A concert to honor the dead

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We went on a double date on the first weekend of November, attending a community concert for DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS. Davies Symphony Hall housed Mexican cultural icon, Eugenia LeónMusic was also featured under the baton of Alondra de la Parra who currently commands the stage as the first woman conductor of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) in Austrailia.

Eugenia León captured my heart in a new way as her style and charisma was something all too new for me as a subscriber to the symphonic world. Our friends said that perhaps hearing this stellar Mexican music in a concert hall dear to my heart is perhaps the merging of worlds for Dulce and me.

 

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With San Francisco City Hall in the backdrop

 

In one of her Spanish songs, León sung words which Dulce translated for me as, “Death must be beautiful for no one has returned from it.” Definitely, a provocative quote that lent to an afternoon of celebrating death, a reality we must all face. Not only celebrating it but embracing it as a way of connecting with our loved ones who are no longer physically with us. Laughing at death, dancing with it, dressing up skeletal figures with the finest clothes, bright colors and outstanding music … It was a wonderful Saturday filled with culture found in such a diverse cultural city.

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The mystery of death

As a professional church musician, I’ve accompanied countless families in selecting music to help them pray at the Mass of the Christian Burial. I tell colleagues that I would rather do music for a funeral than a wedding any day. There is something beautiful to be said about people at funerals who come to face the ultimate reality of death.

When teaching on death, Pope Francis stated:

Other civilizations, before ours, had the courage to look at it in the face. It was an event recounted by the elderly to the new generations, as an inescapable reality that obliged man to live for something absolute. Psalm 90 states: “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v. 12).  To number our days so that our heart becomes wise! — words that lead us to a healthy realism, dispelling the delusion of omnipotence. What are we? We are “almost nothing,” says another Psalm (Cf. 88:48); our days run off fast: even if we lived a hundred years, at the end it will all seem as if it was a flash. Many times I’ve heard elderly people say: “Life passed for me as a flash . . .” (10/18/17)

Death is the one event no one can avoid in this life. Yet, in Jesus Christ, we find that death is more than an end. He was in solidarity with us as he wept over his friend’s grave. He faced death head-on as he was led to the cross, died in our place, and rose victorious from the grave. For believers in Christ, death is not the end. It is the doorway to the eternal embrace of the Father.

On this day, priests are able to celebrate three Masses for the souls in purgatory. The faithful are invited to visit cemeteries and pray for pour souls. Such practices can be found dating all the way back to the fifth century. The fourth abbot of Cluny, Saint Odilo, was responsible for the institution of the general commemoration of all the faithful departed celebrated on November 2.

In some cultures, this day is a day to be with our loved ones who have died, to give them food for the journey, to recount their stories. It’s a way of consoling us as we journey in this life, that death is not the end.

Mexican day of the dead altar (Dia de Muertos)

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All Saints. May my life song sing to You.

“Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible.” Pope Benedict XVI

Today, the Church celebrates the Church Triumphant! We hear in the First Reading today, “After this, I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb” (Revelation 7.9-10).

We celebrate those in white robes who have gone before us and lived out their lives for Christ. We are assured of their presence in heaven with the Father and the Church calls them saints. They are a multitude of holy men and women in which we cannot even begin to number – countless have shed their blood for Christ, countless have lived a chaste life as a witness of consecration to Christ, countless have spent their days in holy communion with Christ.

Many of them become our friends who cheer us on to heaven and who constantly pray for us at God’s throne so that we can be with them one day, praising God forever. So today, we look towards heaven, as we do at every Mass celebrating the lives of ALL THE SAINTS looking toward their example on how to be Christian and how to love Christ deeply.

In honor of all the Saints:

But how about us here on earth. Many of the people who surround our everyday lives may not be canonized in the Church, but they do live holy lives that reflect a deep love for Christ. Who are those living saints for you? They may be your parents who make silent sacrifices every day for your well being, they may be your teacher or professor who spent their days educating you for your well being, they may be your boss at work who upholds good values for the company in which you serve. They may simply be a friend who has stood by you throughout the storms in your life and helped you find Christ loving you in the midst of it all. These are the people who live out the Beatitudes and make God’s kingdom present in every day. Whoever they may be, pray for them and let’s give thanks to God for all the saints in heaven and those living saints right here in our midst whose lives are a beautiful song to God. O the nearness of God’s love – it’s a pretty awesome experience!

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