What type of music should accompany the Last Supper?

By Tom Quiner

We’re in Easter season. History pivoted on the events commemorated by what we Roman Catholics call the Easter Triduum.

The Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and Christ’s Resurrection changed the world forever. The shockwaves of those three days are felt to this day. The way religious services evolved were formed by the events of the Triduum as early Christians built upon the religious practices of the Jews.

Central to Christian worship from those early days is the representation of the Last Supper, which Roman Catholics call the Eucharistic Sacrifice. An early Church Father, St. Justin Martyr, wrote about the primacy of Holy Communion in this teaching from the early 100s

“And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone.”

In other words, Eucharist is more than a mere symbol, teaches Martyr, a radical belief that led to his name becoming synonymous with those who are put to death for their beliefs, as he was.

Tom Quiner plays piano at the Divine Mercy Mass

Music has always been a part of Judeo-Christian worship. Since reforms implemented at the Second Vatican Council, liturgical music has undergone a transformation in Roman Catholic Churches around the year, and especially in the American Church. Chant music, which was supposed to retain its ‘place of pride,’ was replaced with a more contemporary, ‘bouncier’ music.

The organ, which also still has ‘place of pride’ in Catholic liturgy, has been shuttled aside in favor of the piano and guitar.

Is this good or bad? I’m not a zealot either way. There is some post Vatican II liturgical music I really like, and there is much I don’t like. The deeper I go in my faith life, the more I appreciate traditional forms.

That’s why I posted the video above. The commentator, Brian Holdsworth, is a filmmaker, not a liturgist or a musician. However, his premise, that the wrong music can destroy a scene in a movie, applies even more to Catholic Mass.

Watch how the wrong music could have ruined the ‘Last Supper’ scene in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.”

The stakes are higher at Catholic Mass than any movie, even Gibson’s “Passion.” The right music is imperative to enhance the worship experience. This video will certainly make me discern even more carefully what music is played at those Masses at which I provide the music.