Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Beginning of Knowledge is Fear of the Lord

Proverbs 1:2-7 (RSV)
That men may know wisdom and instruction,
understand words of insight,
receive instruction in wise dealing,
righteousness, justice, and equity;
that prudence may be given to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth --
the wise man also may hear and increase in learning,
and the man of understanding acquire skill,
to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Fear of the Lord essentially means being humble before God, the source of all wisdom and truth.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Feast of St. Dominic

From the Office of Readings:
Dominic possessed such great integrity and was so strongly motivated by divine love, that without a doubt he proved to be a bearer of honor and grace. He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy. And since a joyful heart animates the face, he displayed the peaceful composure of a spiritual man in the kindness he manifested outwardly and by the cheerfulness of his countenance.

Wherever he went he showed himself in word and deed to be a man of the Gospel. During the day no one was more community-minded or pleasant toward his brothers and associates. During the night hours no one was more persistent in every kind of vigil and supplication. He seldom spoke unless it was with God, that is, in prayer, or about God; and in this matter he instructed his brothers.

Frequently he made a special personal petition that God would deign to grant him a genuine charity, effective in caring for and obtaining the salvation of men. For he believed that only then would he be truly a member of Christ, when he had given himself totally for the salvation of men, just as the Lord Jesus, the Savior of all, had offered himself completely for our salvation. So, for this work, after a lengthy period of careful and provident planning, he founded the Order of Friars Preachers.

In his conversations and letters he often urged the brothers of the Order to study constantly the Old and New Testaments. He always carried with him the gospel according to Matthew and the epistles of Paul, and so well did he study them that he almost knew them from memory.

Two or three times he was chosen bishop, but he always refused, preferring to live with his brothers in poverty. Throughout his life, he preserved the honor of his virginity. He desired to be scourged and cut to pieces, and so die for the faith of Christ. Of him Pope Gregory IX declared: "I knew him as a steadfast follower of the apostolic way of life. There is no doubt that he is in heaven, sharing in the glory of the apostles themselves."
Deus, qui Ecclesiam tuam beati Dominici Confessoris tui illuminare dignatus es meritis et doctrinis: concede; ut ejus intercessione temporalibus non destituatur auxiliis, et spiritualibus semper proficiat incrementis. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

Sancte Dominice, ora pro nobis!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

William Byrd: The Queen's Servant, but God's First

I ran across this article by Matthew Alexander about one of the most well-known composers of the English Renaissance, William Byrd:

The Queen’s Servant, but God’s First

Many of you may already know that William Byrd was a Roman Catholic composer who lived during the Elizabethan persecutions in England. Byrd made a name for himself writing music for the established Church of England, but being a loyal and devoted Roman Catholic, he also wrote some of his most beautiful work for the Roman Catholic underground. The article beautifully illustrates some of the ways in which Byrd would embed expressions of his Catholicism in his intricately woven polyphony.
[William Byrd] was a fixture in the liturgical life of the recusant safe-houses, the great country homes of Catholic aristocrats, which served as 16th-century catacombs riddled with secret chambers to hide fugitive priests. For these communities he wrote Mass settings and motets (in Latin), managing to publish and even furtively to perform them. His finest masterpieces are perhaps his Masses for Three, Four, and Five Voices, which he wrote for the underground liturgies, the straitened circumstances of which pressed themselves intimately upon the compositions...

It is in these Masses that we hear some of Byrd’s most poignant expressions of his Catholicism. One especially powerful instance occurs in the Credo movement of the Mass for Four Voices. This is the Nicene Creed, the Mass’s profession of faith, the end of which offers the line, et unam sanctam Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam (“and in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”). Byrd’s setting of this phrase is movingly defiant. For the preceding section, and indeed, much of the movement, Byrd has written elegant counterpoint, but now he pulls the four voices together and brings them to a dramatic closing cadence. Then, for this new phrase, he briefly changes the texture to one that is essentially homophonic, a common Renaissance device to indicate emphasis. The sopranos lead with the words et unam followed almost immediately by the other three parts together on the same text. The phrase climaxes with the word Catholicam, which the sopranos lightly articulate and the other voices forcefully repeat as one. By setting one voice against three, Byrd masterfully harnesses the emphatic qualities of both polyphony and homophony: the text repetition of the former and the clarity and unity of the latter.
These masses are among my favorite compositions. In addition to his masses, I also love Byrd's composition of the Ave Verum Corpus. Our parish choir became quite used to singing it during the past year.


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