By Sr. Fidelis
No matter how many times I have chanted the chants for the Feast of the Transfiguration, I feel like a little kid all over again when I hear them! The chants for this feast have such exhilarating, text-coloring melodies, it’s difficult not to be swept up with them. Let’s take a look at just one example — the 1st Vespers Hymn — Quicumque Christus Quaeritis.
Here is the first verse:
Whosoever you are who seek Christ, raise your eyes on high;
there, you will be allowed to see a sign of eternal glory.
The hymn begins in the lowest part of the mode, as though “bowed over.” However, it gently and quickly rises higher until the very word “there” — as though carrying us along to the exact point at which we might see Christ — before returning to where it began.
However, and perhaps even more amazing, the musical shape of this hymn echoes the story of the Transfiguration itself. If you recall, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up Mt. Tabor (a long climb if you have never experienced it!), where they saw Jesus, Moses and Elijah speak together, and heard God’s own voice — in all senses, a “mountain top” experience! Also, remember that Peter wanted to remain on the mountain but Jesus said that was not possible — they must descend and return to their daily lives with this experience.
This is EXACTLY what the chant does in sound — melodic motion to a specific high point on the word “there”, a moment of lingering and, like I said earlier, a floating descent to its final cadence. When I hear this hymn, I feel as though I am being retaken on that same, living journey. I believe that this is one of the greatest gifts and benefits of the chant: its ability to lift us out of where we are, take us to a new place of conversation with God, and return us to our daily lives, transformed.
Have a blessed week and Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!