The Archbishop of Vienna, His Eminence Christoph Card. Schoenborn, O.P., celebrated Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica with a musical setting of the Ordinary provided by W.A. Mozart and the Vienna Philharmonic. The Mass was K. 317 in C Major, "Coronation".
It was a great event to be sure. I compare it favorably to the other time I heard the "Coronation" in St. Peter’s, on a Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul many years ago when the Berlin Philharmonic did the honors.
This time we were honoring the 5th centenary of the laying of the cornerstone of the Basilica itself, the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the service of the Swiss Guards, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, and close of the 5th International Festival Pro Musica e Arte Sacra.
Quoting our Lord, Card. Schoenborn cited Mark 13:1ff: "And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"
And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down."
I found the use of this quote supremely ironic, and I am not sure that His Eminence did not intend it to be.
Think about it. Holy Church had (has) a magnificent treasury of sacred music, a vast imposing edifice of gorgeous components which have lasted through the centuries until our time. Now, considering the state of sacred music in so many places, can we say that one stone has been left upon another?
In truth, Card. Schoenborn was making the point in his sermon that all the glorious things of this earth, man’s great achievements, as as nothing compared to the glory of God. As a good Dominican he quoted the well-known phrase of St. Thomas Aquinas upon his vision toward the end of his life. Aquinas saw something that made all his accomplishments seem as so much straw.
Nevertheless, sacred music is capable of expressing things in a way that no other human means of communication can approach.
On 22 November, the feast of St. Cecilia, His Holiness slated to visit the Accademia Santa Cecilia. Some think he will say something very interesting about music and liturgy. I have little doubt that he will use the occasion to deepen his already amazing body of thought on the subject.