Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Week Antiphons Immerse us in Christ

Last Wednesday, in the Office of Readings, we had a key teaching from St. Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms  which the Church applies particularly to liturgical prayer:

"[Jesus] prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as our God.....We pray then to him, through him, in him, and we speak along with him and he along with us."

We have an immense privilege in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. In a way, it is akin to what the priest does at mass--he offers Christ's own sacrifice for the salvation of the world. We get to offer Christ's own praise, thanks,sorrows, and petition to the Father.  We get to be His  voice, or, He prays with our voices--whichever way you prefer to think of it.

This is made abundantly clear by the antiphons of Holy week. For example, on Monday morning we started out with "Jesus said, My heart is nearly broken with sorrow; stay here and keep watch with me", and from that we launch into Psalm 42 (Like the deer that yearns for running streams, etc.) with it's achingly beautiful expressions of overwhelming grief yet undying trust in God. Can you imagine a better meditation on what Jesus was thinking/feeling/praying during these last few days before His death?  I sure can't.

The same thing happened today with the morning antiphon I and Psalm 43. And it will happen Wednesday and Thursday too. And in Good Friday's Office of Readings and vespers, and a couple of other places in the other hours throughout the week.  So watch for these antiphons that quote the words of Jesus so that you can offer than psalm in complete union with His prayer as He confided His sorrow to His Father, begged for His help, and abandoned Himself to His Father's will.

I just wish I had the eloquence and theological know-how to express what an incredible experience the liturgical hours of Holy Week can be if we pay attention to what we're doing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Handy Hymn Hints plus Q&A

"I don't know the tune to this hymn."

Well, join the club. But there's several things you can do about that.

1. Just recite the hymn lyrics, like a poem.

2. Choose a different hymn that you do know, so long as it's appropriate to the season. For example, during ordinary time you could always pick "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" or any other general hymn of praise. During lent, do "O Sacred Head Surrounded" or "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" or "The Glory of these Forty Days."

3. Get acquainted with the meter posted at the end of the hymn. That's the little series of numbers and periods.   For example, if it says """  The tune that we use for "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" or "From All that Dwell Below the Skies" will fit those lyrics. If you get "77.77" and know the hymn "On this Day, the First of Days" then you can plus that tune into the strange lyrics. If it says "76.76" then go with "Sing Praise to Our Creator, O sons of Adam's race"  If you go to Cyber Hymnal  you can find tunes to go with every meter imaginable.

4. Better yet.  Go to Kevin Shaw's wonderful Breviary Hymns blog. There you can look up just about any hymns you want, and find a video performance thereof, as well as notes about the hymn's background and history.

Okay...time for questions from newcomers or oldcomers who are in search of information that will improve their understanding and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours.