Saint Cecilia, patron of music

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Recycled from 2014

Today is the memorial of Saint Cecilia, an early Roman saint, virgin, and martyr of the Church. Briefly Cecilia was a vowed virgin who was married and wished to keep her virginity. She told her husband of an angel which he asked to see, and to which she replied he needed to be baptized. He did see that angel who spoke to him and gave him red roses and white lilies, as a reward for Cecilia’s love of chastity. Her husband Valerian then had his brother converted to the faith. When the prefect, Almachius, heard of the conversions he ordered them imprisoned and put to death. Cecilia’s tomb was found in 822 and her body incorrupt was transferred to a church bearing her name. The sculptor Stefano Maderno carved a sculpture of that body precisely as it was found when the cypress coffin was opened. It now adorns her tomb.

Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of composers, music, musicians, musical instrument makers, poets, and singers. She is the patron of a few others, but these are the ones of interest to me. I think about her and music especially concerning liturgical music. I think of her as I think of a small debate goes on about that sacred music, and I think about the saint and those listed that she is the patron of. One of the arguments that is taking place regards the types of musical instruments fitting for liturgy. There are those that embrace the organ as the instrument of the church, and they feel that this instrument has a special place in the churches. I cannot argue that the pipe organ is strongly associated with liturgical music, but the limiting the instrumentation of the Church to that solitary instrument leaves me a bit divided. It is a grand instrument of the Church, and much sacred music has been composed for it.

 Saint Cecilia though would have never heard music from that instrument, the organ occurs in history probably 1000 years after her death. That is the part that leaves me divided. Cecilia is frequently pictured holding a lyre, and that instrument is related to the harp, and then the violin and guitar. Lyres and tambourines were instruments of the Old Testament. Plainsong and Chant were the foundation of early Christian music. The organ actually occurred late in the Churches musical history. I think of Saint Cecilia too when I think of continents that have no equivalent to that Church organ, but instead have their own assortment of musical instruments. I wonder, what is the traditional music for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church? What are the musical instrument traditions of those devout Catholics in places like Korea, China, India, and the South Pacific?

When thinking of that patron saint of music, and instrument makers I do think of the roles of sacred and secular music, and I do think of how music should be applied to the liturgy. I also think of how it is misapplied. I wonder why it is that the popular styles of Church music are not played before and after the liturgy, and why plainsong and chant have diminished during the liturgy, and why the pipe organ fell out of favor for a time. I also wonder why the concertina, and the violin, and the renaissance recorders are used little during Mass, and why the folk guitar is so popular.

oud_frontI add the picture of the oud because it is the ancient instrument of the Middle East that eventually became the L’Oud, and then the Lute, and then the guitar. According to legend the instrument was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam. String instruments have a long history in Middle Eastern cultures and religions. Ouds, harps of varying kinds, percussion instruments (doumbek), cymbals, tambourines, and wind instruments such as the Moroccan Oboe all play a part in religious celebrations. Arguably they are the original instruments of the Church. Some might have a spittle flecked nutty, but this is the modern guitars ancestry in the Church. For the lyrics, and style of the contemporary, that’s another story. 

talent 33

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No, I did not want to write on the parable of the talents Mt 25:14-30. It is cold, and dark, and will be for a long time. It is after All-Saints and All-Souls day. It’s after Halloween. It is the near end of the year, all are the stuff of November. The end is near.

In reading that parable my mind went to that last person who was given the least. He was the one that buried his talent, the money that was entrusted to him. In a November mindset, he buried it as if he placed it in a grave. He buried it as if it were dead and he was scolded.

The others , they took their money (their talents) and put it to use. Their money was lively, it was fruitful, and it multiplied. It was animated, it was alive.

In a November mindset, the coins become life and death: Jesus proclaims to be the God of the living. He seeks good-fruit. No, the talent buried did not sprout life. It remained unchanged. It did nothing. dead.

The lively money, and it owners that were rewarded, were praised because their riches increased. But what if those stewards took that talent, invested it and then lost. What would the master say then, what would he say to the investment that didn’t pan out? Would those with good intentions who stumbled face the same fate as that deadpan? For that I think there must be a parable of forgiveness.

 

 

Aside

Jesus said to the crowds,
“When you see a cloud rising in the west
you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does;
and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south
you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is.
You hypocrites!
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Lk 12:54-59

Please, lets emphasize this one line. For this I will discuss:  “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?…”

The truth is that I partially do know how to interpret the present. That demand vigilance, and observation, and an incredible amount of prayer. No, my interpretation is not perfect but it is a start. It is a reason for a vigilance in listening to the word of God. That word, that gospel counteracts the popular press and the opinions and the advertisements and the editorials of today. It counteracts the word and images that flood me. It is the reason that I read sacred scripture. The present time must, absolutely must, be interpreted through sacred scripture.

John Paul the second

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john paul 2_edited

Today would have been the optional memorial for Saint John Paul II, but it is a Sunday. I thought I would post one of his holy cards, but which one to post? I chose this one, it links John Paul II with John XXII. Pope John XXII was the pope that opened Vatican II. Saint John Paul II spent his entire pontificate under the guidance of that Vatican council, and his successor Benedict XVI was one of his primary advisors. All three certainly influenced Pope Francis. Saint John Paul II understood apostolic succession well, with an understanding of the past and an eye towards the future.

In todays gospel Mt 22:15-21 a Pharisee asks Jesus: Should Jews be required to pay the Roman tax? It is a trick question. Say yes and be cursed by your fellow Jews, say no and deal with the wrath of the Romans. What to do? Jesus requests the coin and points to its image of Caesar. Caesar the Emperor, Caesar declared god. He asks whose image is this, they respond Caesars. Jesus reply “give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods.”

Did Jesus think Caesar a god? No, Caesar was a man. A powerful man, a delusional man, it matters little how Caesar is described. The truth is Caesar was nothing more and nothing less than man. Give to Caesar what is Caesars can be rewritten give to man what is mans. But what does anyone owe another man, and how does that compare with what one owes God?

The Torah says much about what men owe one another, and the same is true with the ten-commandments. Both describe at length the debts of men towards one another, and the debt of man to God. Jesus in the New Testament described it in two simple commandments. The first, Love God with your entire heart, mind and soul. The second, love your neighbor as yourself. A message simple enough to fit on both sides of the same coin.

Caesar was a man and deserved to be treated as any Christian treats another. He deserved to be treated as a slave treats their master , and a master their slave. The argument expands to the treatment of wives by husbands, and again husbands by wives. Do unto others. Even when that is difficult? Even when that is difficult, and there is a way out?

Certainly that story of the coin gives reference to the affairs of Religion versus government, and there is relevance to that today. Often Religion forbids certain actions, yet the government is more lenient. Which side of the coin does one accept? There are a lot of those issues in the news today.

The argument of Caesars coin, should not be limited to affairs of Church versus State. How easy would it have been for a Pharisee, or any first century Jew, to love Caesar? How does one treat another under difficult circumstances? How does one treat another as themselves when the conditions are difficult. Who can love an executioner? Who loves an enemy, or a thief, or a beggar? Who can do right by someone who did them wrong? That side of the coin is a little more personal.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Psychological operations on the Sea of Galilee

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God and Man. In today’s gospel reading the actions of Jesus and the actions of the Apostles needs to be compared. In that reading, after preaching to the crowds, Jesus tells the apostles to get into their boat and cross the lake. At that time Jesus dismisses the crowds goes to the mountaintop, and prays. Jesus often seeks solitude to pray.

Mt 14:22-33

For certain preaching to a large crowd had left him tired. For certain there were those in the crowd that eagerly listened to his word. For certain there were those in the crowd that sought to do harm. Allies and enemies. No wonder Jesus went to that mountaintop, to pray.

How similar the waves of people were to the waves of a stormy sea. Jesus told the disciples to get into a boat and cross the sea. A challenge? A storm kicks up, they panic. Who can think clearly with such pressure? They spot Jesus walking on the water. The Christ they had just walked with is barely recognizable? Would they have recognized him had the situation been different? Would they have recognized him from across a quiet street? They saw him walk on water in a violent storm. They cried out in fear, I wonder who they cried to? My guess is they cried to God. They got something right. Jesus went to the mountaintop to pray. Jesus said “take courage” “It is I “, and “do not be afraid”. Peter obeyed with a courageous response. ”

  • Storms mess with emotions, and they cloud judgement.
  • Navigating difficulties takes practice. It requires a plan.
  • It’s always a good idea to pray.

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” A prayer answered, and all goes well until Peter loses sight of Jesus. The violent storm caused him to shift his vision. Vision is clouded by fear and uncertainty. It is blinded by all that comprises the storm. How easy is it to stay focused amongst chaos? Peter begins to sink. Then he cries out “Lord save me.” Peter does something right. That cry is a prayer.

(a little side-note, probably not worth inserting)

Take note: Isn’t noise and chaos a great diversion?

Panic ! Panic! Panic! Panic! Panic!

Fear ! Fear! Fear!

Psychological operations (PSYOP) are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.

(end of side-note)

Isn’t it interesting how Jesus seeks solitude for prayer? Isn’t it difficult to maintain focus under certain situations? Don’t constant commotion and noise cloud judgement? Imagine trying to think clearly in a protest. Imagine trying to think clearly with a television blaring its opinions. Imagine trying to maintain peace while surrounded by antagonists. Jesus sought the mountaintop to pray in solitude. I wonder if those disciples appreciated the quiet after the storm. that’s the whisper of God mentioned in the first reading. 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a. Here is a blurb from that reading:

but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave

Storms seem popular today, people seem to enjoy the conflict. They enjoy taking sides. Elephants and Asses take note! They enjoy their opinions and their gangs. Politicians are gang members, they like to incite riots. They enjoy and thrive on the violence.Then, they toss out their solution hoping that no can think clearly in the midst of their storm. That’s the political storm of today.

Today the storm is turbulent and treacherous. It is violent and deadly. Such a social climate. Deadly. Jesus went to a mountaintop and prayed. Peter trusted in the LORD, yet amongst the violence he had trouble maintaining focus. Bluntly stated: quiet meditative contemplation, and prayer, and a life focused on Jesus Christ are worth remembering today. There is a storm on the horizon.

(yes, the post is about the importance of having a prayer-life)

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time