Just forty-six bars containing around three minutes of music, and yet they are capable of leaving the listener just as moved as might an entire five-day long cycle of Wagner’s The Ring. Ave verum corpus is another work that Mozart composed in the final year of his life. It was written almost as a payment to a friend – in much the same way that Picasso would give away sketches. Anton Stoll was a chorus master at a small church [St. Stephen] in Baden, and had often helped Mozart by making travel arrangements for his wife, Constanze. Despite having his money worries, Mozart still liked to make sure his wife had her restorative periods at Baden. Writing very simply, Mozart was perhaps conscious of the limitations of a small-town choir, although, as the Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel once said of the work, it is ‘too simple for children, and too difficult for adults’. It was written to be performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi and contains the words sotto voce (meaning ‘subdued’) in Mozart’s hand on the score. Source: https://www.classicfm.com/composers/mozart/music/ave-verum-corpus/
The fine arts, but above all sacred art, “of their nature are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands…” (CCC 2513).
Ave Verum Corpus is among the most frequently performed short works in the choral canon. Mozart finished the composition in June 1791, less than six months before his death, a time of mounting debts and failing health. The text, a short Communion hymn, dates to the 14th century and is attributed to Pope Innocent VI.
Although the text focuses on crucifixion and death, Ave Verum Corpus was not intended for Lent and the passion season. It is traditionally part of the “Corpus Christi” festival in the Trinity season, the non-ceremonial part of the church year. The idea that suffering, hardship, sorrow, and pain might somehow hint at more profound joys to come — the hymn’s praegustatum in mortis examine, a foretaste of eternal paradise in the trials of death — has been a traditional source of comfort and an answer to questions about the presence of suffering and evil in the world.
Posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.
Composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, on the death of Mozart
Ave Verum Corpus
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
performed by King’s College Choir, Cambridge
Ave Verum Corpus Ave verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine, vere passum, immolatum in cruce pro homine, cuius latus perforatum fluxit aqua et sanguine: Esto nobis praegustatum in mortis examine. Hail, true body, born of the Virgin Mary, which having truly suffered, was sacrificed on the cross for mankind, whose pierced side flowed with water and blood: May it be for us a taste of things to come in the trial of death.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Truth Beauty, and Sacred Art (2501)
Created “in the image of God,” man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man (CCC 2501).
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
– St. Paul, Letter to the Philippians (4:8)
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.