Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Rite of Sprinkling

One of the strangest results of the reform of the 1969-70 reform of the Mass ritual was the musical and liturgical confusion introduced for the Sprinkling Rite. It is clear enough in the Graduale Romanum; Asperges Mei for most of the year, and Vidi Aquam for Easter season.

But this very old order of things was thrown into chaos by the loss of Gregorian standard as the norm for music, and also by the way in which the new Roman Missal seemed to split the priests parts from the choir parts and thereby drive a wedge between the two by publishing only the priest's parts in the Missal. The Gradual, meanwhile, is mostly unknown in the lofts of the English-speaking world.

As a result, the typical Sprinking rite, insofar as it is used at all, goes like this:
Dear friends, this water will be used to remind us of our baptism. Let us ask God to bless it, and to keep us faithful to the Spirit he has given us:

Cacophonous musical thing follows that has something to do with water. 
So there needs to be a restatement about the rules. There is the Vidi Aquam for Easter, and Asperges Mei for the rest of the year. These chants are easily obtained from online sources.

But what if this is not a choir that sings Latin chant? What then?

There are many wonderful and simple options in English. One of the best comes from the Simple Choral Gradual, listed in the appendix. Here we find two little treasures: an Asperges and a Vidi in English set for the choir. Any choir can sing this. It is dignified and beautiful. It is just one of the reasons that having this book in print is a fantastic thing for the Roman Rite. Now choirs can sing propers in choral settings all year, mixing and matching with chant.

I'll say it again: music at Mass is not just about picking some random thing that you like to sing. It is about being part of the actual liturgical structure, singing appointed texts in dignified ways.