For this feast of St. Cecilia, virgin-martyr of the early Church and patroness of musicians, I wanted to share one of my favorite antiphons from the Divine Office. It is so simple, but the words and the music just seem to “rhyme” (as my man Gerard Manley Hopkins might say)—there is a harmony between the melody and the language which exemplifies the very best of chant, which speaks straight to the heart.
The Bridegroom is speaking here to the bride. “Come!” he cries from the heights, like a trumpet blast—then, tenderly: “my chosen one,” as the antiphon drops a third. The musical movement mirrors the Incarnation: the ultimate miracle! that God became man so that man might become God: “that I may dwell in your heart,” as he sings with “a lingering-out sweet skill” (to quote G.M.H. again)—and that you may dwell in Me. Notice how the notes descend on “dwell” and then rise on “in your heart!” Down and up: down to the heart of the bride, up to the hearth of the Bridegroom, forever and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen.
Music Credit: Midday Prayer, Common of Virgins, Mount Angel Abbey. All rights reserved. Contact: Choirmaster, 1 Abbey Drive, St. Benedict, Ore. 97373.