Thursday, May 14, 2015

Adventures In Progressive Solemnity

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend a Mass in the Extraordinary Form recently.
Generally, although one is offered in my diocese every weekend, the distance and timing, and my own Sunday obligations are such that I instead seek a musicless Mass.

If you care how a lover of music and music-making came to such a sorry pass, you can read  here.

When I've worked in a parish setting, TPTB were always slightly Latin-phobic, so obviously only Ordinary Form for Mass or LotH. Convincing them that what they wanted to sing, or were accustomed to sing weren't necessarily the most important things to sing, and that the Church actually gave us guidance on this, (apart from what our diocesan OoW put out,) was like pulling teeth.

Instead of Progressive Solemnity, we were fortunate to even be able to achieve a sort of Regressive Triviality.

I have taken part in Extraordinary Form Masses with great joy, at Colloquia and when I have found myself in the environs of St John Cantius, or had the opportunity to attend one for which Jenny Donelson's schola sang; and I have even been happy to have the chance to hear the traditional Mass when neither the priest nor the musicians, nor we faithful in the pews seemed very sure of who should do what when.

I even accidentally attended Mass at a schismatic chapel, before I knew there were such people and places, and I give thanks for, and "enjoyed" that.

I have never had any musical responsibilities at these, (other than singing as told at CMAA functions,) so never thought much about what is supposed to be done.

I generally position myself near someone who seem confident of his postures and gestures, whose hand missal looks well-loved, and copy him.

But I have realized that there is very little consistency from place to place.

(The first clue that I had was the PBC notation about "IF the confiteor is said again, turn to pg 25," or some such.)

Some places one priest reads the Lesson and Gospel in English while another reads them quietly in Latin, others the vernacular follows the "real" scripture. Some places the PIPs kneel for the entire time except the Gospel and homily. Some everyone recites the Gloria along with the celebrant. One priest stopped in mid-Pater noster to silence the people who were singing along with him, another practically conducted us to sing along.

I was given to understand that this is all because, in the day, there really were no rubrics for the people.

But the rubrics for the musicians are pretty clear, I had thought, especially the distinctions between solemn, sung and read Mass, a la Musica Sacra.

But even these seem to be a source of confusion.

The organist at one parish told me she and her choir "just do what Father wants," and there are four different "Fathers" who might show up on a moments notice.

The Mass I attended Sunday was lovely, and profoundly prayerful.

I found myself entering into it such that I was saved from playing Liturgy Scorekeeper, (a more passive role that Liturgy Police,) no ticking off boxes, wondering why so and so did such and such.

It was only after Mass that I thought, hmmm, 2 Latin motets and one English anthem, or that was nice, that little organ filler, sounds like Rossini, and then repeat the anthem, or, gee, only one voice to a part, none of them very strong but sweet polyphony, or wait a minute, they only sang some of the Gregorian Ordinary, and we all spoke the rest together, didn't we?

It all seemed, it felt appropriate.

Were they, perhaps, applying principles of progressive solemnity from Musicam Sacram to the EF, taken advantage of the provision for varying "degrees" of sung Mass?

And why shouldn't they?

That might sound flip, or combative, but it's really not.

IRL I have no access to anyone particularly knowledgeable about this, and I thank God every day for Those InterWebs.

But the internet is full of Facts that Everybody Knows - that aren't true.

And there often seem to be differences of opinion as to what pronouncements are descriptive and what prescriptive.

I thought I had learned that Musicam Sacram does not apply to the EF, (though of course there are some who try to insist it doesn't apply to the Novus Ordo... who, pray tell, would they be?)

I was startled to learn, (but I am ignorant - people who keep up on these things also seemed startled to learn,) in the comment box of  this several month old thread at New Liturgical Movement, which addresses these very questions, that  a book of rubrics for the old Mass is available online. The date of publication is 1960, but would it be in effect for the 1962 Missal?

A lot of the conversation there of course is simply opinion - leaned, informed opinion, but not really helpful for those who might be preparing sing half take baby steps in preparing music for liturgy.

It doesn't matter to me right now so much what the Church should have asked of us as what She does ask.

I want to know what's what, and what ought to be, and what ought not -- because I have a premonition, or at least a hope, that I might need to know.

What “legitimate diversity” is there in the Extraordinary Form?