It is easy for this solemn week leading up to Easter to get jam packed with preparations and worthy devotions, so I thought I would share a short sampling of some of our family’s Holy Week musical favorites to hopefully help bring the stress levels down with a Beauty Break. Brief is not an understatement here. 😉 As difficult as it was, I have narrowed my recommendations down to only one classical piece relating to each specify day through Black Saturday. You can play each day’s selection while y’all work on the remaining details of your family’s Easter Feaster, while your children play, or perhaps during supper or before bed. More ideas for incorporating music into your day can be found here.
What are your Holy Week favorites? Please share them in the comments below.
Fig Monday: Repentir – Charles Gounod
Our Gospel today recounts Mary Magdalene’s bathing of Jesus’ feet with costly lavender perfume and her own hair. As such, I chose Charles Gounod’s penitential sacred song Repentir (Repentance, O Divine Redeemer). He composed the text and music within six months of his death and it was published posthumously in celebration of the thousandth performance of his opera, Faust. Its subtitle is translated, “Scene in the form of a prayer” and I think you will agree it is a petition that we all share.
Holy Tuesday: Miserere mei, Deus – Gorgio Allegri
This is a common day for Tenebrae services to be held. Based on Psalm 51, Gorgio Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus was composed specifically for this service as one of the twelve secret settings used at the Sistine Chapel. It is legend, confirmed by family letters, that Mozart wrote down the work after hearing it once during the Tenebrae service he attended in Rome.
Spy Wednesday: Improperia – Tomas Luis de Victoria
Today the Gospel goes into the specifics of Judas’ betrayal then goes on to have Jesus tell the disciples what will happen. The final exchange where Judas lies to Jesus’ face about being the guilt party gives me goose flesh! The Reproaches (Improperia) are typically sung on Good Friday, but I though these antiphons could apply to the situation mentioned in the Gospel as well. They recount the many gifts God gave to His people, the Israelites, and the response is a plea for mercy. How often have we too followed the example of those who wandered in the wilderness and turned a blind eye to the blessings of the Lord? Sorry, my goose flesh is back…
Maundy Thursday: Ave Verum Corpus – William Byrd
Though the Gospel reading only focuses on Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet, the wider context of Maundy Thursday is the whole event of the Last Supper. Not only did was Passover celebrated, but also the first Eucharistic Feast. To highlight that aspect, Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus (Hail True Body) is our listening selection for today. The Latin text goes back to the Middle Ages and Pope Innocent VI. A translation of the text is found here.
Good Friday: “Vidit Suum Dulcem Natum” – Giovanni Pergolesi
This 5th movement of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater is the Good Friday piece that routinely comes to my mind first. The way Pergolesi paints the scene of Christ’s death through the dynamic setting of the text is haunting. An English translation of the 13th century poem is as follows:
For the sins of His own nation,
saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
Black Saturday: “Quando Corpus Morietur” – Antonín Dvořák
Today Jesus harrowed hell, visiting those faithful who died before His sacrifice and offering them eternal life. This piece by Dvořák is the final movement of his Stabat Mater and also the conclusion of At The Foot Of The Cross: A Musical Journey Through Lent. It has been one of my favorites since singing it in college and is a moving illustration of the hope we can have for eternity as Christians. It never ceases to bring tears to my eyes. The text translation is below:
While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
safe in paradise with Thee. Amen.