Thursday, December 18, 2008


Dome - Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

In spite of myself, I am finding small new gifts this season. Steering clear of the usual traditions which as the source of much joy in the past have become intolerable reminders of what we have lost, I bump into other things.

One of the benefits of my immersion into Ignatian spirituality has been the discovery of the music of Palestrina. I didn't know why it kept popping up in various Jesuit contexts, but I finally did a quick search today and learned that his life spanned much of the 16th century (Ignatius lived during the first half of that century) and that he was a major figure in the development of Catholic church music. During the 1560s he held an appointment at Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the five major basilicas of Rome; during the following decade, he lost his brother, two sons, and wife to the plague.

When we visited Rome in 2000, we stayed in the Maria Maggiore neighborhood and spent our evenings eating gelato in the piazza outside the church. These days, my shaky and tentative journey back to life includes connections to the prayer and music of the 16th century. I don't know why I'm so surprised.

From Palestrina's Missa Brevis:

1 comment:

parodie said...

I have wonderful memories of singing Palestrina (and others) in church choirs through the years. Thanks for sharing this - helping me to find the quiet, contemplative centre of Advent once again. My "big" darkness came last Advent, and this year is different, but I remember pulling myself through the days last year in what felt like a sheer effort of will. The contemplative centre of Advent and its promise of eschatological hope helped a lot. I hope they offer you comfort as well. Many blessings, and thank you for sharing your journey.