carmen temet concinentium.
O Redeemer, accept this song that we all sing to You.