Preparing for Antiphons (Part 3 of 3)
Next week we will finally begin chanting the antiphons - for those who are still uncertain about all of this “chant” talk, rest assured: you’ve been doing it already! Every time I chant something at Mass and you respond, you’re chanting. Chant is, simply put, sung liturgical prayer.
It is the most ancient (and ideal) form of sacred music, connecting us to the very roots of the Church’s liturgy, and even beyond: Christ and the Apostles, our Blessed Mother, and all those many holy men and women of the Jewish faith chanted the psalms in their liturgical prayer, which is precisely what we will do in chanting the antiphons. Even though these antiphons will be different at first, in
terms of the music with which we are familiar, we will get the hang of them in no time. I’d like to offer a little reflection on the antiphons for the 1st Sunday of Advent, to try and show how they can help us to enter into the Mass more actively (see the video to see what this looks like and how to go about chanting the antiphons!).
Remember: the antiphons are taken from among the prayers for this specific Mass offered on this specific day; they are intimately tied to the rest of the prayers in a given celebration, as well as the readings from the Lectionary. When chanted, the antiphons contribute to communicating the message of this Mass, as well as the integral celebration of the whole Mass from beginning to end, and they help us to participate more actively and prayerfully in the Mass with the priest.
The Entrance Antiphon for the 1st Sunday of Advent reads: “To you, I lift up my soul, O my God. In you I have trusted; let me not be put to shame” (Cf. Psalm 25(24):13). As the entrance antiphon, this prayer immediately alerts our minds to the first task of worship, what we ought to do internally at the very beginning of the Mass: lift our souls and hearts and minds to God, to become attentive to Him as we enter into His midst. As the first Advent antiphon, it also reminds us of the whole point of the season, in which we lift our eyes to behold the coming of the Savior at Christmastime (in memory) and at the Second Coming (in anticipation). It reminds us that the Lord is our trust and our stronghold; He is who provides for all of our needs, and to the extent that we live according to this total dependence on Him, we will not be put to shame. Then we pray at Holy Communion with this passage: “The Lord will bestow His bounty, and our earth shall yield its increase” (Psalm 85(84):13). This is a beautifully Eucharistic passage from the Psalms, which finds its fulillment in the Blessed Sacrament. Just as we placed our trust in the Lord at the beginning of Mass, we receive in the Eucharist the fulfillment of that trust: we look to Him to provide for all we need, and in the Eucharist, we receive all that He could ever offer us, the fullness of His generosity, because in This Gift He gives us His entire self. As we receive this Bounty from the Lord, we invite Him into the “earth” of our lives, and the soil of our hearts becomes more fertile, and being transformed by the Bounty we receive, our lives become increasingly abundant and fruitful. We pray in this antiphon with the faith that, wherever the Lord bestows His generous love, and wherever it is received in faith and humility, with a contrite and open heart, it might take root and bloom into a verdant pasture.
We can see in these two verses how chanting the antiphons contributes to a more devout, spiritual, and formative participation in the Mass, provided we are open to the lessons they teach us. On this Feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, let us all pray that we may more humbly and generously invite Him to reign in our hearts and souls, so that the soil of our lives may become an abundant oasis of His grace and life. May God bless you in the week ahead, and may Mother Mary lead you more deeply into the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus.