Advent is a season of hope, expectancy, and particularly in the last nine days, preparation for the celebration of the nativity of the Lord. It is a time for looking back and listening to the message of the prophets, especially Isaiah and John the Baptist, then looking forward, with Mary and Joseph to the time when God’s plan for a new age of justice, peace and harmony will come to be. It is a time of pilgrimage that may also focus on our own journey to God.
Specific Mass settings and music are reserved for the Advent season, such as “Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus” or “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. A small number of carols which announce the advent of Jesus, and show us what God’s promises and hopes are to mean are also useful at this time. The Holly and the Ivy is one traditional Advent carol. Shirley Murray and Colin Gibson, New Zealand composers, offer a small selection of contemporary carols: “Come Now Lord Jesus”, “Lord Jesus Christ, bring Christmas to our home” and “Who is the child to be born?”
Music at the time of Advent is simple, restrained, sometimes unaccompanied. The Gloria is not used. As we reflect on God’s saving story throughout the ages, consider drawing on our Latin Mass heritage by using chant. A fuller range of suggestions is listed in He Puna Hīmene mō Aotearoa, The Directory of Liturgical Music under the Advent repertoire, published on the National Liturgy Office website.
Christmas is more than a single day in the calendar of the Church. It is a season of joy, stretched over several weeks, as the Church celebrates the incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ; the communion of God and humanity.
After the restraint of Advent music, it is time to bring forth a fullness of instruments and voice to create rich and beautiful music reflecting the joy of the season and the wonder of our new dignity. This is the time to sing familiar Christmas Carols, but also to look for contemporary New Zealand hymns that reflect the southern seasons, symbols and history of this land.
Choose a joyful Mass setting that offers a specially loved Gloria as we join with the angels of the first Christmas story to sing these words in our liturgies once again. For a list of Christmas Time music, please visit the Christmas repertoire of He Puna Hīmene mō Aotearoa, the Directory of Liturgical Music for Aoteaoroa New Zealand.
Lenten Music is marked by the characteristics of the season, a time of repentance and conversion. The Alleluia and Gloria are omitted. As the organ may be silent or used only to accompany singing, so other musical accompaniment should also be restrained to the provision of support for the singing of the Assembly. People may be asked to leave from some Masses in silence. In all these ways such choices will enable the contrast between the time of Lent and the effect of the Church’s exuberance at Masses on Easter Sunday to be experienced in all its fullness.
Music specific to the rituals for catechumens and candidates preparing to enter the Church at Easter Time needs consideration, as does the ritual music for the Triduum.
Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent, requires ‘Hosannas’! A song using ‘Hosanna’ and the phrase, ‘Son of David’ is to be used as ministers approach the place where people have gathered for the Procession to the Church.
For a list of liturgical music suitable for Lent, please visit the National Liturgy Office website, He Puna Hīmene mō Aotearoa, The Directory of Liturgical Music, Lenten Repertoire.
Sing Alleluia! The 50 days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in unbounded joy and exultation as one ‘great Sunday’(St Athanasius). The Church’s exuberance at Masses of Easter is reflected in the return of the ‘Alleluia’ and the ‘Gloria’ at the Easter Vigil, and in joy filled words and music throughout the Mass. These are the days above all others in which the ‘Alleluia’ is sung – to welcome the Gospel and to send us out to share the Good News.
Sequences for Easter and Pentecost
In liturgy, the word “sequence” refers to a hymn that follows the gospel acclamation on particular feast days. Two Sequences are currently retained for Easter Time; Victimae Pashchali Laudes, ‘Christians to the Paschal Feast’, to be sung on Easter Sunday and Veni Sancte Spiritus, ‘Holy Spirit, Lord of Light’, to be sung on Pentecost Sunday. Examples of these hymns are to be found in the national repertoire of Hymns and Songs for Easter.