A Primer on How to Listen to Chant
On another thread, I tried to help guide someone though how to listen and meditate at High Mass.

Following the priest is a pious practice, but it is more spiritually nutritious to, instead of simply reading words, allow yourself to Meditate, at the appropriate time on the mystery that is unfolding and how the Propers and music communicate this.

If you learn to listen to the chant as a meditation and a prayer, and start to try to discern the different levels and not simply treat it as "just music" you will want to go to a Sung Mass every day.

Here goes:

The Communion Antiphon for the Fifth Sunday after Easter

Download this from the website of the American SSPX Seminary: Communion for the 5th Sunday after Easter

This works out well, since you'll hear this on Sunday. Then read the text:

Cantáte Dómino, allelúia: cantáte Dómino, benedícite nómen éius: bene nuntiáte de díe in díem salutáre éius: allelúia, allelúia.

Sing unto the Lord, alleluia: sing unto the Lord, and bless His Name; announce well His salvation from day to day, alleluia, alleluia.

The Schola is singing this antiphon and interspersing verses of Psalm 95, from which the antiphon is taken.

First, listen to the antiphon once. What do you hear?

I hear a minor key. It is fairly long. It has 2 short sections then 1 long section and the short concluding alleluias.

Let us go more in depth.

It is Mode 2 which is a minor mode and has a very haunting quality, we need not know the technical details, but it does sound minor and dark. Yet it also sounds solemn. The words sound joyous, yet the music sounds somber. It clearly speaks to the heart. "Sing to the Lord" it instructs, yet we sing a very sad song.

Let us try to think about the "Why?".

Consider what the Our Lord has been saying for the last three weeks in the Gospels. "A little while and you shall not see me ... you now indeed have sorrow" (Third Sunday). "I go to Him that sent Me: and none of you asketh Me: Whither goest Thou? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart." (Fourth Sunday) Finally "Again I leave the world and I go to the Father" (Fifth Sunday). Finally in this last Lesson, the Apostles realize what Our Lord has been saying. They realize that, in a sense, they will have to experience as they did on the first Holy Saturday, a pain at the loss of Our Lord, even if they are not Orphans. They have joy, but also still a very understandable human sadness.

His Ascension is certainly glorious, but the world has once again lost Christ in his human form. But just as on Easter morn, the angel says, "He is not here". So it can again be said, he is not here, he is in Heaven. And we realize that our place is not here either, and we are meant to be with Him. So we too are sad.

We have just received Our Lord's Body. He is still here and He has given Himself to us, but yet, while it is God we have received, we still are not yet perfectly with Him, as we should be. In a few minutes the cares of the day will again be upon us, and we will forget, and we will sin. God is with us, as he was with the Apostles that day, but shortly, we will go back to our human nature, and He will be, in a sense gone again, and we will feel that loss.

Now listen again to the antiphon. Listen to the first two parts. The melody and even the harmony is very similar. In a sense these are parallel structures. The only difference is that when Domino happens for the second time it is one tone higher. It is as if , repeating the same words, we again plead with our own heart even stronger. First it is "Sing to the Lord", then reminding ourselves, to Whom we sing, "Sing to the LORD". The emphasis is on the person. Then as the melody returns to the same form as before, we add, "and Bless His Name".

Now the tone changes, bene , the adverb here sounds almost like it is a major key. We add nuntiate de die in diem which is the instruction from Christ. "Go forth and teach" or "Announce salvation to the world" only slipping back into the original mode at the end. It is a happy work, to bring the good news to the world. The Apostles will die for their Faith, but then, they will see Christ again and their hearts "shall rejoice: and your joy no man shall take from you."

Alleluia, alleluia hits the highest note in the entire antiphon. The song is truly ascending now to the Father. At the end it returns back down, just as the soul from ecstasy. It is still in this world, and there is much work to be done, much labor.

Now listen to this antiphon again, and see if you hear it differently than you did at first. When you hear this on Sunday, put the handmissal down for a minute and just listen, and allow the music to direct your prayer, and truly meditate. It will be a much more spiritually nourishing and rewarding experience than trying to follow the priest with certain words, or desperately trying to finish that decade before Father gets back to the Altar. Think about Communion and the Real Presence, and resolve to not let Christ go away, but keep Him in your heart throughout the week, and meet Him again as soon as you can. In the meantime:

Cantáte Dómino, allelúia: cantáte Dómino, benedícite nómen éius: bene nuntiáte de díe in díem salutáre éius: allelúia, allelúia.

Sing unto the Lord, alleluia: sing unto the Lord, and bless His Name; announce well His salvation from day to day, alleluia, alleluia.

Thanks for this. I like how you lined up the English and Latin. I really wish there were a good rendition in English of Dies Irae.

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