Friday, December 18, 2009
Today is the last day of the semester, consisting of my last final exam, turning in my last term paper, and finishing up my grading. At long last, I will be able to turn my attention to preparing my home for guests and putting finishing touches on church music! This week our brass players rehearsed the music for Christmas Eve, and it only heightened my excitement for the services. There should be an abundance of beautiful music.
This Sunday, however, it is still Advent, the time of preparation, and my musical focus continues to be the Magnificat. The Psalm for the week is the text of Mary's prayer of thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (making the name "psalm" a bit of a misnomer, I suppose). This often overlooked musical moment in the service is the text and inspiration of much of the music for these past weeks.
I've mentioned before that I grew up in a very Catholic town, very aware of their veneration of Mary. Of course, the novels of Dan Brown and other popular works have reinvigorated interest in the "divine feminine." Lutheran theology and music certainly don't elevate Mary to the point of worship, but in this season of preparation I find the text of the Magnificat to be an important reminder of the physical reality of Mary's pregnancy.
A famous Latin Christmas chant begins "O Magnum Mysterium," reminding us that the incarnation is a great mystery. This week, my prelude will be selections from Pachelbel's Fugues on the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of mystery and exaltation. This last Sunday of Advent provides us a chance to express the wonder and the joy and expectation of the festival to come. I encourage you to pay special attention and sing with extra gusto during the Psalm!