Wednesday, August 9, 2017

William Byrd's "Ave Verum Corpus"

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show with Anna Mitchell this morning--a little after 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central--to talk about the great eucharistic hymn "Ave Verum Corpus" and about William Byrd.  Please listen live here! Podcasts will be uploaded there too.

She's following up on my blog post at the National Catholic Register last week:

Before the evening Mass this Sunday at my parish in Wichita, Kansas, the schola was practicing William Byrd’s setting of the “Ave verum corpus” (Ave Verum):

Ave verum corpus, natum
de Maria Virgine,
vere passum, immolatum
in cruce pro homine
cuius latus perforatum
fluxit aqua et sanguine:
esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
O Iesu dulcis, O Iesu pie, (Or: O clemens, O pie)
O Iesu, fili Mariae.
Miserere mei. Amen.

Kneeling in my pew, praying the Glorious Mysteries, I could not help, sotto voce, singing along with the “Miserere mei”. Because I listen to Byrd’s music often, I recognized his composition; because I listen to liturgical music often, I recognized the prayer:

Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary,
having truly suffered, sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
from whose pierced side
water and blood flowed:
Be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]
in the trial of death!
O sweet Jesus, O holy Jesus,
O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.

The schola went over a couple of tricky passages and at first sang the motet with piano accompaniment. During Mass, they sang it at the Offertory.

As I heard it, I joined in the prayer of adoration of Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, and of His Paschal Sacrifice about to be re-presented on the Altar. This Eucharistic hymn also reminds me of my mortality and hopes for a happy and holy death.

Knowing that William Byrd had composed it during a time when the Mass was illegal in England, his setting of this hymn made me grateful not only for freedom of religion in our country, but for the bounty our diocese has received from God recently. Our bishop ordained ten priests and ten deacons this May; our parish, Blessed Sacrament, received two of the newly ordained priests as Parochial Vicars, and one of the deacons has been serving us this summer. Next May, God willing, Bishop Carl Kemme will ordain ten more priests!

And some background on William Byrd here.

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