Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Dawn Patrol

Last Thursday morning, on my way past the Russian cathedral, I thought I heard singing. This surprised me, for it was not yet 7:10. I paused to be sure I heard the choir, then checked the bulletin board beside the parish hall. It was "Procession of the Holy Wood of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord. Holy Maccabean Martyrs." The liturgy had begun at 6:40. This Tuesday morning, the choir was back for The Feast of the the Transfiguration, and next week they will turn out early for "Dormition of the Most-Holy Theotokos", what Latins call the Feast of the Assumption.

I am impressed at their devotion. It is not difficult to find a 7 am Roman Catholic Mass, and I think that St. Stephen Martyr in Foggy Bottom even has a 6:30 Mass on weekdays. But if you want a Catholic choir before 10 o'clock, you might have to find a convent or monastery.


  1. Ah, gimme that old style religion . . . And that reminds me of one of my favorite CDs from years ago: Gregorian Chants. There is something special about liturgical music from the good old days of Catholicism (both Roman and Eastern). Perhaps the inspiration is what makes it so special and timeless. In any case, your posting has inspired me: I am headed to the boxes in the closet where I hope to find the CD.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. The choir page at looks as if it means to let you hear a piece or two; but the apparent links don't work. The most I have heard of them was one very big liturgy for The Nativity of the Theotokos (i.e. Mary), when the choir was all out on the patio, chanting petitions a few at a time in Slavonic, then a few at a time in English. I keep meaning to pick up a CD for a friend who knows a lot about music.

      It seems to me that there have been discrete periods of excellence in hymnody, with large deserts between. The 10th through the 13th Centuries were one excellent period in the West--"Salve Regina", "Veni Creator Spiritus", and St. Thomas Aquinas's Holy Thursday hymn known variously as "Pange Lingua" or (the shorter version) "Tantum Ergo" come to mind. The early Reformation brought out some excellent hymns, notably from Germany and the Netherlands. Then in the years around 1800, you had Charles Wesley in England and the Southern Harmony in the US. But though there are excellent 20th Century hymns, a lot of the 19th and 20th Centuriy work is not inspiring.