Why Gregorian Chant?

At the Extraordinary Form Mass for Ascension Thursday in a nearby parish church, the Mass was nice, beautiful, fine–but not particularly engaging for me on a personal level. I was on a kind of autopilot at the end of a busy day with a lot going on.

And then, during the first Alleluia, something happened. Perhaps it was a moment when the unison voices found that sweet concordance that makes the overtones really shine, or when the timbres found a cooperative resonance, like the string section of an orchestra, or maybe it was a particular moment of off-rhythm, the 3s among the 2s, or the quilisma among the puncta, that simultaneously caused both frisson and quiet.

It was beauty, pure and simple and clean, so difficult to find in our busy world and so very nourishing. No instruments necessary, just a few dedicated human voices ready to proclaim the goodness of God, docile to the liturgical forms of the day and season.