The Art of the Communion Verse (Marriage Feast in Cana Sunday)

Photo credit: OC Travel

Sometimes overlooked, something ought to be said of the Communion verse -- a subject of the highest artistic merit which ought to be talked about everywhere, especially in liturgical catechesis in the seminary as well as from the pulpit on the parish level.

Communion verses give due honor to God on the Lord's Day while assisting the faithful in creating a meditative atmosphere during that hushed and silent time after Holy Communion.

As someone who travels with some frequency to Cana in Galilee, I sometimes find myself imaginatively sitting in the Franciscan Wedding Church at Cana while thinking of this verse being sung in its hallowed walls, where visiting couples come by the thousands to renew their wedding vows.

The verse was heard yesterday by the Catholics of the world who attend the Extraordinary Form, the Second Sunday After the Epiphany.   The verse is taken from John 2:7-11.

The Gospel for this Sunday illustrates the miracle of Cana, a type of transubstantiation (cf. John 2:1-11).  In it we read not only of the first public miracle of Christ, but also the last recorded words of Our Lady in the Scriptures, united inextricably with the sacrament of Matrimony.  This builds up to the Communion verse.

The structure of the verse in some way resembles the chanted Passion narratives of Holy Week.  It starts off very simple.  The words of Christ begin in a starkly lower register, as in the Passion.  The narrator is generally in the middle register, similar to the "Chronista" voice in the Passion.  Meanwhile, the head waiter (the "architriclinus") is in a higher register, similar to the "Synagoga" voice.  The verse concludes with the joy of the chief steward as he tastes the wine and exclaims: "Thou hast kept the good wine until now!"

For a sample clip from our friends at Corpus Christi Watershed (who incidentally do us a great service in reproducing these samples for all online), go here.

Equally artistic, the Eastern Churches have produced magnificent Communion verses.  A clip from Berezovsky's Communion verse, "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous," a favorite of many Eastern Catholics can be heard here.
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