In Front of the Congregation
When I play the organ for Mass, whether from the balcony or the sanctuary, I normally feel like I am hidden from view. I may be able to see what is happening around the altar, but I really don’t get to see the faces of the people who gather for worship. This is a huge space, and everyone is generally very far away from me. Even when I am at the piano with people walking by me during communion, I have to concentrate on making the music so don’t really see the faces passing by.
This past weekend that changed. On Saturday, I was the cantor and it became my role to be a visible leader of song. (I will get a second chance this weekend as well.) While some people might have been able to see me at the organ or piano, as cantor, I was able to look and see all who had come to worship. Drawing on the music from last week, I “was blind, but now I see.” It was an amazing grace to see so many people with the hymnals open and singing!
I also noticed a few people that didn’t seem to be singing, even for the Eucharistic acclamations. In Lumen Gentium, the Eucharistic sacrifice is called the “source and summit” of the whole Christian life (LG 11). As such, the music we sing for the Holy, Holy, Memorial Acclamation, and Amen are the most important songs we sing during our celebration. While the hymns and psalm change from week to week, these acclamations use the same music for an entire season, making it easier to become familiar with them and truly pray them. If you wish to follow the music it is always included in the worship aid (currently page 17 of the Lent booklet).
The role of cantor is to assist the congregation in singing, not to replace the congregation. I am delighted to be able to finally serve as a cantor here, but I believe we will all be filled with grace when everyone opens the hymnals and worship aids to sing.