“A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.”
Today’s responsorial psalm takes excerpts from Psalm 51 and asserts that no matter how far afield one may go from holiness, true repentance will be received with mercy through God.
This is illustrated in today’s first reading of Jonah’s preaching to sinful Ninevites, who heeded his warning and humbled themselves in hopes of forgiveness. However, the city is not the only one inspired to repentance:
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
He repented of the evil that He had threatened to do to them;
He did not carry it out.
Psalm 51 inspired one of the most iconic and moving pieces of sacred music we know today: the Miserere. Gregorio Allegri set Psalm 51 in polyphonic choral arrangement sometime around 1630. When Pope Urban VIII heard it, he loved it so much that he decreed it not be sung outside the walls of the Sistine chapel – on pain of excommunication!
For years it was shrouded in secrecy and mystery, until, as legend has it, a 14-year-old prodigy named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart heard it while visiting Rome in 1770. After hearing it just twice, he transcribed it from memory and made copies available to the rest of Europe, and thus, the world.
Sacred music can move the heart and stir the soul more than plain words spoken or written on a page.
For today’s reflection, please turn up your speakers and enjoy this performance of Allegri’s Miserere by the Choir of New College in Oxford.