Can You Come Out and Pray?

25 Aug


When I was a kid, in the days before cell phones, we got on our feet or on our bikes, and went in person to the home of our friends. Instead of ringing the doorbell, we stood outside and sang, without musical accompaniment, using just two notes, the higher note only for the name of the person and for the last word before the question mark, “O Steve, can you come out and play?” I do not know why we did it that way. We just did.  And it worked. If the kid didn’t come out himself, his mother appeared at the door, and told us why he was not coming out to play.  

That distraction came to me when I was at a chant workshop for priests. We were learning the chants of the Roman Missal. When we begin to use the new English translation of the Mass on the First Sunday of Advent, we will be singing more than we have been. The new Missal, we are told, will have music printed all through the text. The music will not be tucked away in the back of the book in an appendix, as if singing were an afterthought or is an option. It is the Church’s way of saying, “Sing.” So, we priests have begun to learn how to chant the prayers and the dialogues of the Mass.

Chanting is singing a single line of music, that is, without any harmony line being sung at the same time by someone else, just one single line of music. It is usually just two, three or four notes repeated in rather predictable patterns. It is usually without any musical accompaniment. All that is heard is the human voice. It is simple and straightforward, not complex. Yet when a dialogue or a prayer is chanted, not just spoken, the words are raised to a new level and reach a deeper place in us. Listen to this prayer from Epiphany Sunday as it is chanted: Prayer over the Offerings.  

Here at St. Andrew, come November 27, we will begin slowly and gently, for the sake of the priests and the people. We will begin with the dialogues, those places in the Mass when the priest and the people are responding back and forth. Maybe the priest will also chant the prayers at the beginning and at the end of Mass, the ones he prays at his chair by himself, as the server holds “the big red book” (the Missal) for him.

So, soon we will have not only some new words, but also more singing, oops, I mean, chanting. It will be simple. And it will help us raise our minds and hearts to God, as we fall in love with the Mass all over again.  

2 Responses to “Can You Come Out and Pray?”

  1. Carol August 26, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I read your post this morning while eating a Glier’s goetta sandwich in bed. The pilgrimmage to Cinci last weekend was wonderful but too short. As I read the title of your post, I immediately began to sing, “O Teresa, can you come out and play?” And to think I thought the kids on Airy Ct were the only ones to sing that chant everyday in the summer and many times throughout the day. Brought back wonderful memories as I stopped on Airy Ct. last weekend to see the house I grew up in and to see Teresa’s mom and dad. My constant now to Cinci.
    I am amazed at the ties you bring to your writings and the concern for the congregation and the priests with the new missal. You seem to hold it all with such great care. Next pilgrimmage, I would like to find my way to St. Andrew’s to hear one of your homilies and feel the strength that you exude.

  2. Jennifer August 27, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    You are right that singing (or chanting I think) touches something deeper within us. As you know, St. Cecilia is the patroness of religious music, and it also says on the covers of some of our hymnals, “He who sings prays twice.” I often wish that we could sing the Our Father at every Mass because I think it is so beautiful when it is sung. More singing in the Mass? Something ELSE to look forward to about “the big change.” We were just talking about it in my new prayer group last night and we are all excited! Music adds something to the worship. I often attend weekday Mass at St. Peter’s now and one of the things I really appreciate there is that the organist is there every day and we sing…

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