Magnificat Custody Choir - Holy Sepulchre
May 25th 2014
Pope Francis and the Greek Orthodox Patriach Bartholomew in the Holy Sepulchre, accompanied with the singing by the Magnificat Custody Choir
The climax of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land was his meeting with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I; the pilgrimage did in fact commemorate the meeting held 50 years ago between Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras.
This time, the Pope and the Patriarch met in the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, but what made the difference between these two historic events was the music.
Indeed, the liturgy of the embrace between the two churches, that took place on May 25, 2014, was accompanied by the choir of the Catholics, standing in for the Holy Father Francis and by the choir of the Greek Orthodox representing the Patriarch Bartholomew.
Each of the two choirs gave the best of themselves: the Magnificat Custody Choir, conducted by Hania Soudah Sabbara, sang, along with the Holy Father and the assembly, ancient Gregorian melodies like the Alleluia and the sequence Victimae Paschali laudes, and those hymns, harmonized according to the Western tradition, which are sung during the solemnities celebrated at the Holy Sepulchre; the choir of Father Aristòbulos sang the ancient and beautiful Byzantine melodies of welcome and praise to Risen Lord.
The entire ceremony took place in an atmosphere of silent contemplation and meditation, and this is already a novelty for the basilica that preserves the memory of the resurrection of Christ, but also the guilty uproars that mark Good Friday.
Another novelty was that also the agents of the Israeli Police were listening, the same agents who, before letting the choir enter the church, had made the choristers go round and round in circles under the scorching Jerusalem sun for an hour and a half. Now they were there, watching the Two who embraced and spoke of Jesus – Jesus who was buried and was resurrected in that same place. At the end, the police wasn’t checking anymore the people blocking the exit passage so one of the singers asked a policewoman: " Did you like the ceremony? " "I liked listening to the music. It was beautiful" she replied.
And the most amazing thing was that Fr. Aristòbulos ran to embrace Hania, the director of the Latin choir. Fr. Aristòbulos is working with us to open at the Magnificat an academic program dedicated to the study of the Sacred Music of the 12 Christian denominations present in Jerusalem.
Pope Francis said that there is an ecumenism of sufferance - an ecumenism of blood. In fact, in the Middle East, the sufferance of the Christians, no matter the confession they belong to, is often marked by blood. But there is also a musical ecumenism of those who want to find that song depicted in the frescoes of the Catacombs of Rome, or in the mosaics of Jordan and Syria, or in the paintings of Ethiopia. If we begin to sing together, we might one day break bread again on the same altar.