Musical Liturgy for Nativity
May 21, 2020 COVID-19 Faith Reflection—Musical Liturgy for Nativity
Before we entered into the Great Shutdown and the enduring Social Distance Era, we said a grateful good-bye to Brian Wood, our parish’s Director of Music since 2006. Brian had been discerning over the past year a career change and stepped down from his parish position in February.
I had been pastor of Nativity only since December 1st, but in the brief time we overlapped at Nativity, I found it a joy to work with Brian and celebrate Mass with him. He brought to Nativity a deep love of the liturgy, along with his musical gifts at the organ and piano. He developed the assembly’s participation with the support of strong cantors and choirs.
We formed a search committee consisting of Dianne Kramer (chair), Brian Wood, Billy Williamson (now on parish staff as our Liturgy Coordinator), Judy McWilliams, Angela Fieler, Jennifer Chellberg (our parish Youth & Young Adult Minister), and yours truly (the Pastor). Before we posted the full-time Director of Music position, we thought long and hard about what we were looking for.
Jumping ahead to end the suspense, I’m glad to announce that the Director of Music search was successful! In my faith reflection for Sunday, I’ll say more about Phillip Revekant, our incoming Director of Music. His first day on parish staff was Wednesday, May 20. But first, let’s look at our vision for the liturgy and how the Director of Music fits in it.
The liturgy is the source and summit of the parish life. In the Mass, we celebrate the memorial of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our parish life flows from his sacrifice on the cross and strives to unite us in the crucified Christ. This purpose is why we have the Mass.
If the purpose answers Why, vision answers Where. Our vision is Where we are going. Through participation in the liturgy, we strengthen our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, our vision seeks the full, conscious, and active participation of the assembly and its liturgical ministers in the Sunday liturgy.
How do we get there? Three values help realize our vision for a musical liturgy.
First, the cantor and choir support the assembly’s singing. If you attend a concert at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, you watch and listen and keep your mouth closed. Try singing along, and an usher will give you a dirty look.
The Mass, though, is not a performance to observe. It’s a sacrifice to take part in. The cantor and choir are there to encourage us to sing.
They lift up their voices that we lift up ours. God gave us a voice. Whether trained or tone-deaf, we give it back to God with a joyful noise. When you sing once, you pray twice! “Singing is for lovers,” St. Augustine wrote.
Second, we sing the Mass.
Rather than sing at Mass, we sing the Mass. Rather than music at liturgy, we have a musical liturgy.
The Roman Missal, the big red prayer book that I use in the sanctuary, weighs seven pounds because it is stuffed with chant notation. The Church expects the presider and assembly to sing the Mass. The “four hymns and a sermon” is a Protestant understanding of liturgy, much as a Broadway musical is a play supplemented by songs. The Church’s understanding of liturgy is more like an opera, where even speech is sung. We sing the Mass.
“We sing the Mass” means that our music repertoire prefers music that is in a comfortable range for the assembly’s voice and ability. We introduce new music with repetition and encouragement. We chant. We use instruments to support the most beautiful instrument, the human voice.
Third, music reveals God. Music full of life, beauty, wonder, and power helps us to pray to our God of life, beauty, wonder, and power. Music that rings true leads us to the God of truth.
“Music reveals God” means that the words we sing form our faith as much as the spoken prayers. We prefer “We-God” wording that form us as the people of God giving praise to God, while “I-God” songs are better suited towards devotions such as the rosary and Stations of the Cross.
Having discerned this vision of a musical liturgy for Nativity, the search committee knew what it was looking for. We had over three dozen applicants for the Director of Music position. This Sunday during Mass, when the livestream camera pans to the organ, you can see the fruit of our search. Brian will accompany us on the organ and piano, as he has continued to fill in these past months for the livestream Sunday Mass. Phillip Revekant will be observing him. On Pentecost Sunday, May 31st, Phillip will take over from Brian and begin his ministry among us for a musical Mass.
Nativity is open to all for daily Mass! The church is open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. weekdays. Daily Mass is Monday through Saturday at 8:30 a.m. On Friday, we have exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until noon.
After the 9:00 a.m. Sunday Mass on May 24, my Pastor Chat is a live interview with Phillip Revekant. You can help me interview Phillip and get to know him. Go to the parish website and send your questions during the Pastor Chat.
To protect all who come in person to church, we need disposable facemasks, hand sanitizer, and wipes. Please wear a facemask if you come into the parish office to donate these items.
Returning to Church
Nativity Longwood .
on Thursday, May 21 at 11:00AM