Friday, July 24, 2009

Archbishop Lucas- The Installation Part I

I had never attended a Eucharistic Liturgy in St. Cecilia Cathedral. Needless to say, Wednesday's installation could not have been a better first time! I've been to numerous events at St. Cecilia's but never a Mass. After receiving a ticket at the last moment for this closed-door event I was bursting with anticipation.

The day converged on perfection. The weather couldn't have behaved better for July in Nebraska- mild, slightly breezy and overcast, making the outdoor hors d'oeuvres and champagne reception exceedingly pleasant.

The Mass, however, was amazing. For those who love ceremony it offered a true feast. The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi officiated with Archbishop Emeritus Elden Curtiss at his side. The suffragan bishops of Nebraska sat close by as well. Cardinals Rigali and George attended along with over 40 US bishops and the abbot and retired abbot of Mt. Michael Abbey in the Archdiocese at Elkhorn. Numerous priests (ca. 250) from Omaha, Springfield, IL, St Louis, and other dioceses filled the front left quarter of the nave.

Following the lengthy procession into the cathedral, the rector, Fr. Gutgsell and the College of Consulters processed to the main door as Dr. Bauer played a solemn anonymous 16th century intabulation of Veni Creator with zimbelstern on the mean-tone stops. It was hair-raising.

Archbishop Emeritus Curtiss offered words of welcome and Archbishop Sambi subsequently read an English translation of the Holy Father's bull appointing Lucas to the Metropolitan See. A .pdf of the bull can be read here, BXVI Omaha Bull . Following the Consulters' inspection the Chancellor presented it to the entire congregation assembled.

Sambi and Curtiss then led Archbishop Lucas to the cathedra and seated him with his crozier. Following vigorous applause the choir sang Duruflé's ethereal Ubi Caritas as representatives of Archdiocesan associations and ethnic communities greeted their new Ordinary. The Mass thence proceeded customarily. One may see a program here: Lucas Installation Mass.

This liturgy validated everything I have heard about the high standards at St. Cecilia Cathedral. The ministers executed all the actions of this celebration with organic fluidity yet exacting precision. The wedding of sacrament, assembly, sound, and space was breathtaking.

Dr. Bauer designed a prelude program which highlighted the Church as Universal and thus fittingly prepared the assembly for the liturgy shortly to transpire.

The first component was offered in "Honor of the Church on Earth." It commenced with De Grigny's Plein Jeu from Veni Creator Spiritus- using the old mean-tone temperament, course! A composition from Dr. Bauer's pen followed this rousing French Baroque work. "Take My Life" couples a poignant poetic text of 1874 by Francis Havergal with a lyric choral setting accompanied by flute and organ. The theme of service and sacrifice was most appropriate. Palladium Brass rounded out this segment with an intabulation of Palestrina's Agnus Dei from Missa Sacerdos et Pontifex- again, how fitting!

"In Honor of the Church in Heaven" commenced with "O Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem" by the always gorgeous 20th century English composer Herbert Howells. Buxtehude's Nun lob, mein' Seel', den Herren followed- showcasing again, the Pasi organ's unique mean-tone capabilities.

Sections honoring Pope Benedict XVI, the BVM, and Our Lord, came next with Duruflé's Tu es Petrus (with the chant and brass arrangment as well), the ubiquitous Schubert Ave Maria, and Hassler's Cantate Domino, respectively. The prelude concluded as the brass declaimed Andrea Gabrieli's solemn "Ricercar on the Sixth Tone."

Highlights of the music at the Mass include John Ireland's apropos "Greater Love Hath No Man" at the Offertory and Henryk Gorecki's ever popular Totus Tuus after the communion hymn.

The hymns closely followed the texts of the liturgy- the choir chanted the proper Communio from Psalm 23 and then we all sang "The King of Love" and Theophane Hytrek's "I am the Good Shepherd." Another great example of engaging, well-planned liturgy.

Kudos to Dr. Bauer for steering a sterling program at Omaha's Cathedral. Good music that contributes to good liturgy is a gift that keeps on giving- in more than one way! American Catholic church musicians who wish to grow their programs should look to Omaha. It's amazing how many of the old excuses and obstacles fall away or diminish when a skilled, qualified, and magnanimous person takes the wheel.

In case it seems like my enthusiasm about all these details somehow lies tangent to some "proper," or rather, more dispassionate and cerebral concept of what matters in Liturgy, that is, Church, let me offer my summary of Archbishop Lucas' premier homily.


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