Last evening, I played for the annual Memorial Mass for the Knights and Dames of Malta at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii here in Chicago. A few photos of the shrine here:
I was privileged to work with two fine musicians, Mary Prete, the Vice President for Parish Services for the J. S. Paluch Company (Mary's my boss!) and Michael Doyle, a fine cellist whose improvisational skills make my heart sing when I play with him. Mary sang the Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem during the preparation of the altar and gifts. It sparkled in this wonderfully reverberant space. I haven't been able to get it out of my head since she sang it. I was playing a less-than-pleasing old Rogers electronic organ. The rector of the shrine, Fr. Richard Fragomeni, told me that they will be installing a new Italian pipe organ some time in the future. That should be glorious!
After Mass, I drove to my own parish, St. James, for a liturgy committee meeting. We were focusing on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, as well as the section focused on the Introductory Rites from the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. We then listened to the first readings from the four Sundays of the upcoming Advent season, and asked ourselves about the shape of the introductory rites at St. James for Advent. We had an extended discussion about the ever-popular Advent wreath. As you may know, the Advent wreath isn't really a central Advent liturgical symbol, but you would never know it when you visit parishes during Advent. We've always started our Advent liturgies at St. James gathered around the wreath and it has become central for us over the years. Well, now we are in a small parish hall for Mass, and there really isn't much room for processions and the kind of focus we've had on the wreath over the years. Frankly, I'm glad. I think Advent wreaths belong in our homes as a way of marking the days and weeks until Christmas—as a home custom. I'd rather us focus on the more important things about the liturgy during Advent in the parish. We talked extensively about taking full advantage of the opportunities for silence during the introductory rites. At St. James, these rites often seem so rushed. Personally, after the priest says "Let us pray" before the opening prayer, I need time to collect myself and focus on where my heart is as I enter the liturgy.
Too often in too many parishes, there is no time given for this, even though the General Instruction is clear:
"Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God's presence and may formulate their petitions mentally. Then the priest says the prayer which is customarily known as the Collect and through which the character of the celebration is expressed."
These nuances, which can be so easily introduced into the liturgy, really make a difference in the shape of liturgical prayer. I'll keep you posted about how successful we are with all of this at St. James as Advent begins to unfold.
I hope your Wednesday is a good one. And thanks for the comments on yesterday's post. If you haven't taken the time to read "New Translation Tuesday," please do so and feel free to comment. I'll address some of those comments tomorrow during the first installment of "New Translation Thursday."
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.