This is not likely the optimal time to review the effect of all our efforts to navigate, invigorate and evaluate the evangelical validity and success of our Paschal Time efforts as regards liturgy and its servant, sacred music. Having felt, heard and cogitated over four decades of Palm to Easter Sunday celebrations, it’s obvious that this effect manifests itself on at least three levels: the obligatory, perfunctorial level (not unlike attending someone’s birthday or anniversary to whom your affection is rarely demonstrated); the emotional, temporarily enthusiastic reaction to the ritual and artistic performance; and (perhaps less likely) transcendent, life altering metanoia-realization that will forever define and shape one’s remaining existence in this life.
In the clever colloquialism of the great band, REM, I’ve not lost my religion as regards CMAA, the RotR, Summorum Pontificum, or the simple recovery of a sensibility of both reverence and solemnity that the Roman Catholic Church traditions have cultivated over millenia. However, in what twilight years await many of us and myself, I am compelled to call the question (invented by my sister G), picked up by Fr. Z and associated with Pope B, 16: can “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” actually have any meaning, much less effectiveness among a disparate sect of believers in Christ Jesus, Son of God and Savior of all worlds, in an era when the obvious and ultimate salvivic power of the His redemptive sacrifice and resurrection is mitigated by factionalism, fundamentalism, strictural rigorism and internecine intolerance? The Gospel clarion to mercy, reconciliation, unity, personal salvation and the establishment of the Kingdom here waxes and wanes under the distractions of relenting tolerance, unrelenting intolerance, doctrinal uncertainty, indecision and ambiguity and other modern maladies.
A few years ago I caused a volatile imbroglio with my friend Jeffrey Tucker’s Café article extoling of the apparently seductive chants of the muezzins from minarets while on a conference in Turkey. I rather unflinchingly could not divorce my sentiments regarding the tenets of Q’uranic Islam from the exotic beauty that Jeffrey was describing and emulating were we Roman Catholics enabled to have our call to worship in such a coherent and unified manner as practiced by Muslims.
But hence have come the scimitars and scythes, crucifixions and immolations that, though medieval throwbacks, still nonetheless lead to genocide and likely a shoah for all humanity in addition to Middle Eastern and Indo/Asian Christianity should nuclear options become prevalent in the region.
So, how much do our ordos of ritual music actually affect and transform Holy Mother Church into a veritable, vital and truly valued force for all the nominally Christian/Catholic souls to behave and actualize the Church Militant? A recent news segment had a respected hymnologist declaring what most of us would call a Praise and Worship song, “In Christ Alone,” as the most important and potentially long-lived Christian hymn composed thus far in the 21st century. But often I am compelled to wonder to what end does our incessant arguing over the merits and cultural beauty and credence of our sacred treasury and our identified congenital musical forms actually have towards any Christian’s soul’s, be s/he a daily communicant or a C&E congregant, change in metanoia and missio to discipleship, commission and agape-based love so that each believer’s baptismal promises have substance as well as meaning?
In looking over all of the Paschal-tide
Ordosposted at MSF and elsewhere, one has to consider whether Solomon’s resignation about vanity holds some sway over our deliberations. And I am looking in the mirror figuratively while asking about that. “Sometimes it causes me to tremble…” Yes, we are all in need of the existential purity of praying/chanting the “Dies irae” for all souls, particularly those of not only martyred, but each and every Christian of this and all ages. But if we are more concerned about the propriety and insistence upon that over someone exercising a fourth option like OEW or somesuch, we may be guilty of a myopia and judgmental posture that puts our own souls at peril. I am well aware that is a harsh position to defend. However, we cannot afford to miss the forest for the trees.