Music in Missa

Anjelica Aguirre
3 min readJan 21, 2021

Music is often an entertaining pastime many humans enjoy listening or practicing. Man receives emotional cues from the music based on the notes strung together and played to evoke a sensation. Music does not always have to have rhythm or a certain melody to make it resonate with humans. Similar to how man is woken through his sense of hearing, man can feel music washing over him. During Mass, the feeling is often the presence of Christ that grasps onto the desire and need projecting from a human during the song. While music is often referred to the oral presence of Christ, the choice of mass music presents different understandings of Christ while simultaneously hoisting Christ as our eternal Father, forever continuing His death and resurrection for man’s salvation through time. Missa Caput and Missa Wellensis are used to strengthen the union between man and Christ through His presence, but each mass presents an alternative understanding of worship through the music performed.

Through the dramatic and tense performance of the Missa Caput, Ockeghem encapsulates the killing of the “dragon” Roberston refers to with the alternating heavy and light tones of the music symbolically representing evil being destroyed by Christ. The music such as in the Kyrie, that continues throughout the whole mass, begins with a soft entrance that slowly rises until hitting a high note where it then comes down signifying a sort of alternating scene in the death and resurrection of Christ. The “dragon” is the Serpent from the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve encounter. It embodies sin due to the historical significance it played on man committing the first sin. The tenor slowly decreasing during the mass signals the death of the dragon as Christ overpowers the darkness to welcome the light. The act of butchering the sin found in humans depicts the accession of Christ to the Father as He sacrificed Himself for humanity. Throughout the mass, there are sporadic moments of silence where man is meant to contemplate and hear Christ through the music. Man prays for everyone during the music, and Christ hears the community and unites and saves men each mass since He is eternal and His resurrection is eternally reforming. Time does not intrude the mass when music is present since every mass has Christ killing the dragon over and over. It is a non stopping motion since Christ is eternally redeeming people for their sins. Salvation is attainable through music.

Whereas Ockegham is slightly more dramatic, Tavenar is softer and has more silence within the music to intensify the contemplation man has during prayer. The music gently sways man into a predictable motion which Tavenar is known for with his multiplicity that calls upon slow contemplation, but the singing in and out allows for a deeper emotional registration in the mind. The music is less complex to allow less evil to be present since Tavern links the two together. In addition, the speech is being exalted as the community sings together to seek Christ’s presence, and it is the elevation of the chants that tug upon the umbilical cord of the sacred. The symmetrical structure of the music allows for contemplation upon a series of icons such as Christ’s death and resurrection. Most importantly, the music allows for the eternal essence of Christ to be cemented in the parishioner’s mind since music is forever as seen by the Church’s centuries long repertoire of music. Similar to music, Christ will not leave men. He is always present when we allow the time to hear Him and bask in His presence. Time is eternal like Christ when one enters into full contemplation over the music heard.