Celebrating Carols of the Passion

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Cultural shift: organiser Christian Catsanos hopes the annual event becomes part of a change so that Easter assumes greater prominence than Christmas for many. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

A Cultural shift in inner Sydney

While Christian churches have a long tradition of celebrating Christmas carols during the Advent season, hymns commonly sung during Lent and in Holy Week are sadly not celebrated in the same way, but some inner Sydney churches are working hard to change that.

St Benedict’s parish in Broadway, St Peter’s Surry Hills and the University of Notre Dame Australia Chaplaincy hosted “Passiontide Carols” on Friday 9 April, just days before the start of Holy Week.

It was the 5th year the inner city church had hosted the event, which is the brainchild of talented Sydney organist and liturgical composer, Christian Catsanos.

“It’s really part of a cultural shift I would like to see occur where Easter enjoys greater prominence as a feast in the Catholic Church than Christmas does, especially in terms of ensuring its hymns are recognised and celebrated in the same way”, Mr Catsanos told The Catholic Weekly.

Passiontide Carols on 9 April 2022 at St Benedict’s Broadway. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

A ten member choir from St Peter’s parish in Surry Hills led the congregation through popular Easter hymns including “By your kingly power, o’ Risen Lord”, written by prominent Sydney poet and academic, James McAuley, and “When I survey the wondrous cross”, by the profilic 17th century English hymn writer, Isaac Watts.

The hymns were interspersed with some Easter readings and a reflection from Parish Priest at St Benedict’s, Fr Dominic Murphy OP.

Organist Christian Catsanos has been holding a similar Passiontide Carols event since 2012 at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, Waitara, in the Diocese of Broken Bay and he would now encourage other parishes to follow suit and celebrate the hymns of Easter in a special way.

Choir leader from St Peter’s Surry Hills, Gerard Horsfall, said it’s a wonderful initiative that could become more popular over coming years.

“There are so many great hymns for this season and there is only so much room in the liturgy to include them. So this is really an opportunity to express this Passion Tide in music in a way we aren’t able to so much in the Easter liturgy and ultimately helping us then to more deeply enter into the mysteries of this Holy Season”, he said.

Planning will begin shortly for next year’s Passiontide Carols which will be held again at St Benedict’s church in Broadway on 31 March 2023. Everyone is welcome to attend.

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