Sunday, 25 September 2011

Music and Silence at Mass

I went to the Extraordinary Form Mass at Lancaster Cathedral this morning, and was struck by the music, and the silence - and particularly the way the two interacted.

The Mass starts with the chanting of the Asperges and the priest sprinkling us with Holy Water in preparation for celebrating the Sacred Mysteries.

Then there is the Introit, proper to the day, followed almost immediately by the penitential Kyrie and the joyful Gloria.

After a brief pause (for the duration of the Epistle) there are then the Gradual and Alleluia, both typically quite long and elaborate pieces of chant.

The Gospel (and possibly homily) follow and then there is the Credo and the Offertory verse.

That's a huge amount of very varied music in the opening part of the Mass. And suddenly it slows right down. After the Offertory there is nothing till the Sanctus, and then silence.

And more silence.

And then, with only the bells to hear, the consecration.

And then more silence. And a bit more.

Then the conclusion of the Canon and the Pater.

Then a bit more silence, before the Agnus Dei and the Communion verse. There may also be a communion motet (there wasn't today). But there is far more time for reflection and quiet prayer around the reception of Holy Communion and beyond, until the Last Gospel is proclaimed.

After that we had the prayer for the queen, and then the Salve Regina, followed by a stirring voluntary. We were re-entering the world of the here and know.

The wisdom of ages...

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