Music for an Intense Lent

Are you a Christian? Are you a Catholic? Stop settling for weak Lents. Make your Lent intense with these choral and chant tracks (or with these movies). Listen with the volume nice and high, and you’ll see what I mean:

This first track is a choral piece I discovered a few years ago, and its ability to creep is unequaled. For the majority of the piece, the choir is only singing one word: crucifixus… crucifixus… crucifixus… (The Crucified… Crucified… Crucified…) and the effect is stunning.

This next track is also a choral piece on the Crucifixion, by Antonio Lotti from the 17th Century. This piece is from his larger work on the Nicene Creed, but it stands alone incredibly well as a meditation on Christ’s crucifixion.

Here is Parce Domine, a chant of longing for God’s mercy, recalling the complete and profound repentance of Nineveh at the [reluctant] preaching of Jonah from the Old Testament. Lyrics, both Latin and English here, and an updated version here that is worth your ears, and don’t miss this polyphonic version!

The Dies Irae is not specifically a Lenten chant, but for funerals and for All Souls’ Day. Yet, it seems mighty appropriate, reminding us that death and judgment is our destiny, but our death can be transformed to eternal life if we surrender our life to Christ. Don’t miss this neat little documentary on this timeless piece, which has appeared in many famed movies to date! The epic lyrics here.

This last piece is the Gregorian chant of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (The Standing Mother of Sorrows), the scene when Mary suffered and stood before Jesus nailed on the cross. The Latin/English lyrics can be found here, and a video with the proper notation is here, but presented is my favorite chanted rendition:

So there you have them, three of my favorite tracks for contemplating what Lent is meant to be. I hope these help, and maybe become your faves, too.

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The Conjuring is Conquering

conjuring-posterWhen I first saw The Conjuring (2013) by director James Wan, I knew the film was special in its class. The sequel, The Conjuring 2 (2016), affirms the series’ uniqueness. At the end of my review, I’ll mention the standout point from the first film, but for now, let me share how The Conjuring is conquering its genre.

—SPOILER ALERT—

—–1) In this earlier review here, we learn that the writers for the movie series are devout Christians, and not only that, but are also devout Catholic Christians. Now although all Christians are similar in that we love and follow Jesus Christ, other Christians differ in that they broke away from the Church Jesus originally founded on St. Peter, our Lord’s first pope. Perhaps in a later post I can share more about this schism (to break away), but for now, we see in the film a few examples of why the Catholic Church stands apart from the Christian denominations that broke off from her to start their own churches. The first example is when we see Ed and Lorraine Warren discuss that any work they do must be cleared by “the Church.” And we all know that “the Church” refers to: the Catholic Church. Not the neighborhood community church, or the city central church, etc., but the Catholic Church. This reminds me of a quote from renowned movie critic Roger Ebert:ExorcismMeme

—–2) The second example of the Catholic Church’s primacy is the use and display of crucifixes in the film. Catholics and Orthodox Christians use and prefer crucifixes, and a crucifix is different from a mere cross: crosses do not have the little statue or image of Jesus affixed, but crucifixes do. In the film, we see a room covered in crosses, but the crosses are playthings to the demon. Evil does not fear two sticks glued together. However, when a crucifix comes out, especially when it comes out in the hands of a faithful and prayerful Christian, the demons freak. The key is that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ changes the mere cross into a weapon against sin and Satan. Without Jesus, a cross is merely an instrument of terrorism and torture, but with Jesus’ sacrifice, the cross becomes the beams that crush Hell. Here’s a little meme to summarize:CrossWithChrist

—–3) An extra sign of the Church’s power is in Ed’s use of Latin in his prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. We saw this in the first Conjuring (and in many other exorcism films), and it is reinforced here. To keep this short and sweet: Latin is the language of the Catholic Church, it’s the mother language of Catholics, and whether we know it or not, Latin remains our inheritance. In fact, real exorcists have claimed that Latin prayers have a extra punch to them than prayers in usual languages. Demons seem to despise Latin prayers, perhaps because the only culture that uses Latin in conversation today is the Church. In Latin prayers, the Church converses with her Lord Jesus Christ, and it’s a conversation most worthy of being had. Latin, because no other society uses it conversationally and daily, has become set aside (reserved) for the Church’s prayers. Latin, in a sense, has become holy (set apart, and in this case for serving God).

—–4) Next, it is true demons use fear to destroy us. When we fear, we tend to forget we are actually loved, actually guarded and prized by God and all Heaven. Many of us would do things exactly as the characters in the film: run, hide, scream, cry… and we should! But we should run to Christ! Hide in God’s light! Scream for the Lord’s mercy! Cry to the saints to pray with us, for us, to the Holy Spirit! Demons want us to be so afraid that we forget God, that we doubt He can help, that we dismiss His presence and focus on the demons and the crisis. Instead, we must turn to God immediately. As soon as trouble starts, and even before it starts, whip out your faith and call on Our Father who art in Heaven. In the film, we see Lorraine bust out her rosary when things get crazy. Don’t pay the demon any attention, but shower your gaze on Jesus, invite the Holy Spirit to nuke the sins and the demons. Get into the habit of using troubles as reminders to pray.Be Fearless

—–5) And at last, Janet, the star of the film, says something subtly profound at the end. After the literal Hell she has been dragged through by the demon, she believes she is so lucky! She actually says, “I’m so lucky!” and is not being sarcastic! She sees that all the terrors have been a way for God to lead her to love, to lead her to know two amazing and faithful friends in Lorraine and Ed. The evil was wicked and deadly, but God somehow knows how to work the horrors for Janet and her family’s benefit in the end. This is also true for the Warrens, when we see them realize that God has given Lorraine her gifts, and has allowed her to see the terrifying visions in order to help her save Ed and Janet from death. Most importantly, it must be said that we believe God never causes any evil, but He does permit evil to happen when we humans or when spirits (angelic or demonic) choose to commit evil out of our own free will. He might limit some of the consequences of our sins, out of His mercy, but He does permit us to use our free will, and only He knows how to set things up for our benefit. We must trust Him and do our best to do His will. To find out why God would take such a risk to let us have free will, please see this post.the_conjuring_-_uk_1757631a

—–And about the first Conjuring film: there was one line that jumped out at me. The mother in the film, after learning that the demon harassing her is the damned spirit of a woman who murdered her own child, says: “What kind of mother would kill her own children?” As soon as I heard this, I thought immediately of the millions of children aborted because their parents did not want them, did not love them enough to share life with them. The numbers are sobering: over 55 million children in America have been aborted since 1973, over 336 million Chinese babies have been aborted since the 1980s. And if you don’t really know what an abortion is and how traumatizing and violent it is for the mother and child, please see the abortion procedures here. So the question from the first film is actually pointing a finger at us as a nation, as a culture: what kind of society kills its own children?

—–The Conjuring 2 was a treat. It’s rare in film to see faith presented, the Church respected, and at the same time not in a cheesy lame way. I am grateful I got to see the film, and to share my thoughts. May God bless you and all those involved in the film in any way. Amen!

—–For a thoughtful and much more thorough review, please see Dcn. Steven Greydanus’ here.patrickwilsonconjuring2

Select Chants for DHHT

Hello Beloved HT of Miền Trung (and any eavesdroppers)!

This DHHT XI, we get to go a bit old school and do Adoration with some Latin chants. These chants are ancient, and the Latin is a major heritage of Roman Catholicism (stretching back over 1000 years). If you want to know more about Latin, please look here: The Romance Tongue and Why Chant Can’t Speed Up.

But, to help us all prepare, please put these three chants on repeat for the next month, and we’ll get together in mid-July to praise the King in the Church’s mother tongue. We’ve never done this together on such a large scale, so we’re a bit nervous… but let’s do this!

—–1) O Salutaris Hostia (by St. Thomas Aquinas)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.

—–2) Tantum Ergo (the last 2 verses of the Pange Lingua, also by St. Thomas Aquinas)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.

—–3) Salve Regina (anonymous and ancient)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.