The End of All Things

April 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ok, so it’s not really the end of ALL things.  It’s just that my Lenten fasts were officially over as of Easter Sunday.  I can listen to music once again!  For those not familiar, I routinely give up listening to music at home, in my car, and at my desk at work for Lent.  It’s terrible.  It’s honestly torturous at times and that’s why I do it every year.  I try to use the quiet time in my car to pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy or the Rosary, and at work, I just try to work harder to keep my mind occupied and off the ‘dead air’.  Every year is just as much of a sacrifice as the last time.  And it doesn’t get easier as the weeks go by because I can’t avoid music entirely.  I still hear it in almost all public settings.  Which means I’m more likely to have a song I hate stuck in my head rather than one I like and have been listening to.  Aghh, even just thinking about it now is frustrating!

Breathe, Rose… Breathe and listen to the beautiful strains of Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings soundtrack wafting into my ears.  Because, yes that’s right, when I haven’t listened to music for 40 days, the absolute first CD I shove into my computer is the soundtrack to a fantasy epic.  (For those of you keeping score at home, my favorite is The Fellowship of the Ring, but I have all three.)  I wasn’t sure why I was craving this type of music so much as my fast drew to a close, but you know, I think I may have figured it out.  And it doesn’t have anything to do with me being a nerd. 

(Just stay with me here; I’m about to ramble before I get to my point.)  I love Holy Week music.  From the Pange Lingua on Holy Thursday night to the stunning Exsultet at the Easter Vigil Mass and the bells ringing throughout the entire Gloria of Easter Mass, Holy Week has the best music ever.  At the Cathedral Mass for Palm Sunday, we sing:

O sacred Head, surrounded by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head, so wounded, reviled and put to scorn!
Death’s pallid hue comes over Thee, the glow of life decays,
yet angel hosts adore Thee and tremble as they gaze.

On Holy Thursday, we sing Pange Lingua Gloriosi as the tabernacle is left empty, the altar stripped.  As we sing of His glory, we prepare for His death.   Pange Lingua is translated into:

Sing, my tongue, the Savior’s glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King…

Good Friday draws near to us and we behold the Mother of Christ at the foot of the Cross.  Her fidelity to her Son is a gift to us and we sing her sorrow in the Stabat Mater:

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

At the Easter Vigil Mass, the whole church waits in hushed darkness until the shimmering glow of a hundred candles, grasped by the hands of the faithful who await light and redemption, spreads and overtakes the night.  While flame-lit shadows flicker and blur, we listen to the proclamation of our joy, our Savior’s Resurrection, in the Exsultet:

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

…O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!


This music is beautiful in the extreme.  I am not a musically talented person in the least, but this music moves me.  It sings words of truth and therefore words of power.  It is solemn, sorrowing, hushed, and then it is joyous, jubilant, it resounds with its knowledge of redemption.  There is strength and glory after the death and desolation.  I hear it and I am lifted up, I resonate.  I don’t want pop starlets auto-tuning themselves into robots; I don’t want violence and drugs in rapped verses or screaming guitar solos, I don’t want trite cliches and first kisses and high school romances.  During Holy Week, I have been fed the musical power of truth, and what is insipid tastes weak and flavorless.

And that’s why, after six weeks of no personal music, I reach for what inspires me, not what merely entertains me.  I listen to The Lord of the Rings music and let the magic of the story enchant me again.  I am with Frodo as he reaches out in anguish for a fallen Gandalf; I am wide-eyed and silenced as the allure of Lothlorien steals into my being.  I feel the breath of the Black Riders on my neck as I panic and flee with Merry, Pip, Frodo, and Sam.  I leap with the Fellowship across the sky-high tumbling towers of stone in Khazad-Dum.  I rejoice in the simplicity and goodness of Hobbiton, the fertile fields and humble workers.  I hear Aragorn’s voice in my head, calling me before the Black Gate to stand up, to fight for “all that you hold dear on this good earth”.  These songs ring through with a call to courage and truth. They mean something.  After giving it up all Lent, I want my music to mean something to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I still like my entertainment.  I’m sure in a few days, I’ll be queuing up my much-loved Dashboard Confessional and Brand New playlists, or maybe my favorite country hits.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Right now, though, I’m not ready to sink back down to earth.  I’m still elevated from Holy Week, a plane above the norm.  I think that’s why I want The Lord of the Rings music.  It reminds me of Holy Week: Epic and amazing.  Uplifting.  Harrowing.



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