Author: Carolyn Pirtle

The Mass for Millennials: Doxology and Amen

Every Eucharistic Prayer concludes with the Doxology and the Great Amen. In this solemn, powerful moment, the presider holds aloft Jesus himself, truly present in the Eucharistic species, and proclaims: Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB beautifully summarizes this liturgical action thus: In that moment the Church is doing what Christ did and forever does: she offers his one body, to which she has been joined [by the power of the Holy Spirit], to the Father for the glory of his name and for the salvation of the world. This is our communion in the sacrifice of Christ. This is perfect praise. (What Happens at Mass, 106) Doxology. Perfect praise. In this moment of the liturgy, through our union with Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are restored to our original vocation of the homo adorans, the priestly creatures whose vocation has always been and will …

Approaching a Theology of Womanhood Through the Door of Empathy

What does it mean to say, as Pope Francis did in 2013, that “we need to work harder to develop a more profound theology of the woman”?[1] For that matter, what would it mean to say that we need a more profound theology of manhood? For many in the Church today, particularly in the United States, this is a moot question, as even implying that there are essential differences between women and men is enough to spark a heated debate. Too often, however, a just advocacy for equality between men and women becomes a misguided quest for uniformity, resulting in articulations of difference and complementarity (to say nothing of gendered language) being stricken from the record in favor of a kind of neutered theological discourse. The problem with such an approach within the context of the Church is that it presumes that a person’s encounter with God is something that can be experienced, interpreted, and lived out apart from the body. However, whether we like it or not, we human beings are embodied creatures; therefore, …

The Mass for Millennials: Glory to God

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2: 13–14) In the celebration of the liturgy, the Glory to God occupies a unique place. On the one hand, it is a response: we have just participated in the Penitential Act by recalling and confessing our sinfulness as individuals and as a worshiping community, and we have just heard the priest pronounce the concluding blessing “in which the forgiveness of sins is given.” The only response that makes any sense in the face of such a gift is to cry out “Glory to God in the highest.” On the other hand, the Glory to God is also an anticipation: we are poised on the verge of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which we proclaim in Scripture and enact in ritual the mysteries of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ in such a …

Music of Holy Week: Easter Sunday

Having witnessed to the light of the risen Christ at the Easter Vigil with the singing of the Exsultet, the Church proclaims on Easter Sunday that the tomb is empty in the singing of the Easter Sequence, Victimae Paschali Laudes. We proclaim the victory of Christ over sin and death, and announce the hope of resurrection that awaits everyone who has died with Christ in the waters of Baptism (see Rom 6:3–5). We renew our commitment to a life “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3) by the renewal of our baptismal promises; we cry out our Alleluias as we recall the events of that first Easter morning, and we long for the day in which “Christ [our] life will appear, [and] we too will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Music of Holy Week: The Easter Vigil

The Exsultet The silent darkness of Holy Saturday is shattered by the radiant light of the Easter fire and the resounding echoes of the great Easter Proclamation, known as the Exsultet. In this stunning liturgical moment, the priest or deacon sings the “perfect praises” of the “the light of Christ,” the Paschal candle. The candle represents the risen Christ, the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12, 9:5). This light of Christ has been poured into the hearts of all the faithful through the grace of Baptism, and it will be poured into the hearts of those who have prepared throughout the Lenten season for this liturgy, when they will receive the Easter sacraments. We pray that the light, “divided yet undimmed” may be kept burning as the Church continues her witness to Christ and to fulfill his exhortation to become herself “the light of the world” and the “salt of the earth” (cf. Mt 5:14–16). In the proclamation of the Exsultet and in the sharing and receiving of the light of Christ, we hear and …

Music of Holy Week: Holy Saturday

Recessit Pastor Noster (1585) by Tomás Luis de la Victoria (1548–1611) After the sorrow of the Cross, the Church enters into the silence of Holy Saturday. The Roman Missal states: “On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and Death and on his Descent into Hell, and awaiting his Resurrection” (Holy Saturday §1). The Roman Missal goes on to state that “the Church abstains from the Sacrifice of the Mass, with the sacred table left bare until after the solemn Vigil, that is the anticipation by night of the Resurrection” (ibid., §2); thus, the Liturgy of the Hours becomes the way in which she keeps vigil for the Resurrection of her Lord.  Today’s piece, written for a Tenebrae service for Holy Saturday, mourns the death of the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep. The play between major and minor tonalities throughout this piece serve as a musical commentary on the interplay between darkness and light. The darkness has seemingly triumphed: …

Music of Holy Week: Good Friday

On this Good Friday, as we recall the Passion and Death of Jesus, we gaze upon the Cross. On the one hand, we recoil from the Cross in horror as the instrument of torture and execution, the gibbet on which the Savior of the world hung in agony and breathed his last. On the other hand, we rejoice in the Cross as the means by which Jesus Christ accomplished our salvation and the salvation of the whole world. During the Good Friday liturgy, we proclaim the Passion narrative and mourn for Christ as we recall his agony and death, and yet, moments later, we adore and venerate the Cross, acknowledging that it is “our only hope.” Today’s musical pieces allow us to gaze at the Cross in anguish and in awe. The text from the first piece, Eli, Eli (1928) by Hungarian-born composer György Deak-Bárdos (1905–1991), comes from the Passion according to St. Matthew: And about three o’clocl Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabacthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why …

Music of Holy Week: Holy Thursday

Today we enter the most solemn days of the liturgical year: the Sacred Paschal Triduum. From St. Peter’s in Rome to the humblest of parishes, the Church will watch and pray and sing together, recalling the wondrous mysteries of our salvation in Christ Jesus. I Give to You a New Commandment (2004) by Peter Nardone (b. 1965) In the celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the presider, after proclaiming the passage from St. John’s Gospel in which Jesus himself washes his Apostles’ feet, will follow the commandment given by our Lord and wash the feet of those in his parish community whom he has been called to serve. The Roman Missal provides several antiphons (most of which are taken from the Johannine narrative) to serve as musical accompaniment for this ritual action, including the commandment of Jesus: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you, says the Lord” (Jn 13:34). In this simple yet effective setting for children’s choir and mixed choir by Scottish …

We Do Not Bear Our Crosses Alone: Full of Grace

I stood in the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker in O’Neill Hall—my home for the four years I spent as a Notre Dame undergrad—and stared at the small wooden statues depicting the Stations of the Cross that hung on the wall. Usually when someone mentions Stations of the Cross, my mind immediately returns to Lenten Friday afternoons at St. Joseph Elementary School where the cycle of standing, genuflecting, listening, and reading felt like it went on for hours on end. This experience at Stations, though, was quite different. A lot weighed heavily upon me—academic stresses, concerns with being a Resident Assistant, trying to help friends through changes in their lives, and the uncertainty that came with graduation. While I now can pinpoint some of the causes of these feelings of stress, at the time I could not, and so I tried to dismiss my feelings and to convince myself that I was merely creating a drama in my own mind. And yet, while I recognized that these were natural things for a college student …

Music of Holy Week: Wednesday

At the Name of Jesus; Tune: King’s Weston (1925) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958); Text: Caroline M. Noel (1817–1877) The Introit for Wednesday of Holy Week is taken from the great Christological hymn found in the second chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, for the Lord became obedient to death, death on a cross: therefore Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (cf. Phil 2:10, 8, 11) The Philippians hymn speaks of the utter humility of the Son in emptying himself of divine glory in order to “take the form of a slave” so that he might redeem humanity. The nineteenth century hymn At the Name of Jesus provides a sustained meditation on the name of Jesus inspired by the words of St. Paul. In contemplating the name of Jesus—the name by which humanity is saved (cf. Rom 10:9), the name through which we have a share in …