Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Times of Transitions

Welcome to new translation Tuesday, everyone! This is Alan Hommerding, Senior Liturgy Publications Editor at WLP, guest blogging again for Jerry Galipeau.

About 14 years ago, I began to serve Chicago Sinai Congregation as music director for their overflow High Holy Day services (Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur). We welcomed in the year 5771 last week! If you attended St. Cecilia’s Orchestra at NPM Detroit, you saw Sinai’s sanctuary in the video of the shofar player:
The services I’m involved with are held in Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, 


so it’s quite the ecumenical and interfaith experience. I do get to conduct some of Chicago’s finest singers and play one of the city’s best pipe organs. More importantly, I am exposed to a rich spiritual tradition and part of my own faith ancestry.

When I began at Sinai, it was right as they were in transition to a new translation of their prayer book. I learned about the issues they’d dealt with—preserving vs. updating prayers/gender-inclusive language/how much Hebrew to retain and utilize—which seemed to resonate with my own experience in Roman Catholicism. As you’d expect, some of the same “camps” had arisen there around these issues.

In about 14 minutes, after I post this, I am leaving for Milwaukee, where I will be playing an organ recital tomorrow on St. John cathedral’s noontime concert series (named “Best Free Music before Sundown” by Milwaukee Magazine). The organ: 

 “Years of Grace” is what I’m calling the program:

New Year Chorales from
The Little Organ Book         J. S. Bach
Help me praise God’s goodness
The old year has passed away
In Thee is gladness

The Morning and the Evening         Leopold Mozart
February: The carnival
March: Adagio (Theme with variations)
May: Pastoral minuet
July: Scherzo
September: The hunt

Psalms without Words No. 3         Alan J. Hommerding
Psalm 65:11 “You Crown the Year with Goodness”
         (premiere performance)

(The ultra-left-brained might appreciate that the program’s longer version includes a liturgical year section, with pieces by 19th century composers. So the program also traverses, broadly speaking, four main eras of Western music.)

I’ll also be the accompanist for Tuesday evening’s presentation of WLP’s “Singing the Seasons” in Milwaukee, led by Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson.

Needless to say, years, seasons, and times of transition have been very much on my mind and in my prayer recently.

I’ve come to view this current time of the new translation as a time of movement and passage. These seasons and transitions are, after all, natural, inevitable, and necessary. In nature, for things to flower or bear fruit involves work and energy, patience, and—as with the grain of wheat in John 12:24—even some death. If you’ve spent time on a farm—even gardening—you know this cycle. The process is, to use the popular term, organic, and true of our mortal bodies as well.

The Church, too, is a Body. Organic, living, growing, and changing through seasons and transitions. We sometimes think it’s exempt from the things that our own bodies and all living things go through, but it’s not. If the new translation of the Mass is to bear fruit, it will involve work and energy, patience, and even surrendering to “death” of some things we currently know. But, confident in the Spirit, we know that a new season of life awaits.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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