This coming Sunday, we celebrate Palm Sunday, remembering Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The traditional chant which opens the celebration is one of the most famous in the repertoire: Hosanna, filio David — Hosanna to the Son of David! The opening upward sweep of this chant is unique, suggesting a celebratory call announcing an event of great importance and impact:
We heard that same upward sweep not long ago on Christmas in Puer natus est nobis — A boy is born to us:
Here we see — or rather, hear — one of the most extraordinary qualities of chant: its ability to teach by simply offering a sound in relationship to a particular text. Just as the Palm Sunday chant gives musical depiction to the “entry of the King”, so the Christmas chant tells us the same, the entry of the “infant King” Jesus into this world. What an elegant manner in which to teach such a basic and simple truth, that this man on the donkey is the same person born 33 years earlier in Bethlehem.