Sunday, April 9


What did you sing today?

Holy Week here at Notre Dame is one of the most incredible series of liturgies I've encountered. As such, I thought I'd share the experience, as best I could, in writing. (NB: There will be several choir-nerd type details, so those of you who are not so inclined, feel free to skip over them.)

The procession began from the architecture building, with much incense and banners, and came out of the front doors onto the steps, to the chant Hosanna Filio David. The picture of the doors bursting open and the cloud of incense rolling out into the sunlight before the Crucifix and banners was truly stunning (at least from my front-row spot). Palms were blessed and the Gospel of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem was read, and then the procession toward the Basilica of the Sacred Heart began.

All of the hymns ("To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King" "At the Name of Jesus" and "Crown Him with Many Crowns") were first intoned on the carillon, and the choir lined the procession path in an attempt to keep the hymns together. They fell apart slightly, due to the electronic delay of the cantor on the speaker system, but the transition from outside to in was fairly smooth. The final hymn of the procession, as the priests entered, was "All Glory, Laud, and Honor," sung with a descant on the chorus (as best we could while climbing the loft steps and getting into place).

The Gospel Acclamation and verse were written by Calvin Bower, an emeritus of our Music Department here. The verse, "Christ became obedient for us, even unto death, even death on a cross; therefore God raised Him on high, and gave him a name above all other names," was a choral setting, with a very effective use of dissonance in the treble voices on the first phrase, and the men joining for a soaring crescendo on the second.

The Mass setting was the David Hurd's "New Plainchant Mass," which I like very much in theory, though it can sound a tad clunky when you have to get organ and congregation involved.
The offertory was O Crux Ave, Spes Unica, by Christobal Morales, the text of which is the sixth verse of the Vexilla Regis. This piece is especially appropriate at Notre Dame, since the motto of the Congregation of the Holy Cross is "Spes Unica."

O crux ave spes unica
hoc passionis tempore
auge piis justitiam
reisque dona veniam.

O cross, our only hope
in this time of suffering,
grant justice to the faithful
and mercy to those awaiting judgment.

Communion music was Lucian Deiss's "Keep in Mind that Jesus Christ has Died for Us," and the finale from the Bach St. Matthew Passion, "Wir Setzen Uns," the beautiful text of which translates as follows:

"We lay ourselves with weeping prostrate
And cry to thee within the tomb:
Rest thou gently, gently rest!
Rest, O ye exhausted members!
This your tomb and this tombstone
Shall for ev'ry anguished conscience
Be a pillow of soft comfort
And the spirit's place of rest.
Most content, slumber here, the eyes in rest."

For the closing hymn, we sang "O Sacred Head" in four parts. The usual organ postlude was lacking for this Mass, as will be the case until Easter.

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