The season of Lent is coming soon! Beginning with Ash Wednesday on March 6th, 2019, the Lenten season offers us a chance to grow closer to Christ through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a unique time of the Church year because we are challenged to take a good look at our spiritual life and resolve to let go of the things holding us back from a more intimate relationship with God. It is also a time to produce new fruits for others through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The music of Lent should align us with the nature of the season
For example, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that “In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only in order to support the singing. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts (GIRM, 313). Clearly, our music choices and the way we deliver the music must primarily support congregational singing, so it is best to reserve anything ‘flashy’ for the Easter season, and instrumental solo sessions are prohibited.
My favorite Lamb of God during the Lenten season is the “Agnus Dei” from the Chant Mass. No matter which setting of the Holy Holy, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen we are using, I always like to use the Agnus Dei from the Chant Mass to bring us into the distribution of Communion.
If you don’t know it, give it a listen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-WJK_Fjkkw
Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. (repeat)
Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
- Simple Beauty: This chant is both beautiful and very simple for your congregation to learn right away. (Some should already know it as well)
- Connection with the Past: The Lamb of God prayer has been used in the Church since at least the 400’s. The use of any chant settings connect us to the most important body of music in Church history: chant.
- Focus: A chanted setting can quickly bring the congregation back into focus after the sign of peace. The repeated prayer of the Agnus Dei is the quickest way to center us back to the real presence of God and prepare for receiving Him.
- Creative choice in many Churches: This setting comes off as ‘unique’ at many parishes who have lost the tradition of chant. Sadly, the tradition of chant and Latin is not nearly as strong as it once was (for obvious reasons). A parish that has lost touch with these two elements of the Church will find this to be a good way to reintroduce chanted prayers.
- Simplicity: There are many great settings of the “Agnus Dei” or “Lamb of God” set in the Masses of the greatest composers ever to live. Let us use the rest of the church year to sing these other settings, and Lent can be the precise time not to use the big settings.
I hope I have convinced you to try the Agnus Dei during Lent if you haven’t before! If you have already used it, then I'm preaching to the choir! If not, after a couple of weeks, I think you will see your congregation come to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of this chant at a wonderful moment of the Liturgy.
For more resources, such as a “2019 Planning Guide” or “10 Proven Ways To Get Your Congregation Singing Better”, visit www.musicministry101.com
Wishing you the best in your Lenten journey,