Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Last weekend we celebrated a Mass in Thanksgiving for our now-retired pastor, Fr. Bob. The transition from one spiritual leader to another, with Lent knocking on the door, has led to a whirlwind of three weeks. In that time, I had an allergic reaction that compounded into losing my voice for about a week. In the end, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, everything went off seamlessly because, over the past few years, we have all collectively worked very hard as a parish to build a disciplined and diligent culture in our celebration of the Holy Sacrifice.

After the Mass this weekend, our musicians received so many compliments, expressions of gratitude, and general appreciation. The common saying was, “It sounded like a cathedral!” This is, of course, the highest compliment a musician – and a parish – can receive regarding its sacred and liturgical music.

On behalf of our musicians, cantors, choristers, organists, and instrumentalists, thank you very much! Your gratitude means so much to us.

Our choir members are frequently asked why we don’t sing at all of the Masses every weekend. The answer is quite simple: it’s unrealistic. The music at last Saturday’s Mass totaled 47:49. At the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord with Bishop Gordon a few weeks ago, a Mass that was just slightly over an hour in length, there was 36:03 worth of music. Pulling music off at the highest level does not happen overnight or in one practice. Due to the accelerated timeline of Fr. Bob’s retirement, our choir only had three rehearsals of ninety minutes each. A talented substitute ran one of those rehearsals because of my illness. That comes to four and a half hours of practice for almost an hour’s worth of music. That is unheard of in any professional or amateur music circle, and is a testament to the dedication of our parish’s musicians.

Now, I know some wonder, “But does the music have to be Cathedral quality every week? I want to hear more of the choir.” Or, another might be thinking, “The choir is what I like to listen to at Mass.” Well, the answer to the question is yes. The celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. Why would we not be expected to bring our best and greatest to God to celebrate Mass? Why would that be accepted? To the second point, while all of the musicians are elated that you enjoy the music, the reality is that we are here to serve the liturgy… not have the liturgy serve the music. We aren’t the focus.

In the spirit of full disclosure: I am also the Pastoral Associate and Director of Music at our cathedral in Las Vegas. As the music and liturgy director here at St. Anthony of Padua, I work diligently with our clergy, volunteers, and staff to ensure that the same high level of musical and liturgical excellence expected in a cathedral is also carried out here. The Second Vatican Council explicitly placed this demand on all parishes in Sacrosanctum Concilium (# 41). This expectation of excellence in the liturgy is placed on all of us at our Baptism because the Worship of God is so important. Think about what the first three of the Ten Commandments are.

For those interested in getting involved and serving the Lord, we are actively looking for additional singers. We practice most Wednesday evenings at 6:30 PM. We typically sing at our 4 PM Saturday and Sunday liturgies and for other parish needs. We do plan on periodically singing at Sunday morning liturgies but recognize that this is often quite challenging. In our parish, so many volunteers serve in multiple capacities because of the need for help, and those individuals serve in other ways then. Others working in hospitality work Sunday mornings, especially during football season. Participation is open to anyone from about ninth grade on up that will commit. Practices normally run for about ninety minutes, and the “call time” is generally twenty minutes before the start of Mass. As you can see, there is a bit of a time commitment, so we do not sing every week as we could not adequately provide music fitting for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Finally, I was asked about the Christus Vincit hymn by several people. Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat! translates as “Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands!” This hymn goes back to Charlemagne. It was sung at his coronation in 800 A.D. The hymn has frequently been included in solemn liturgies ever since. It has been sung for the inauguration of many popes or the ordination to the episcopate (bishops) or priesthood. For ham and shortwave radio enthusiasts like myself, the refrain’s melody is used as the interval signal for Vatican Radio’s shortwave transmission on the hour. In many ways, this hymn is the national anthem of our universal faith. By incorporating it into our Mass of Thanksgiving for Fr. Bob, we are joining with the literal billions of Catholics that came before us and live with us today. This hymn holds a special place in my heart because, as I mentioned earlier, I am a ham radio and shortwave radio enthusiast. Additionally, this hymn gave me great peace in 2021 as I prepared the Festival Chorus of the Diocese of Las Vegas for the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Gordon, with this hymn included in his selections. During preparations, my daughter Amelia was born three months premature. The evening before she was born, I was working on memorizing this hymn as the conductor for Bishop Gordon’s ordination. During those uncertain initial moments in my daughter’s life, the prayer “Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands!” provided a sense of reassurance. After all, as Saint Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Romans, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands!