Pope Francis is visiting the United States this week, and on one of his stops he’ll be presiding over a 2 million-person mass in Philadelphia. One of the songs for that mass has a Connecticut connection. Julian Revie, the composer-in-residence of Yale University’s Saint Thomas More Chapel, composed the music for the Communion Antiphon -- the moment in the religious service when the person who’s presiding over communion receives communion himself.
Revie, who grew up in Canada and now lives in Monroe, Connecticut, has been a Catholic his whole life. Knowing that the pope himself will be taking communion while listening to Revie’s music is something the composer called “an honor I can’t fully process.”
“All I can do is offer my contribution to this occasion,” he said, “which is just much bigger- not just bigger than me- but it’s much bigger than any one person individually.”
The song is adapted from part of another piece of music by Revie, Mass of the Divine Shephard, which was played in Carnegie Hall in June this year. Revie was asked by the leader of the children’s chorus which sang at that concert to submit a similar piece for the papal mass in Philadelphia.
So Revie arranged a piece especially for the huge contingent of musicians who will be at the service on Sunday: more than 90 orchestral players, 300 adult singers, and the children’s chorus. He said he wants to use the music to help people enter “a space of quiet contemplation” as they watch the pope before they themselves take communion.
“The pace of the music broadens and slows down in a way that it feels like an expansion,” he said. “My ambitious goal is to create a moment where the listener feels suspended in time.”
The choirs will be singing three lines from 1 John 3:16, in the Bible:
By this we came to know the love of God,
and he laid down our lives for us,
that we should lay down our lives for one another.
That third line is a call to action telling people to come together and take care of each other, Revie said- just like the papal mass itself.
“This is a moment of unity for people of all backgrounds, of all walks of life, and might I say, of all faiths, given the broad support for the pope not just from Catholics but from the general public,” he said. “This act of unity in coming together for this mass and ultimately in sharing in communion…what kind of example can this set for all of us? For our world that is so plagued by discord and disunity, how can this be seen as an example for how we can bring out the best in humanity?”