The common Psalm for the last weeks in Ordinary Time is a good choice for funerals, though hardly ever used. It is paired with the apocalyptic readings of the end times in November. It appears in Advent, too. It is one of the “Songs of Ascents,” pilgrimage music for the journey to Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is, of course, the goal of many Christians. Can we see these verses in that light? Let’s have a look:
I rejoiced when I heard them say: let us go to the house of the Lord.
Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced when I heard them say:
“Let us go to God’s house.”
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city
It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord.
For Israel’s law it is,
there to praise the Lord’s name.
There were set the thrones of judgment
of the house of David.
For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
“Peace be to your homes!
May peace reign in your walls,
in your palaces, peace!”
For love of my brethren and friends
I say: “Peace upon you!”
For the love of the house of the Lord
I will ask for your good.
This is the complete psalm–nothing omitted. It expresses the joy of reaching the end of a pilgrimage. It acknowledges the link between the praise of God and the reception of the Law, which, for us Christians, would be the proclamation of Jesus and his saving acts. The final verses are prayers of petition on behalf of the locale of pilgrimage’s end.
We may have no need of praying for heaven, but perhaps mourners can appreciate a life lived under God’s law and a death which has been anticipated with joy on the part of the departed loved one, a confident hope that very soon, the heavenly Jerusalem will be home.
This may be an advanced sentiment for most communities. Monasteries, most likely, one would find this as a funeral psalm. The death of a person whose dying process was a joyful pilgrimage, perhaps. But that still leaves the people accompanying, some of whom might not have been so joyful.
What do you think? Good psalm? Or stick with the 23rd?
What’s CCTLS? Just John Paul II’s Chirograph on the Centenary of Tra Le Sollecitudini, issued one century after Pope Pius X released his motu proprio on sacred music.
Today, let’s look at a few qualities of sacred music. You may indeed recognize these as two of the famous three judgments. First the musical:
5. Another principle, affirmed by St Pius X in the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini and which is closely connected with the previous one, is that of sound form. There can be no music composed for the celebration of sacred rites which is not first of all “true art” or which does not have that efficacy “which the Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her Liturgy the art of musical sounds”[TlS 2].
Yet this quality alone does not suffice. Indeed, liturgical music must meet the specific prerequisites of the Liturgy: full adherence to the text it presents, synchronization with the time and moment in the Liturgy for which it is intended, appropriately reflecting the gestures proposed by the rite. The various moments in the Liturgy require a musical expression of their own. From time to time this must fittingly bring out the nature proper to a specific rite, now proclaiming God’s marvels, now expressing praise, supplication or even sorrow for the experience of human suffering which, however, faith opens to the prospect of Christian hope.
I once read a Michael Joncas commentary on Godspell, especially this song, which he felt didn’t quite match the nature of Psalm 137, either from a Scriptural or liturgical perspective. Great pop musical song, but not quite a match for the liturgy.
All CCTLS suggests in this section is that music must be of the highest quality. I would add not only in composition, but also in the actual execution of the music. 5b is a familiar principle to the pastoral musician: music always serves the liturgy. Great music doesn’t always serve worship, and that’s okay. That makes the music suitable for the concert hall. And for personal enjoyment. Those are not low ideals–not at all. But concertizing and enjoyment are not the primary aims of liturgy.
This will be a relatively brief post compared to the ground we covered for the church dedication. For an altar’s rite, there is an entrance procession (31) largely as at a usual Mass, or exactly as in the dedication of a church already in use (III, 3) or the simple form for a church dedication (II, 43). If relics are part of the rite (32), then it’s also as before (III, 4) and (II, 44).
Section 33 identifies Psalm 43 for entrance with one of two antiphons:
O God, our shield, look with favor on the face of your anointed; one day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere (alleluia).
I will go to the altar of God, the God of my joy.
That first antiphon is derived from the 84th. Personally, I think there might be a few better choices than Psalm 43. Either antiphon with Psalm 122 (as long as we’re mixing and matching verses with whole psalms) would work okay for me. And naturally, the option is there for “another appropriate song.”
After the greeting (34), there is a sprinkling rite (35) including the altar (36-37), the Gloria (38), and the opening prayer (39).