Music Director

Dr. Sam Schmitt,


The Solemn Joy of Easter

    At the Cathedral Parish, we sing a lot of chant! In previous bulletin articles, we talked about how the Church has always taught that chant is the Church’s own music and that it should have the first place in the music for Mass. In the words of Pope John Paul II, chant is the supreme model of sacred music.

   We also know that when we listen to music, any kind of music, it forms our emotions and our memories in a particular way. How many times have we heard songs that bring back very powerful memories and emotions? How many times do we play a certain kind of music to change our mood or create an atmosphere for an event? Music forms us, and the music of the Catholic Church is primarily Gregorian Chant. If chant held up as the model, the supreme model for music at Mass, and music forms our emotions and memories very powerfully, what is the Church trying to teach us about praying and worshipping God in the liturgy? How does it form us in prayer?

   If we let the Church’s music “speak,” we can learn a lot about what She is trying to say to us about each feast. The Mass chants, though they can seem all the same, have very subtle differences, that over the years, form the inner movements of our hearts much more than they evoke outward expressions of happiness or sorrow.

   Especially in this Easter season, many of the chants are very subdued, at times they seem almost sad or mournful. Where are the shouts of triumph and rejoicing?

    The solemn and sometimes slowmoving chants of Eastertide invite us to “slow down” and contemplate the inner meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. The death and resurrection of Christ are tied together, and the chant reminds us of this. Even in the Easter season, the joy of the resurrection is not a “noisy” joy, but one that is first of all interior, as Christ calmly reassures his disciples that he is truly risen, and as the apostles slowly begin to understand the meaning of this great mystery. Jesus’ first words to the apostles are “Peace be with you.” The serenity and calm of Christ’s appearances to his disciples, and the slow, hidden manner of His revelation of this mystery is reflected in the Easter chants. The rushing wind of Pentecost, and the sending the apostles to preach in the world will come later.

   So, the liturgy of the Church is definitely informing us in these days that Easter is not just about a happiness we feel on the outside, but a deep joy that must fill our hearts. Every chant is filled with “Alleluias”: all of our thoughts and prayers these days must be drenched in the reality of the Resurrection. The chants of Easter are much more than ‘happy’ rather they invite us to live the fullness of solemn joy.

Sam Schmitt

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