By Jonathan Lynch
And just like that, Easter’s in the rearview, the Feast of the Ascencion has come and gone, and- Bang! Here’s Pentecost. I think that it’s a feast of the Church that gets a little less air time than it deserves- I mean, it’s kinda the official birthday of the Church. It’s the day that the Apostles receive the Holy Spirit, and go forth into the whole world, on fire with fearless enthusiasm for their mission.
All Christians are called to live bold lives, filled with the Holy Spirit. But it is important that our zeal doesn’t morph into frenetic activity. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just call us to constant action: “Go! Go! Go!” In fact, it is often in peace and silence that we are best able to hear his voice. But really, these aren’t two opposing things: they are two sides of the same coin. Our actions must orient us toward a proper relationship with God, and our contemplation and prayer must spur us on to acts of love for God and neighbor.
Part of the reason I bring this up is that I wanted to share with you something that checks both boxes: Sacred Music. I think that sacred music is particularly special because not only is it a prayer to God, it can be an act of love for those around us, by revealing some aspect of God’s beauty to the world. Now, sacred music is not quite the same as praise and worship music- which is also a good thing. It is the kind of music that is particularly set aside for the liturgy and for communal worship of God. In the Roman Catholic Church this means, most particularly, Gregorian Chant. I think that it is particularly powerful because it is reserved for the service of God. Just like incense or stained glass windows or gilded vestments, it is so unique and so different that we cannot help but see how different and unique our encounters with God in the Sacraments really are. And while Sacred Music has sadly fallen out of favor in modern Catholicism, it’s still out there, and it’s still beautiful. As a matter of fact, the entire inspiration for this article came from a video I found of a small religious community singing “Veni Creator Spiritus,” an ancient hymn which is sung on Pentecost.
I’ve written out an English translation provided by the Vatican; the original is in Latin, and dates all the way back to the ninth century.
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator,
Come from Thy bright heav’nly throne:
Come, take possession of our souls,
And make them all thine own.
Thou who art called the Paraclete,
Best gift of God above,
The living spring, the living fire,
Sweet unction and true love.
Thou who art sevenfold in Thy grace,
Finger of God’s right hand;
His promise, teaching little ones
To speak and understand.
O guide our minds with Thy blest light,
With love our hearts inflame;
And with Thy strength which ne’er decays,
Confirm our mortal frame.
Far from us drive our deadly foe;
True peace unto us bring;
And through all perils lead us safe
Beneath Thy sacred wing.
Through Thee may we the Father know,
Through Thee the Eternal Son,
And Thee the Spirit of them both,
Thrice-blessed three in One. Amen.
I hope that this piques your interest in Sacred Music, and even if it doesn’t, I hope that it does something to bring you closer to God this Pentecost. God bless, and I’ll catch you later!
All for Thee, Sweet Jesus,
Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
For the glory of God
And the salvation of souls!