The Rite Note – A Blog from the Balcony Part I – “Let Us Proceed. . .”

The Rite Note – A Blog from the Balcony

Part I – “Let Us Proceed. . .”

As we were reminded this past weekend at Mass, we are half-way through the Lenten Season with the celebration of “Laetare” (“Rejoice”) Sunday or the 4th Sunday of Lent.  We are just a few weeks away from Holy Week which in my view has some of the most beautiful and dramatic liturgical music and rituals in our Church tradition.  It’s too much to comment on in just one blog entry, so this will be the 1st of 3 observations from an interested participant in the music balcony.

HOLY WEEK, the week before Easter, begins with PALM SUNDAY or as it is properly designated in the Roman Missal governing liturgical celebrations, PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD.  Everything in Holy Week focuses on the Passion and Death of the Lord, but, of course, in preparation for the great joy of His Resurrection on EASTER SUNDAY.

Of dramatic note on PALM SUNDAY is the commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem amid the hail of the people waving palm and olive tree branches and laying them in his path as they chant “Hosanna to the Son of David” (a Messianic title) and Psalm 118:25-26 – “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.  In a beautifully dramatic and symbolic way, the Church re-creates this first of Holy Week’s events by distributing blessed palm branches among the congregation at the beginning of Mass and processing into Church with song and chanting of these same “Hosannas” and other appropriate Kingly or Messianic hymns.  We are meant to be like the crowds of Jerusalem, eagerly recognizing and receiving our King and Savior.

This will be just the 1st of 4 “extraordinary” processions during this Holy Week from Palm Sunday through Saturday’s Easter Vigil.  They are one of the key features that sets Holy Week apart from the other major feasts and celebrations of the Church’s liturgical year.

In our religious practice, we have many processions.  We use them not just to get people or ministers from one place to another, but more importantly to express our journey as pilgrims and direct our focus to our relationship with God.  Some “ordinary” processions are those in our Eucharistic liturgies with the entrance of the ministers down the main aisle, the carrying of the Book of the Gospels from the altar to the ambo amid candles, the bringing forth of the bread and wine at the Offertory, the coming forward to receive communion, and the procession out at the end of Mass.  The “extraordinary” processions are the procession with palms on Palm Sunday, the carrying of the Eucharist away from the main church on Holy Thursday to a temporary place of repose, the carrying forth of the Holy Cross on Good Friday for the veneration by the people, the procession of the Easter Candle into Church at Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil, and the procession of the Holy Eucharist among the people on the feast of Corpus Christi.  As you can see, 4 of these 5 extraordinary symbolic movements will be occurring during Holy Week!

And all of these processions, ordinary and extraordinary, are usually accompanied by great music.  The great hymn, “All Glory, Laud and Honor”, is most appropriate to the Palm Sunday procession; the “Pange Lingua” (“Sing, my tongue, the Savior’s glory”) to Holy Thursday’s; “Behold the Wood of the Cross” to Good Friday’s; and “Christ, Our Light” to the Easter Vigil’s.

We are blessed at St. Dominic’s to have these solemn expressions of our movement with the Lord and some of the great music of the Church written for them.  And hopefully you’ll be a part of them this Holy Week.

More to come – stay tuned!

Jim Guinasso, Liturgical Singer


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