Liturgical consistency and memory

In the old days, the first task of a young monk was mastering the Psalms. This meant memorization of all 150 Psalms.

If that sounds like a daunting task, it is nothing compared to what it would be like in our day. Which of the liturgical translations would be memorized?

Even worse would be any attempt to memorize hymns, the best of which have been altered by so many hands of varying capabilities that sometimes there is very little of the original left.

The memory is one of the greatest helps to the understanding. When faced with a theological question,  it helps so much to bring various previously considered data to bear on the current issue. But the shifting sands of wordings and translations actively stifle memorization.

Theological helps like Scripture, hymnody, and antiphons are rarely store-able in the memory because they are inconsistently presented.

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Deep waters

With Thanksgiving upon us, it is a good time to see what resources might be available to help us enter more deeply into the Catholic faith during the coming long winter evenings.

Some initiatives promoting Carmelite and Dominican spiritualities have appeared over the last few years. These two great traditions, the mystical and the systematic, are being retold for a new era, using social media.

Carmelites
The Discalced Carmelites at Oxford have several wonderful series of videos on their Carmelite Media Education youtube channel.

The Washington Province Discalced Carmelites, through their printing house ICS Publications, have an ongoing discussion of the works of the Carmelite doctors, called Carmelcast, featuring young Carmelite friars.

Dominicans

In addition to topnotch commentary and news of events, Dominican Liturgy maintains hundreds of useful links on its sidebars.

As the Thomistic Institute continues its astonishing spread across university campuses, its online presence includes extensive video and podcast libraries.

Our readers will also be interested in learning of St. Dominic’s nine “ways,” or postures, of prayer.

 

 

 

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Seek always the face of the Lord

Fair souls arrive at home at last
Their trials and labors in the past.
What joys transcending joy amaze
When on the face of God they gaze.

The Ancient One upon His throne,
The Son of Man upon His own,
Between Them, Love Himself, the Lord,
Are not by faith, but sight, adored.

The elders praise the One in Three,
Their crowns thrown down upon the sea.
The thrones are borne on cherubim.
The hosts of heaven sound the hymn.

And when the trumpet fills the skies
The human body shall arise,
And eyes that once sought vanity
See, all unveiled, the Trinity.

That day, all mistiness will clear
From taste and touch, from eye and ear,
And those who lived by love and grace
Shall plainly see Him face to face.

c. 2019 Kathleen Pluth

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St. Ambrose on St. Agnes

We only have 4 hymns that we know conclusively come from the pen of St. Ambrose,  because the writings of his son St. Augustine attest to them by name. Many others bear his name but are not definitely Ambrosian in authorship.

However, I like to think that the beautiful tribute to an early virgin martyr, Agnes Beatae Virginis, usually attributed to St. Ambrose, is his. It has a certain clarity and declarative vigor that sounds like him. Here is my translation.

The blessed virgin Agnes flies
back to her home above the skies.
With love she gave her blood on earth
to gain a new celestial birth.

Mature enough to give her life,
though still too young to be a wife,
what joy she shows when death appears
that one would think: her bridegroom nears!

Her captors lead her to the fire
but she refuses their desire,
“For it is not such smold’ring brands
Christ’s virgins take into their hands.”

“This flaming fire of pagan rite
extinguishes all faith and light.
Then stab me here, so that the flood
may overcome this hearth in blood.”

Courageous underneath the blows,
her death a further witness shows,
for as she falls she bends her knee
and wraps her robes in modesty.

O Virgin-born, all praises be
to You throughout eternity.
and unto everlasting days
to Father and the Spirit, praise.

 

 

 

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Hymn Tune Introits: A First Step to the Propers for Hymn-Singing Parishes

As the new parish year is about to begin, I thought I would mention again my 2016 booklet published by WLP, Hymn Tune Introits: Singing the Sundays of the Liturgical Year.

Many pastors are aware of the benefits of “singing the Mass,” as opposed to simply singing at Mass. The Church opens the Scriptures to us in many ways at the liturgy, not only through the lectionary, but with particular generosity through the Propers of the Mass.

Over the last two decades the Church in the United States has experienced an historically important publishing explosion in English-language versions of the Propers for use at Mass for the benefit of the People of God. While the Graduale remains the gold standard for singing the Propers, composers such as Paul Ford, Richard Rice, Adam Bartlett, Jeff Ostrowski, Fr. Samuel Weber, Bruce Ford, Aristotle Esguerra, Andrew Motyka, and many others have worked out ways to bring the Proper texts closer to the people, making these wonderfully rich texts available for choir and/or congregational singing. Ben Yanke maintains an enormous database with links of these resources for singing the Propers.

The Hymn Tune Introits go one step further, making the Entrance Antiphon of the day accessible to every congregation in the English-speaking world. 

Every congregation knows at least one Long Meter hymn tune. And every text in this entire book can be sung to that tune.

If a parish knows All People That on Earth Do Dwell, they can sing each of these texts to that tune. They work equally well with the tunes for Creator of the Stars of Night, or Jesus Shall Reign. Or On Jordan’s Bank, Lift Up Your Heads, O Sun of Justice, When I Survey–many others. A lack of musical resources is therefore no obstacle for any parish.

Experience shows that the introduction of Propers can be unsettling for congregations, for two reasons. First, it offers something new, which always causes some initial resistance. Secondly, and this is important, it takes away something the congregation is used to. Of course, the point is precisely the opposite: making the riches of the Mass available to the congregation–but it will not be perceived that way initially, and this is the pastoral problem that the Hymn Tune Introits are designed to solve. Congregations that are accustomed to singing a hymn to begin the Mass, and would be unsettled by any chanted Proper, may much more readily make that transition by singing something that sounds just like a familiar hymn.

Imagine it is Sunday morning, and time for Mass to begin. The organ begins to play, the Entrance Procession begins, and as the musical introduction reaches its conclusion, the people think, “Oh, I know that song!” They pick up their worship leaflets and find the Entrance Chant, and without any rehearsal or fumbling they sing it straight through. The ministers have reached the altar, the organist improvises as the altar is venerated, and the priest reaches his chair.

Alternatively, imagine that a parish that is poor, and between organists, is ready to begin Mass. Someone designated as cantor, or the priest, sings out the first line of the Hymn Tune Introit. Once again, everyone “knows this song,” and all join in.

A “contemporary ensemble” of guitar/piano would have equal success.

For too long, the People of God have been deprived of some of their rightful meditations: those provided for them in the Proper texts of the Mass. I’m happy to be involved in some small way in helping to spread this banquet of the Word of God for the nourishment of all.

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Metanoia: “Change your mind.”

One can see why theological studies are considered propaedeutic to theology. First learn to think. Then think about God.

In our society at large there is a love of chaos and disorder that both stems from and perpetuates a sloppy philosophy of warmed over Hegel. It creeps into theological thinking. In liturgy studies and spiritual direction, for example, the Paschal Mystery is sometimes reduced to change agency. Dying and rising is applied to everything, including unchanging truths about God and human nature.

Likewise, in Scripture studies, the Old Testament liberation fulfilled in Jesus Christ is often reduced to the rule of the proletariat.

The question, as so often since the Council, is whether the Church is going to lead or follow. Leading does not mean being stuck in the past. The arrow of time moves forward. But leading does mean thinking better, not worse, than society. It means ascending by natural and supernatural means, rather than endlessly circling the drain.

The cross and the new evangelization

Dear brothers and sisters: the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that God the Father considered it fitting to make Christ, our leader in the work of salvation, ” perfect through suffering” (Hebr. 2, 10). In a similar way, he led the Apostles Simon and Jude through the suffering of martyrdom to perfection in eternity. In every age of the Church, God makes his chosen ones “perfect through suffering”, bringing them to the fullness of life and happiness by giving them on earth a share in the Cross of Christ.

It is easy to understand that God’s plan for us passes along the way of the holy Cross, because it was so for Jesus and His apostles. Brothers and sisters: never be surprised to find yourselves passing under the shadow of the Cross. Christian life find Is its whole meaning in love, but love does not exist for us without effortdiscipline and sacrifice in every aspect of our life. We are willing to give in proportion as we love, and when love is perfect the sacrifice is complete. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and the Son so loved us that he gave his life for our salvation.

On this day when Catholics around the world celebrate the Triumph of the Cross, the Church invites us to look once again at the meaning of our Christian discipleship, to understand the sacrifices it involves, and place all our hope in our crucified and Risen Saviour.

O triumphant Cross of Christ,
inspire us to continue the task of evangelization!
O glorious Cross of Christ,
strengthen us to proclaim
and live the Gospel of salvation!
O victorious Cross of Christ,
our only hope,
lead us to the joy and peace
of the Resurrection and eternal life!

Amen.

-Pope St. John Paul, Sept. 14, 1987