Gate of Heaven is a collection of original post-Conciliar Catholic hymnody in the Roman and Eastern Catholic tradition. The recorded music comprising Gate of Heaven presently consists of three CDs, Parts I, II and III. An Accompaniment Edition and Melody (pew) edition of the Gate of Heaven collection are available through the catalog, where hymncards of specific individual hymns may also be accessed.
Gate of Heaven, Part I: Gate of Heaven, the title of which acknowledges the first hymn written by the composer, and by which the entire collection of hymnody is named, consists of fifteen hymns. Besides Gate of Heaven, other hymnody includes O Theotokos; the Hymn to Saint Michael the Archangel; the Hymn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and, with text based on Pope John Paulís Redemptoris Mater, the hymn Mother of the Redeemer. Among the psalms are I Thirst for You (Psalm 42); A Heart Contrite (Psalm 51); and, with music suggestive of traditional Russian liturgical music, Miserere (Psalm 51). A Hymn to the Mother of Jesus is featured, as well as Patroness (of our United States), Ave Maria (Ora pro Nobis), a Hymn to Mary, Mother and This Is My Body, based on John 10.
Gate of Heaven, Part II: Patron of the Universal Church also consists of fifteen hymns. The opening hymn is a Hymn to Saint Joseph, followed by Mary, Mother of the Church, a Magnificat, People of God, and a rendering of the ancient Alma Redemptoris Mater, Loving Mother of the Redeemer. You Alone is based on Psalm 16, with The Lord is My Light (Psalm 27), If I Could Take the Wings of the Dawn (Psalm 138), and Know that the Lord is God (Psalm 99) among the featured psalmody. Rejoice, O Mary, Queen of Heaven uses text drawn from Pope John IIís Redemptoris Mater, and People of God is reflective of Lumen Gentium, one of the documents promulgated by the Second Vatican Council.
Gate of Heaven, Part III: Mary, Mother of the Eucharist features the title hymn and eleven other hymns. To the Immaculata is a hymn in honor of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and Lead, Kindly Light renders a musical setting of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newmanís youthful poem of the same title. Hymn to the Holy Name of Jesus (Parts I and II), and Christ, Our Only Way, the refrain of which sings, ďO Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us!Ē use texts directly drawn from the ninth century Akathistos Hymn of the Eastern Byzantine Church. The text of Jesus, the Lord of Life is based on the composerís reflections, while she was expecting twin boys, on the fetal life of Jesus Christ; and the Hymn to the Immaculate Conception is based on an anonymous translation of the text by the Franciscan St. Anthony Mary Fasani. Additionally, the hymn entitled Our Lady of the Rosary is based on the text written by Eurena of Sirena.
The role of Church music as a source of inspiration, guidance and Catholic teaching has been lost for many of the Catholic faithful. Confused by the general post-Conciliar abandonment of Tradition in their parishes; of reverence for the Sacred; and honest musical worship of God, especially in His Presence in the Eucharist, our people have long hungered for appropriate and truly Sacred - - truly Catholic - - hymnody in their Churches.
Although Gate of Heaven is undeniably contemporary in style and influence, it draws greatly from the Gregorian chant tradition, especially through its oftentimes linear, chant-like movement. The ancient modes oftentimes provide its melodic basis and harmonic structure.
Often employing ancient, venerable texts drawn from the common patrimony of both the Eastern (Byzantine) and Western (Roman, or Latin) rites, the texts of Gate of Heaven reflect Pope John Paul II’s references to “the new flowering, the result of the Council, of a new expression of Catholic truth in a new theological language.”
The poetic and theological prose gifted the Church and the world through the writings of the saintly Pope John Paul II evince his hallowed and inspired reflections about the Redemptive Mystery in Time. The centrality of the Theotokos , Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, in the life and thought of our former Pontiff provides rich and unique contributions to the treasury of Roman/Byzantine textual sources.
Some of the hymns found in Gate of Heaven incorporate original text material by the composer, as in To the Immaculata , a hymn in honor of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Upon careful examination it becomes evident that all the new texts employed in Gate of Heaven manifest an abundance of Catholic thought, tradition, and belief: the unparalleled Catholic ethos, as manifest in the interior life of the Church.
Oftentimes the music of Gate of Heaven is metrical, and, necessarily being a creative product of our own times and culture, reflects contemporaneity of influence. However, much of the music is clearly reflective of the Gregorian chant tradition, especially through its linear, chant-like melody as in Hymn to the Immaculate Conception .
The hymn texts of Gate of Heaven are also notable for their frequent use of well-loved liturgical texts such as the Litany of the Sacred Heart in Hymn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus , and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as in Gate of Heaven . From the West, the text written by Eustace of Sirena in the 17th century is musically rendered in Our Lady of the Rosary . Whereas, from the East, both the Hymn to the Holy Name of Jesus, Parts I and II, and Christ, Our Only Way provide music settings to the translation of the anonymous 9th century Akathistos Hymn to the Holy Name of Jesus, rendered masterfully by the late Melkite Joseph Archbishop Raya (1916-2005), former Metropolitan of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth, and All Galilee (Requiescat in pace.)
Saint Joseph is honored under his title as the Patron of the Universal Church ; and Saint Michael the Archangel is also honored through Pope Leo XIII’s prayer for the Universal Church that Saint Michael Defend us in battle and be our defense against the malice of the enemy . Profound contrition for our own sins, and a plea for God’s mercy upon all errant members of the Church and the world are expressed in Miserere (Psalm 51) , a hymn musically suggesting traditional Russian Catholic hymnody.
Many hymns of Gate of Heaven are devoted to the honor of Mary, the Mother of God, as in Ave Maria ( . . . Honored Daughter of our Race) with its joyous Ora pro nobis ; Mary, Mother of the Church; and Patroness (of Our United States) . Pope John Paul’s poetic reflections upon Mary and her central role in Salvation History as found in Redemptoris Mater are celebrated in Mother of the Redeemer (Ave Redemptoris Mater) and elsewhere.
Additionally, the Saints are honored through the occasional use of texts found in their own writings, such as those of Saint Faustina (in her Diary), Maximilian Kolbe, St. John of the Cross (in his poetry); and the Venerable John Cardinal Newman, as in his youthful, pre-conversion poem, Lead, Kindly Light. . . . ”
Reflecting on the unique incarnational Mysteries of Catholicism, the texts of Gate of Heaven acknowledge the Sanctity of Life , the blessedness of children, and the holiness of family life. Of Jesus, the Lord of Life , the Apostle for Life, Father Paul B. Marx, says,
“This great hymn, Jesus, the Lord of Life, fills a real need in our Catholic churches today, where the music and hymnody most often seem far away from the promotion of the Sanctity of Life.”
As in Jesus, the Lord of Life, many hymns of Gate of Heaven are profoundly didactic in nature, as in Mystical Rose and Protectress of Christendom . Not only is the rich Catholic ethos manifest throughout, but the texts are notably doctrinal. While set to strong, well-structured and truly musical melodies, Gate of Heaven persuasively expresses Catholic faith and belief. It fulfills Catholic hymnody’s function to capture the popular imagination, to instruct and inspire (the old, as well as the young and not so young), and to make manifest to the faithful the highest spiritual truths.
Finally, the psalms, the contemplative prayer of the Church, are clothed in winning yet un-gimmicky grace and profoundity; the music rendering its role as servant of the ancient text, not its master.
The hymnody of Gate of Heaven fulfills the hopefilled observation of the late Monsignor Richard J. Schuler (1916-2006 - - Requiescat in pace) that “. . . a new expression of Catholic truth in a new theological language is coming from the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. Signs of a new flowering, the results of the Council, are beginning to be apparent, even though many theologians continue to hold to the errors of modernism that surfaced just after the Council. . . As a new wind is blowing in theological expression, so in liturgy and church music. . . “