July 6 ,2010
I recently accepted an invitation from an old friend to participate in a weekend of singing with the Mennonite Society of Musical Heritage. My friend informed me that it would be fun, an occasion to meet new people, and a time of spiritual renewal. Gloria in Excelcis Deo was the chosen theme. Fifty plus choral members gathered to rehearse four Glorias written by some of my favorite classical composers.
This (recovering) Catholic was thrilled at the opportunity to once again sing in Latin. We began rehearsing Friday evening, and by the time Sunday morning arrived we were performing in a filled to capacity sanctuary. My friend was right. Indeed, it was one of the most gratifying weekends I have spent in many years.
Music was always very important in my family. After Sunday Mass, my sister played the piano as my father and I sang old German hymns and contemporary music, while my mother prepared soup du jour. I suspected my father must have spoken to the parish Priest and coaxed him to accept me into the church choir at the age of 14. Other young people had to wait until their 16th birthday before being invited to sing. I was excited and felt, oh, so grown up.
Between the Nuns and Father Zimmerman I learned Latin, and the tongue twisting intricacies the language demanded. Mass was still said in Latin in those days and I astonish myself to this day, when on rare occasions I am present at the odd service, where the Gloria is recited in Latin, and I don’t skip a beat. Each word is savored as it flows from deep within. The Latin Mass is forever committed to my memory. It begs the question why can’t I remember where I put important papers?
My musical tastes are varied. When I hit back roads for a long trip I stock up on CD’s, ranging from exotic middle eastern drumming to new age and everything in between. What is amazing and uncanny to me is when the music accompanies the landscape.
Recently I was moved to tears. While driving through a mountain valley I began climbing a gentle pass and before me snow-capped peaks arose on the horizon just as the first strains of Gounod’s Gloria from his St. Cecelia’s Mass commenced.
With each passing moment majestic mountains and heavenly high C’s soared in magnitude, intertwined, became one, cresendoing in divine providence. Surrounded by this heavenly miracle on earth, my entire being was transfixed as involuntary tears stained my cheeks. Breathless and humbled, overwhelmed by nature and genius, the deepest part of me knew I experienced a blessing from on high.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
Et in terra pax hominibus, bone voluntatis;
Gratias agimus tibi, propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex Coelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine Fili unigenite. Jesu Christe.
Domine Deus, agnus de, Filius Patris.
Qui Tollis peccata mundi. Miserere nobis.
Suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram,
Patris Miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus sanctus,
Tu solus Dominus,
tu solus altisimus, Jesu Christi.
Cum sancto Spiritus in gloria Dei Patris.