Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saint Cecilia

November 22 is the feast day of Saint Cecilia, traditionally the patron saint of music and musicians, and certainly an appropriate subject for this blog.

She lived in either the second or third century (accounts differ) and was martyred along with her husband and brother-in-law, whom she had converted to Christianity. Her sainthood was conferred as early as the fifth century, when a church named for her was built in Rome. Her connection to music is also attributed to different stories; one states that she sang a hymn to God in her heart during her wedding ceremony to block out the profane worldly music of the Roman rite, while another tells of her singing boldly while she was martyred (by beheading). She is often depicted playing the organ, with an angel present.

Many pieces of music, particularly sacred choral music, have been written in her honor, including masses by Gounod and Scarlatti, extended odes by Purcell, Britten, Handel, Howells, and Parry, and many shorter works.

Older Catholic hymnals contain a handful of hymns for her feast day, and there are probably untranslated hymns from the Eastern Orthodox churches. This particular one comes from the St. Mark's Hymnal (1910), published by St. Mark's Parish in Peoria, IL. Julia C. Dox, one of the hymnal's compilers, also wrote this text.

Saint Cecilia, you who sing
Praises ever echoing,
Make our hearts your instrument
In God's service ever spent.

E'er to music give your pow'rs
Thus to aid in troubled hours;
Music, the divinest art,
Ever of our lives a part.

Inspiration still it brings,
Earthly words are given wings;
May we sing, when heav'n is won,
Praise to God, great Three in One.

Julia C. Dox, 1910; adapt.
Tune: EVELYN (
Emma L. Ashford, 1905

Today is the last Sunday of the church year -- Advent begins next week! In many churches, today is marked as the Feast (or Solemnity) of Christ the King. But I do know of a few places where they are including one of the choral anthems to Saint Cecilia in addition to the traditional Christ the King music. I wonder what they're singing in Peoria?

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: The Feast of Christ the King

One (Calendar) Year Ago:
If Jordan Above Me Shall Roll

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