Monday, November 22, 2010

The Sound I Heard Was Like That Of Harpists Playing Their Harps.

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr
Reading I
Revelation 14:1-3, 4b-5
I, John, looked and
there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion,
and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand
who had his name and his Father’s name
written on their foreheads.
I heard a sound from heaven
like the sound of rushing water
or a loud peal of thunder.
The sound I heard was like that
of harpists playing their harps.
They were singing what seemed to be
a new hymn before the throne,
before the four living creatures and the elders.
No one could learn this hymn
except the hundred and forty-four thousand
who had been ransomed from the earth.
These are the ones who follow the Lamb
wherever he goes.
They have been ransomed as the first fruits
of the human race for God and the Lamb.
On their lips no deceit has been found;
they are unblemished.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 24
R. Lord, this is the people
that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people
that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people
that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people
that longs to see your face.
+++     +++     +++    +++   
Luke 21:1-4
When Jesus looked up
he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow
putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings
from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty,
has offered her whole livelihood.”
Saint Cecilia
(3rd century)

Although Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, the familiar stories about her are apparently not founded on authentic material. There is no trace of honor being paid her in early times. A fragmentary inscription of the late fourth century refers to a church named after her, and her feast was celebrated at least in 545.

According to legend, Cecilia was a young Christian of high rank betrothed to a Roman named Valerian. Through her influence Valerian was converted, and was martyred along with his brother. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church.

Since the time of the Renaissance she has usually been portrayed with a viola or a small organ.


Like any good Christian, Cecilia sang in her heart, and sometimes with her voice. She has become a symbol of the Church's conviction that good music is an integral part of the liturgy, of greater value to the Church than any other art. In the present confused state of Church music, it may be useful to recall some words of Vatican II (see below).


“Liturgical action is given a more noble form when sacred rites are solemnized in song, with the assistance of sacred ministers and the active participation of the people.... Choirs must be diligently promoted, but bishops and other pastors must ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightfully theirs.... Gregorian chant, other things being equal, should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded.... Religious singing by the people is to be skillfully fostered, so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out” (Constitution on the Liturgy, 112-118).

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1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

Reading Bede's history of the English Church and people, I realize how essential singing the psalter was to the life of the early missionary monks. After the Eucharist, it was the visible and audible foundation onto which everything else was added over the centuries. The sung psalter must somehow have affected the cut-throat, pagan English kings. I imagine that they heard in the monks' song an undreamed of order, discipline, beauty and peace. Gradually, with the help of miracles, the English kings were converted and people had a vision of peace to aim for.

Music seems particularly important to young people; some even say that they live for it, as though it is the only good thing in their world. Maybe it's because even the most angry-sounding music relies on a fundamental order, which is what they actually seek, like those warlike young kings!