Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If Mass is Boring, What Are Propers?

Despite the huge and varied number of offerings for singing the proper texts of the Mass, many parishes still sing what amounts to a novus ordo version of a low Mass, with the musical emphasis squarely on hymns and songs and inspired songs.

The reason is this: Propers are boring.

Consider this text: "The Lord said to me, you are my son. This day I have begotten you." Whom could this text possibly thrill? A monk, surely, though it probably depends on the monk. A poet, surely. How about a family of five who barely got dressed in time after Christmas shopping and Christmas eve dinner with friends in order to tumble out of the minivan in time to find a seat for the 9:30 pm Midnight Mass? Whose car radio was just now playing Call Me Maybe?

Propers, in contrast, are written for the 1%, the Holy Father's beloved category of "simple believers."

Who could possibly be thrilled to hear or sing "Today the Light will shine upon us because to us the Lord is born" at the early Mass, before the road trip? 

Here is the person who will be thrilled. The contemplative who excuses himself briefly from the family celebration to attend the early Mass. The elderly woman, the daily communicant, who has spent the last week reading ahead in her Magnificat to prepare for the great day. The little child who learned the introit in school. The retired priest who says Mass in a convent, or in the chapel in the rest home where he lives.

But for most of the plugged-in world, the propers sing of a different world, a world of silence and peace and recollection. Our music is a mirror, and hymns bustle along, just like us.  

Who has time for the propers?