I am sure everyone has experienced the power of music. Surely everyone has heard a song which makes them draw in a breath and contemplate God’s majesty more deeply when they hear the sweet chords begin to play. This feeling is amplified when we realize the beautiful words which many times describe the majesty and purity of our Lord and Savior.
Mozart composed his Ave Verum in 1791 for the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was frequently sung in the Middle Ages during Benediction and at the elevation of the host. In Latin the word are: 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.
This translates into: Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary, having truly suffered, sacrificed on the cross for mankind, from whose pierced side water and blood flowed: Be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet] in the trial of death!
Mozart wrote this only six months before he died. In his brilliance he tugs on our emotions by combining major and minor keys in his Ave which leaves us feeling both happy and sad because we are not sure what our emotions are saying by the end of the piece.
There are many different settings for the Ave Verum Corpus including one by Byrd and Franz Lisvt. A particularly beautiful version of Mozart’s is played by Kings College Choir:
The next time you hear this eighteenth-century hymn, pay special attention not only to the words but also the beautiful harmony in proportion to the words. When you realize the beauty of this special piece, surely it will become one of your favorites and you may even find yourself humming throughout the day, calling Jesus to be with you in everything you do.