At the heart of Leonard Bernstein's powerful Mass is the character of the Celebrant, whose faith, at least at first, is simple and pure. Toward the beginning of the performance, raising his voice with confidence, the Celebrant sings a lovely piece entitled, “A Simple Song,” a melodious version of Psalm 121, which we heard this past Sunday at Mass, and which celebrates the core belief that the singer's help is from the Lord who protects him from all harm:
Sing God a simple song, lauda laude
Make it up as you go along, lauda laude
Sing like you like to sing, God loves all simple things.
For God is the simplest of all, For God is the simplest of all.
I will sing the Lord a new song, to praise him, to bless him, to bless the Lord.
I will sing his praises while I live, all of my days.
Blessed is the man who loves the Lord,
Blessed is the man who praises him.
Lauda, lauda, laude, and walks in his ways.
I will lift up my eyes, to the hills from which comes my help.
I will lift up my voice to the Lord, singing lauda, laude.
For the Lord is my shade, is the shade upon my right hand.
And the sun shall not smite me by day, or the moon by night.
Blessed is the man who loves the Lord lauda, lauda, laude,
and walks in his ways.
May you be humming the Celebrant's simple prayer today!
(Note: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Center in Washington in 1971. The magisterial work of musical theater, which follows the liturgy of the Catholic mass, involves a staggering number of performers and is anything but 'simple.' Although the Celebrant passes through a critical period of doubt over the course of the play, peace is restored in the end by the three choirs, and Bernstein's Mass ends as does our traditional Mass, Go in peace.)