Gospel in the Art: I am not worthy to have you under my roof

Tomás Luis de Victoria, Domine non sum dignus

Source: Christian art

Gospel of September 12, 2022
Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had finished everything he wanted the people to hear, he went to Capernaum. A centurion had a servant there, one of his favourites, who was sick and near death. Hearing about Jesus, he sent Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they implored him earnestly. ‘He deserves this from you’ they said ‘because he is friendly to our people; in fact, he built the synagogue. Then Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house, when the centurion sent word to him through some friends: “Lord, do not trouble yourself; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I dared not come to you myself; but say it and may my servant be healed. For I myself am under authority, and I have soldiers under me; and I said to a man, Go, and he goes; to another: Come hither, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he will do it. When Jesus heard these words, he was amazed at him and, turning around, said to the crowd following him: “I tell you, even in Israel I have not found such faith. And when the messengers returned home, they found the servant in perfect health.

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Reflection on music

“Lord, I am not worthy that you come under my roof.” These words that the centurion addressed to Jesus are indeed very familiar, because we say them every time we attend Mass, just before receiving Holy Communion. The Latin version of this text was set to music for male voices by the 16th century Spanish priest-composer Tomas Luis de Victoria. There is, however, a slight difference in the text: the centurion says “my servant will be healed”, but Victoria uses the text which found its way into the mass “my soul will be healed”. When we pray this text, we are not just quoting something the centurion said, we are applying it to ourselves. These closing words are given special attention in the setting of Victoria, as the four voices move together in block chords, unlike the flowing counterpoint of the earlier music.

The centurion shows a remarkable combination of faith and humility when he asks Jesus to heal his servant. He doesn’t want Jesus to bother to visit his house, but he believes that Jesus can heal his servant just by giving an order, just like the centurion does in his professional life. Jesus pays homage to the centurion’s deep faith – all the more remarkable because the centurion was a Gentile, not a member of the people of Israel.

When we approach Jesus, and especially when we approach the altar to receive Holy Communion, we must adopt the same attitude that the centurion had: even if we are unworthy to meet Jesus, he still wants to come to us. , then he heals us, he makes us worthy. All he has to do is “say the word”.

Reflection written by Monsignor Philip Whitmore. He is parish priest of St James’ Church, Spanish Place, central London. Previously, he lived for more than 20 years in Rome, working first in the Vatican and then as rector of the Venerable English College. Before becoming a priest, he was a music historian at Magdalen College, Oxford.

CONNECTIONS

Gospel in art: https://christian.art/
Thought for today: https://christian.art/daily-gospel-reading/luke-7-1-10-2022/

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