Virtual Bread of Heaven

Trying to stay on a work schedule at home is quite difficult, and I have not yet found the groove. There are too many distractions: laundry, television, dishwasher, Facebook, commanding Alexa to play my favorite music.

Though we are using Facebook to a great advantage to stay in touch as a parish, I am always caught by the temptation to take the incessant quizzes found there.

And you know organists: we speak in our own language, which to the natural world can sound like speaking Klingon on Star Trek. The conversations often begin with “mixtures and reeds” and end with “changing manuals for the Adagio section.”

See what I mean?

One such recent quiz asked organists to name their favorite compositions, the most overrated or underrated organ pieces, the piece that made me fall in love with the organ, and so on.

Knowing myself, studying with various organ professors, and the instruments upon which I have been privileged to perform, I should not have been surprised that two of my ten quiz answers were compositions of César Franck (1822-1890).

PIECE THAT I CHERISH: Franck “Chorale in E Major”

I then remembered that cantor Joel Chapman is going to sing the Franck Panis Angelicus for our 10:30 Sunday morning livestream this week. And I smiled, as this vocal solo is probably the definitive setting of this Eucharistic text.

We have not been able to receive Communion as a gathered congregation since March, and at this point, we do not know when we will be able to do so together again.

The Sacrament, however, is in no way diminished for us; it remains the memorial acclamation of Jesus’ death for our sins, followed by his triumphant resurrection. Thankfully, we have sacred texts such as this week’s solo to remind us of this sacrificial act of love.

Panis Angelicus is Latin for “bread of angels” or “angelic bread.” The text is an excerpt from a longer hymn Sacris Solemniis (“sacred rites”) written by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Numerous composers in addition to Franck have set this sacred text to music throughout the years.

Franck’s setting is for tenor solo, harp, cello, and organ. He also incorporated this melody into his mass setting Messe á trois voix.

I hope this beautiful text will be comforting and encouraging to all this Sunday morning.

Panis angelicus fit panis hominum;
dat panis coelicus figuris terinum;

o res mirabilis!

Manducat Dominum pauper,

pauper servus et humilis.

Heavenly bread that becomes the bread for all humankind;
bread from the angelic host that is the end of all imaginings;
oh, miraculous thing!
This body of God will nourish even the poorest,
the most humble of servants.

Te trina Deitas unaque poscimas;
sic nos tua visita, sicut te colimas;

per tuas semitas duc nos quo tendimus,

ad lucem quam inhabitas.

We beseech you, Godhead, One in Three,
that you will visit us, as we worship you;
lead us through your ways,
we who wish to reach the light in which you dwell.

Photo Credit:

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at May 6, 2020