Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Most Beautiful Mass

I had the incredible opportunity to attend the most beautiful Mass I have ever witnessed last night.
Yesterday at 7 am, an ambitious group of 7 young people from this city piled into 2 cars and drove to St. John Cantius in Chicago, for their annual All Souls Extraordinary Form Requiem Mass, with Mozart's Requiem.
We made great time and arrived around 10:15am their time. A friend of mine who is in the Canons Regular (Brother R) obtained permission to spend some of the day with us, which was delightful. First he showed us around the church, then we heard the Canons chant mid-day prayer, following that one of the brothers played a short but neat piece on the organ for us. Then Brother R took us in their van for a little tour of Chicago.
First we stopped at a little cafe for a much-need lunch, then we went to three different churches all very nearby and all very neat. Mary of the Angels, St. Stan's, and Holy Trinity. Then Brother R drove us downtown, pointed out some of the big sights, and then dropped us off. Half of us went to the art museum, and the other half had their own adventures which they can tell you about. After eating some deep dish pizza, my group headed back via subway to the church, arriving a nice half an hour before the Mass began, in a quickly filling up church.
The moment the Mass began, my heart swelled with indescribable emotion. Having heard the opening bars of Mozart's Requiem so many times; for this one more time to then turn and witness the beautiful procession with the reverent altar servers solemnly carrying the cross and candles, followed by the deacon and subdeacon and priest, all dressed in beautiful, gilded vestments appropriate for the most sacred event on earth, I thought, "how appropriate. after all the times I've just been staring at a choir... Of course there ought to be a procession for this music!"
The Mass continued on, and I enjoyed every moment of it (although I was informed later by the MC that there were many flukes--I was not aware of anything not going perfectly!) Quickly into the service the familiar "Dies Irae" sequence was sung, the primary chunk of Mozart's Requiem. We sat and listened to a good 20 minutes of some of my favorite pieces of music, like the "Lacrymosa." We sat and listened, and prayed, and meditated, and our thoughts were carried to heaven through the experience of all our senses of things that are distinctly sacred. (for those who joke about "smells and bells," they don't know what they're missing--when your whole person is experiencing so many beautiful things!) Throughout the Mass, although of course I know intellectually where (for example) the "Offertory" is supposed to "go," it was absoloutely fascinating to witness the appropriate actions occuring with the music.
After a good 25 minute homily, (I was happy-I had heard he might preach up to 40 minutes!) Mass continued with fitting reverence and solemnity rarely seen elsewhere.
Following Communion, I was once more indescribably affected at the very end. I didn't think I had ever heard Barber's Adagio, which was played at the very end as the priest and servers processed back down the aisle. A very fitting anti-"closing hymn!" (If I die soon, make sure that's the "closing hymn" for my funeral!) While listening to those beautiful closing notes of the string instruments, we prayed for bit.
After saying our goodbyes and thanks to Brother R for taking time out of busy day for us, we departed right around 10pm (their time,) and arrived back at 3 am.
I can't wait til next year!

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