Kansas City, Mo., Feb 28, 2015 / 16:02 pm
Together with the joys of the Resurrection and feasting, this Easter will have an added delight: listening to the new album by the hit-making, Missouri-based Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.
"Many people do not realize that the Easter season lasts well beyond Easter Sunday – for a full 50 days in fact! Hopefully our recording will help bring many to a fuller awareness of the the Easter season in its entirety," Mother Cecilia, prioress of the community, told CNA.
The nuns' new album, "Easter at Ephesus," brings listeners through the whole of the Easter season, including Ascension and Pentecost. It will be released March 3 on the De Montfort Music label, and can be pre-ordered from the nuns here.
It's the Benedictines' fourth album with the label, which had made the cloistered community chart-toppers. The group has been Billboard's Best-Selling Classical Traditional Artist for three years in a row, and their albums for Lent and Angels and Saints were Billboard's Top Traditional Classical Albums in 2013 and 2014.
The 27 tracks on "Easter at Ephesus" include pieces in both English and Latin; traditional hymns and compositions by the community; chants and four-part pieces such as Palestrina's "Sicut Cervus"; and range from "This is the Day" to "Come Holy Ghost."
Mother Cecilia that just as their previous albums have done, "Easter at Ephesus" has "simply been a snapshot of the music our community sings already throughout the season in our little chapel."
"Easter is truly the 'feast of feasts and night of nights,' the climax of the whole liturgical year. There is a tangible exhilaration in each Sister's heart when the 'Alleluia,' the song of the angels, is reawakened and sung three times at the Easter vigil."
"The hymns and chants of Paschaltide convey not only the joy of the Risen Christ, but also deep and humbling gratitude for the great work of our redemption. He rose, and He is alive! We do not tire of singing His praise as He lives among us, in His Risen and glorified Body in the tabernacle … We pray that the recording reflects the sentiments of gratitude, joy and zeal in our hearts that come with this glorious season!"
Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and "continually turning" towards God. They have Mass daily according to the extraordinary form, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office. They also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments.
The extraordinary form which the sisters observe includes an Octave of Pentecost: an eight-day extension of the season of Easter.
"The beauty of octaves is that the Church recognizes there is too much goodness, too profound a mystery to be contained in just one day. We continue to ponder the Easter mystery for eight days in prayer, especially through the Sacred Liturgy, until Mercy Sunday," Mother Cecilia reflected.
The album's original settings are a Regina Caeli; Queen of Priests; and Her Triumph.
Mother Cecilia said the Regina Caeli "is a favorite among the Sisters," and that Queen of Priests "brings forth the role of Our Lady as both Queen and Mother of the sacred priesthood. It was composed in 2008 for the World Day of Prayer for Priests."
"The idea for Her Triumph was conceived this past October, but it did not come to life until just before the recording sessions," she shared. "As Our Lord is the hero in the story of our redemption, it is His Mother that takes up the role of heroine. It was her immovable faith at the foot of the Cross that carried the Church from the Old Covenant to the New. Despite the blood, the jeers, the agony, the utter hopelessness of the situation, she never doubted the truth of her Son's divinity as He hung on the Cross."
"And it was that same faith that sustained the Apostles and holy women those three dark days while Christ lay in the tomb. Where the Head goes, the Body must follow. Our Lady told the little shepherds at Fatima, 'In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.' We dedicated it especially to our own shepherd and father, Bishop Robert Finn. If we put our trust in Our Lady, she, the most tender and loving of Mothers, will never fail to guide us safely to her Son, Who is the supreme Victor over death and sin."
While much of the sisters' singing is done in the context of the liturgy, Mother Cecilia added that "We do occasionally like to sing for fun. Sometimes we learn a funny piece for one of the Sister's Feast Days. There are not lacking skits in the monastery either, and often musical acts are incorporated as part of the performance."
Looking to the future, the prioress said the community has "actually been considering recording another Christmas album for quite some time, and now that we've covered Advent, Lent and Easter, perhaps the time has now arrived – maybe even for this coming Christmas!"
"There are other themes as well that we could envision covering in the future: the Holy Eucharist, the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, another devoted to the saints. We will have see as the days progress, if any of these have a place, and if so, what the timing would be. Of course we know, any future recordings will all be in God's good time if He wills them so!"