If you want to make some people’s blood pressure go through the roof, it seems all you have to do is show them a picture of Raymond Cardinal Burke in a cappa magna. For those of you who are not familiar with this rather large and cumbersome piece of ecclesiastical haberdashery, it is a very ample choir cape with a long train. The train part, which is usually carried by a cleric, was fifteen feet long, until Pius XII shortened it to a more manageable seven feet. Interestingly enough, Blessed John XXIII, the same Pope the soi-disant progressives invoke as the prophet who sang a new church into being, lengthened it back to fifteen meters. The 1969 Pauline reforms of the rather complex hierarchical dress code made it optional.
As with most things made optional, many bishops and cardinals dispensed with the use of the cappa magna entirely. So when it is seen now and again, there are howls of protests against the wearers, who are invariably accused of taking the Church back to a mythical dark age which was not as bright as the accusers convince themselves it could be if everyone just listened to them. Such an article of clothing is derided as extravagant, aristocratic, too far out of touch with modern democratic sensibilities, and a flagrant proof of narcissism on behalf of the wearer.
These same criticisms are made against a whole host of other things which have dropped out of use, such as the papal tiara or the sedia gestatoria, the throne upon which the Pope was carried into papal ceremonies. What is ironic is that the detractors do not seem to notice that Paul VI, who can hardly be accused of being one not intent on modernization, sold the tiara, not abolishing it, and used the sedia. John Paul I, during his brief reign as Pope, also used the sedia, and no one seems to want to dig him up and put him on trial for crimes against modern humanity. Benedict XVI has removed the papal tiara from his personal coat of arms, but now he is being accused of anti-ecumenical sentiments by British journalists for wearing a stole with a papal tiara on it, even though no one seemed to notice for the other six years he has worn the same stole.
The rage with which some very angry people fault the Church for not being simple and poor is uneven: it is a stick brandished at figures of the administration of Pope Benedict who do not heel to the Zeitgeist, conveniently glossing over the fact that some of the same people they virtually canonize as the heralds of the new, simple and poor church used the same things and did not ever proscribe them.
But the question does remain: what is the point of fifteen meters of red silk? Does it not send a message that the Church does not identify with the simplicity of the Gospel? And of so, is it not positively a scandal which should be excised from the Church’s actuality and memory?
There are several things which we might want to keep in consideration here.
1. The Sacred Liturgy is a public rite by which certain participants perform certain functions at certain times, functions which are signified visually and externally by actions, gestures, and vesture.
The rigid egalitarianism of our contemporary public life discerns, in the Orders part of her divinely constituted essence and liturgical roles as developed through her history, exclusivity and discrimination. At its root, the critique of certain vesture is an attack on the fact that the Church recognizes those who wear that vesture as different, set apart, and even, in the case of the ministerial priest, ontologically changed as a result of a sacrament. A view of the Church which refuses the distinction between lay and ordained will level out any physical manifestation of those distinctions. The greater the distinction is highlighted, the greater the critique.
2. The Sacred Liturgy is an action of the whole Church, but one in which the role of the hierarchal order is visible, and not merely present.
Many people reject certain forms of vesture because they feel it somehow denigrates those who are not so attired, as if it makes them second class in the Church. But the liturgy is an action of the whole Church. Nonetheless, there remain elements of that same liturgy which are not, and cannot, be celebrated by all members of the Church indistinctly. The hierarchical nature of the Church is made visible by certain actions, gestures and vesture, which indicate not only the rank of the wearer (dalmatics for deacons and mitres for bishops, for example) but also the sacred character of objects associated with divine worship (kissing hands, rings, and cruets) as well as the solemnity due to an event (the cappa magna or ferraiolo for particularly festive occasions).
Rejection of the visible signs of the hierarchy is often justified because of the lack of those signs in previous ages. But although the visible signs have changed, they have always been there. The need for the Church to assert its independence in the face of the State in some places in the Middle Ages led to the adoption of certain elements which were taken from secular court etiquette, precisely to demonstrate that the Church was its own sphere. In our own day, when the distinction between the ministerial and common priesthood has been denied, it is necessary that these distinctions continue to be visible. In an age which had other concerns, these distinctions were not as important, which explains their lack in earlier periods.
3. The Sacred Liturgy is governed by an ethos which is symbolic and not amenable to manipulation by political concerns.
The grammar of the liturgy, the structure by which ecclesiastical ceremonial is intelligible, is highly symbolic, allegorical and is part of a highly developed received tradition throughout the ages. The liturgy has a grammar which is not easily understood by many today, who seek an impoverishment of the liturgy by making it flat, univocal, immediately accessible, and literal. The liturgical pauperist does not understand or appreciate this grammar and does not conceive how the believer can live at one and the same time in a liturgical world with its own language and narrative, symbolic, allegorical and hierarchical, and the everyday world with another language, with no unifying narrative, literal, flat and egalitarian. The liturgical pauperist opts for the everyday world to the exclusion of any other world and demands that the ethos of the liturgy be conformed to that standard, and not the standard natural to it. Because the grammar of the everyday world is frequently political, the way in which the Church confronts the world, whether it be in the liturgy or in life, must be brought into conformity with is viewed as acceptable in the polis. What is acceptable in the naos is no longer a criterion to be considered.
The idea that the liturgy has its own internal grammar unrelated to the world is crucial. When it is denied, interesting things happen. Take, for example, the virtual disappearance of the amice (a symbol of the protection of the wearer from the Evil One), the maniple (of suffering, a sign of the ascetical walk of the Christian life) and the cincture (of chastity) and the frequent placement of the stole (sign of priestly authority) over or instead of the chasuble (sign of charity which covers all things). According to the grammar of the liturgy, the omission or the re-placement of these vestments has serious symbolic import. To a politicized grammar of the liturgy, they are all merely unrelated symbolic anachronisms which can be used or not according to the whim of the wearer. In contrast, the grammar of the liturgy, declined as it is according to the hierarchical nature of the Church, places all of these things in a proper order, established under the authority of the Church, and respected by everyone in communion with the Church for their role in the liturgy.
Interestingly enough, the politicization of the grammar of the liturgy has not led to an iconoclasm against symbolism in the Church. The realization that the means is the message leads many liturgical pauperists to craft a parallel language of symbolism or determine readings of symbols within the Church tradition in a key so as to invest them with political meaning and force. For example, in many places during Lent sand replaces holy water in the font to create a symbol which is alien to the Church’s rites. In other places, the traditional symbolical usages of the Church are derided, such as the adoption of the cassock by clerics, as anti-modern, anti-ecumenism, and anti-woman, when it is understand by a proper liturgical grammar, independent of political manipulations, as death to the world.
4. The Sacred Liturgy develops the visible livery of its rites in an organic development, never returning to the archaic for the sake of antiquarianism, nor proscribing the actual for the sake of relevance.
Pius XII warned against “antiquarianism” in those who sought to re-propose the externals of the liturgy in a way reminiscent of the ancient Church, with a view to, in so doing, renew the Church to a supposed purer internal form of the Church putatively existing at the time. Ironically, many use Pius XII’s argument against those who would now use vestments which they see as being uniquely post-Tridentine, charging them of antiquarianism. The adoption of Baroque chasubles, lace albs and cappas is rejected as antiquarian just as the adoption of conical chasubles, Gothic architecture, and appareled amices was rejected in the nineteenth century. The liturgy realizes that such externals grow up organically with the Church’s lived experience, and as such, are part of the common patrimony of the Church’s worship. They are always actual and never in danger of being archaic, because the liturgy is always ever ancient, ever new. It is for that reason that those externals which exist, even when they have transformed their external form and function throughout the ages (ombrellini for the Blessed Sacrament, candles on the altar to provide light, raincoat to ornately decorated cope) or cease to be common (the 15 branch candlestick for Tenebrae, the straw for reception of the Precious Blood) need not be proscribed. They certainly need not be proscribed, or prescribed, because of any presence or lack of relevance, which is not a category meaningful for the liturgy. When arguments are advanced for the prohibition of rites, vesture and music (as opposed to their legitimate reform), that indicates a politicization of the proper grammar of the liturgy.
5. The Sacred Liturgy is a place in which the arts can embellish everything in which the sacred touches the human, and such is not a transgression of evangelical simplicity but a translation of the inner wealth of Revelation to the Church which celebrates that Revelation.
There is a current which demands that, for the Church to be a credible witness to divine truth, she must model her externals as much as possible on the primitive Church gathered around Christ. Anything else is criticized as a damnable excrescence. Yet, the fount of reform is when Christians model their interior life on the virtues of Christ as experienced by the primitive Church, not on the externals. Yet because the Church exists in time, the development of her externals testifies to the way she unfolds the riches of Revelation in a visible way. She does so in many ways: principally through the witness of the saints, but secondarily through the artistic patrimony of the Church. Men and women have been inspired throughout the ages to create works of art for the service of the Church, from grand basilicas and precious chalices to simple lace handtowels and Offertory motets. In doing so, artists provide an invaluable treasure to humanity. They take the invisible content of Revelation, the encounter with Christ, and translate it through the analogy of art to something visible, beautiful, and human. The interior riches of Revelation become in some way vehicles for divine teaching. As such, the Church is the patron of the arts. And the common human patrimony which is the art used in the service of the Church is not something which can be liquidated on the demands of pressure groups who seek to bring into being a pure Church by condemning the visible manifestations of that faith.
In the beginning of this article, we asked the question: High fashion in the Church? It is very clear that the Church has inspired great art. That art is put to use in many ways, not least of which is in the adornment of her sacred ministers. For some, this is permissible because such art is a truly human work and the Church as such is the patron of such art. High fashion, then, is to be prized as part of the Church’s heritage.
But the concept of high fashion is a distinctly modern invention. To the extent that it had any genesis at all, Coco Chanel can be perhaps proposed as the woman who made possible an entire world of art through clothes. The art which accompanies sacred ministers, whether it be an Ecce Sacerdos magnus as the Ordinary is greeted at the door of a church or the graceful pleats of a monk’s cuculla may seem to some like high fashion in the Church. For some, this is permissible inasmuch as art is part of the Church’s life. For others, it is to be rejected as contrary to the purity of the Gospel.
When I was a younger man, I found what I thought was high fashion in the Church to be arrestingly beautiful. I became quite an expert on it, at least in my own mind. For me, it was a way in which tradition, art, beauty, the human and the sacred could all blend to make the Church in her dizzying complexity come across as an ordered whole. It still is. But now that I actually have to wear some of those clothes, now that I speak day in and day out conversant with the liturgy, on its own terms, my stance has changed.
All of these things make up part of the grammar of the liturgy. Not all of them have the same importance, and none of them are divinely revealed. When seen within the context of a liturgy which speaks its own language, they take their proper proportions. They do not risk the eclipse of the truth of the faith by mere externalism. In fact, I realize that no man in his right mind, not even the most effete fashionista in the hierarchy, is going to continue for long to be obsessed with the externals of the Christian religion, especially when confronted with the real needs of the people in his pastoral care. The externals are accepted, they are used as they are meant to be used, they are done well, and all in their place. When I am wearing the heaviest cloth of gold chasuble in Christendom, my thought is not, “Don’t I look good?” but “When can I get this thing off?” But I do not reject it. It has its place, and I use it as it is meant to be used, as a small part of a whole grammar of the liturgy.
But when the many-faceted language of the liturgy decays into a flat dialect of political extraction, no proportions can be seen. Even when the hierarchy employ the fullness of the externals of the faith in consonance with the tradition of the homeland, all the foreigner can understand is, “it’s all about you, isn’t it?”
I am in no position to divine Cardinal Burke’s thoughts on the cappa magna. But the fact of his wearing it points to the great humility it takes to enter into the totality of the liturgy, and to listen to its inner voice, a multi-layered harmony in which there are many parts, not all as important as the others, but which, together, tune the music of the spheres. When we reduce the grammar of the liturgy to mere high fashion or when we cut and paste from it according to our own criteria, the result is cacophony.
(H/T to New Liturgical Movement for the picture of His Eminence at Fontgambault)
I’m just so taken with this amazing group. Here they are singing Byrd with a guess conductor – singing the piece that I fear is essentially impossible of our group at this point.
Iam Williams has put together a nice site to distribute liturgical music. See Alium Music.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports on a concert series taking place today and tomorrow in Salt Lake City’s Catholic Cathedral. The concert is described as offering “the balmy, dulcet sounds of classical music standards woven into Gregorian chant form, all in the unspeakable visual grace and splendor of Salt Lake City’s Cathedral of the Madeleine.”
The short article closes with the thought: “Early church music represents some of the first — some would say finest — music of the western world, and Utah Chamber Artists rarely disappoint.”
The Cathedral of the Madeline will host the Sacred Music Colloquium of the Church Music Association of America from June 25-July 1, 2012.
Our time was very short and we could only touch very briefly on elements of chant theory. We just sang. We looked at the music and we sang the chants of the missal, and a few simple propers. I modeled, demonstrated and coached, and these 90 students sang with one voice in the retreat chapel with a sonorous thunder like I’ve almost never heard before! It truly was remarkable.
Several of the students commented that simply singing these chants is what made everything that I presented in the first session come alive for them. What I have learned in this event is that we cannot underscore the importance of actually singing when we have events that discuss sacred music. Discussing in theory is one thing, but putting it into practice brings the music to life in a way that mere words cannot.
But I definitely didn’t skimp on talking, as I’m sometimes wont to do, and I have decided to share my talk entitled “Perspectives on Liturgical Music” which begins with a purely subjective (and somewhat personally revealing) consideration of liturgical music and ends in a purely objective, theological view of the question. I would like to submit that the sacramental and theological perspectives on the question of liturgical music are very important for us today and will help us transcend the mucky waters of subjective and speculative discussion. I hope that this can be a small contribution to that end.
Steubenville Liturgical Music Retreat, Fall 2011
new translation of the Roman Missal.
- Firstly, this Missal, it is a fact, has more musical settings contained in it than any other missal to ever have existed!
- Second, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal has also been newly translated, and just in the past month or so has been publicly released and will be included in the newly printed missals that we will receive this Fall.
- And Thirdly, the principles of translation that were used for this new edition of the Roman Missal, I would like to propose, have many implications for our practice of liturgical music. The document containing the guidelines for translation is entitled Liturgiam Authenticam” which means “Authentic Liturgy”. A more literal and more elevated translation of the Latin texts was mandated by this document. I think that these principles might also be able to tell us something about how our liturgical music can also be much more literally tied to the sacred music models given to us by the Church, and also be more elevated in their presentation.
The reason why I chose the topic of “perspectives” is because I know from personal experience, and also from observing many of the conversations around liturgical music and the new translation, that our perspectives can often become rather narrow as we go about the grind of life.
Your Grace, my brother Oratorians, and all brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to this inaugural event of the Blessed John Henry Newman Institute for Liturgical Music.
The Founder of our Oratory, Blessed Cardinal Newman, is better known in the modern world as an educationalist, writer, theologian and philosopher than as a musician and liturgist. Yet to ignore these latter aspects of his life would seriously distort our understanding of his personality and of his vocation. It is true that Newman did not write a great deal about music and liturgy, but he practised them both a great deal. He played the violin from an early age and to a high standard of proficiency, and we know that he was happiest at Littlemore when he was teaching plainsong to his schoolchildren with the aid of his violin. When he came to Birmingham, he set up and even at times conducted, the Choir at High Mass – for whom his rules are still extant; and the story is still told how in his advanced old age as a Cardinal, it was his custom to sit by the door into Church, at the back of what is now his shrine, in order to hear and enjoy the singing of the choir at High Mass. As a priest, the central act of his vocation was the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the fostering of a more dignified worship of Almighty God. Just like his pastoral concerns as a priest, much of what Blessed John Henry did from day to day is now only known to God and to those who benefited from his ministry. That we do not know much about them is not because they were unimportant, but because they were not the matter of his vast body of writing which he has bequeathed to us.
Let us go on then, simply acknowledging that this great Oratorian priest knew and made use of the power of the Church’s liturgy to sanctify souls and prepare them for heaven. This is exactly what we also aim to do in our own time and place.
Why, then, should it be desirable to set up an Institute for Liturgical Music now? In the first place, we want to help as many people as possible, priests and laity, musicians and congregations, to come to know and use freely, the resources of what the Second Vatican Council Fathers called “the Treasury of Sacred Music” , and described as “a treasure of inestimable price”. This needs explaining. In what does such a treasury consist? It is not simply the sum total of everything musical ever composed for, or used in, the Liturgy. The Council makes explicit that it is talking here principally about two kinds of music: first, as “proper to the Roman liturgy”, Gregorian Chant, which should therefore have first place in liturgical actions; then secondly other types of sacred music, but especially polyphony. These are, of course, sung forms of music. Instrumental music is not dealt with directly under this heading, though it is important to note in passing that the Council fathers single out for special mention the Organ, whose sound can “add a wonderful splendour” to the Church’s ceremonies and “powerfully raise minds towards God and heavenly things”.
Keeping for the moment to the matter of sung sacred music, we note that the Council recognises that the entire liturgical assembly has its proper roles, its proper repertoires. There is music for the celebrant, the ministers, the choir, the cantor and the congregation. None of these excludes the others. The crucial bond that unites then all is that they should all foster “participatio actuosa”, a well known phrase, but notoriously difficult to render well in English. It has been generally translated as “active participation”, and as such has been taken to mean that the entire congregation should be actively doing something if it is to be actively participating. But deeper reflection on this phrase and on its context within the liturgical aims of the Council Fathers suggests another meaning altogether: “actuosa” should mean “actual”, a real engagement of the whole person. Sometimes, indeed often, this will involve some form of activity, such as singing or speaking or a particular posture or gesture. But it need not require all of those at all times. Anyone can be said to be “actually participating” in the liturgy who is quite simply engaged by it. That person may be doing nothing – yet participating at a deep level through being caught up in the entire experience of what is going on, and of which he is not a mere spectator, but a member of a body involved in an action which both unites and transcends all the individual persons present. So, for instance, “participatio actuosa” can equally be ascribed to a sense of awe at what one is immersed in: the beauty of architecture, art and vesture, of the dignity of the movements of the sacred ministers, of the sight and scent of the incense “rising like prayer to God” , of the singing by those who have the necessary skill and training of elaborate and moving settings of the sacred texts, just as much as it can be ascribed to congregational singing. In fact, allowing always for the importance of congregational singing, it is still possible to say that the presence of those other expressions of beauty may enhance the congregation’s participation yet more than their own singing alone could do.
That brings us to another most important consideration: since liturgical music is pre-eminently sung music, what is it that should be sung? We have grown used to the style of celebration in which singing is something done during the liturgy, it matters less so what and by whom it is sung. In this country, generally speaking, the Mass is treated as a series of words and actions that are, at least by default, intrinsically spoken. If music is required, it is often inserted into the gaps left between words and actions, such as long pauses caused by processions and the distribution of Communion. It may be that the texts of what is sung are drawn from appropriate scriptural or liturgical sources, but that is often not the case, nor is it considered to be a fundamental criterion in choosing such music. When seen against the backdrop of a predominantly spoken liturgy, music is a “filler”. Nothing could be more distorting of the true nature of liturgical music. Music is not something to be added on to a liturgy that could actually do just as well without it, it is of the essence of the liturgy itself. Yet one can still ask: why should this be? Why should we consider music to be essential to the liturgy?
The truth of this claim for music to be intrinsic to the liturgy rather than an extra added on, however desirable, lies in the nature of music as an expression of the human spirit. If you want to understand what I mean, try saying the words of two familiar, yet contrasting texts: “Happy birthday to you” and “God save our gracious Queen”; how ludicrous and indeed highly unnatural it would be to recite these texts! The melodies which we associate with them are not simply “add-ons”, nor do they merely “belong” to the words, they both carry the words and enhance their expressive power. They help us both to assimilate and to communicate something contained in the words, yet at a far deeper level than the words alone can do. How much more important, then, are the words of the Liturgy! In the texts of the Mass, in the psalms of the Mass and the Divine Office, we are employing words which place us in contact with divine realities that transcend the limits of human language.
Singing the words of the liturgy enhances their power to thrill us, to move us, to mould us into a living unity in the Body of Christ. The sacred texts of the Mass are an expression of a reality that is far deeper than we can know, but we can touch it, we can express it, we can enhance our receptivity to it by the power of the music that belongs intrinsically to it.
It is a wonderful providence that the setting up of this new Institute of Liturgical Music should take place at the same time as the introduction of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Many comments have been made concerning the character of the translation, and it is still unfamiliar to most of us. But what we need to note here are two central facts which are being presented to us by this new translation.
First, there is a new kind of expressiveness about the texts. They are richer in vocabulary, and more elaborate in sentence structure than were the old ICEL texts, as I shall call them. This obviously poses an initial challenge since these characteristics are in marked and deliberate contrast to those of the old ICEL texts. Yet I am confident that we will find that these qualities lend the new texts a greater power to convey a sense of the awesome difference between what we hear and say at Mass, and what we hear and say in everyday life and conversations. They come across as more lapidary, almost like inscriptions incised on stone, rather than as words simply used on the spur of the moment. This means that the liturgy will no longer sound, as it often has done, colloquial, even chatty. It is raised to what is technically called a higher “register”, a level of discourse that reflects and draws us into a higher state of communication. The liturgy, after all, transcends the limits of time and space and unites us with the angels and saints around God’s throne. The language that we use in it must therefore reflect that awesome context in which we place ourselves in the celebration of the Liturgy.
The second fact central to understanding the intended effect of the new translation on our worship, is the direct encouragement given to us to sing these texts. As Mgr. Wadsworth, the Executive Director of ICEL has pointed out, the new Missal is the most musically well-endowed in history. The texts of the Mass: greetings, prayers, acclamations, readings, meditations on the sacred word, all these are intended to be sung. This intention is made clear in the fact that all these musical settings are placed, not in an appendix at the back of the book, as frequently heretofore, but in the body of the book, exactly where it is used day by day.
This may well frighten some people. Music, they may say, is for the experts, for the choir or the music group, but not for the priest, deacon, lector, or even the entire congregation. Some may object that it is simply too difficult or too unfamiliar, but if you look closely at the Missal without prejudice, it is possible to see that the music written there is not designed to be sung by experts, but by anybody. It is designed to be an ordinary and familiar expression of the faith of the Church in action. It may seem unfamiliar at first, because we have long since grown to be unfamiliar with the idea of singing the Mass, as opposed to singing during the Mass. What the Church invites us to do in receiving the new translation is to learn to recognise it as something “beyond the prosaic” . Music, even very simple chants, help to achieve that end.
Which brings us to consider the chants themselves. This morning we are going to experience the new translation of the Mass in its musical form. We are, of course, familiar with what I may call the “flow” of the Mass, its regular exchanges between ministers and people, its alternating texts which are listened to with texts that constitute a reply, its statements of faith or expressions of sorrow, worship, adoration, praise and thanksgiving. Now we are being invited to take that familiar “flow” and make it deeper, more profound and, perhaps, more poetical. Familiarity with what may come across as banal and prosaic can only fail to feed the hungry soul. Familiarity with what is beautiful and rich in expression can stand the test of repetition and continue to disclose ever new depths of meaning. The chants of the Missal, which we are about to hear in their proper context and flow from beginning to end, may seem at first rather remote. Some of them are couched in a musical style that will be unfamiliar. They are not rhythmic. There is no sense that the texts are being forced to take on the shape of an independently existing melody. The melody flows out from the words themselves and takes on the patterns of speech. Most of us are not used to this kind of singing. Yet it is the bedrock of all liturgical singing over the ages. We call it plainchant to describe its relatively unassuming character. Yet it undoubtedly has the power to enhance the word.
So much for the words of the Mass which remain relatively unchanged from day to day. Yet there are others words which also belong to the Mass, and with which we may be less familiar. These other words, or texts, do change from day to day, to express the character of the particular feast or season. They are familiar as, for example, the short sentences which are usually read out at the beginning of Mass and at Communion time: the Entrance and Communion Antiphons. These texts are just as much a proper part of the Mass as the unchanging ones. Yet they are often omitted at a Mass which is sung, because they are not considered important. Instead, they are usually replaced by hymns or songs. It is a great loss to the effectiveness of the liturgy on us as participants that these texts are lost so often because they have usually been associated with the day or the season for as long as that feast or season has been celebrated. The chants for these texts belong to the liturgical book known as the Graduale. It is in itself a treasury of wonderful ancient chants, Gregorian Chants as they are usually known, generally sung by a choir rather than by a congregation. This morning we will use settings of these words to Gregorian chants which are simple enough for the congregation to repeat after the choir who will lead us. I hope you will see what a positive difference they make to setting the scene for the Mass which opens with one of them.
I will begin to try and draw a few threads together before concluding. In what direction does all that I have been saying point us? The work that the Blessed John Henry Institute is designed to undertake is the enhancement of Parish Liturgy. The sung liturgy is not intended to be the province of the professional choir alone, much though the Council Fathers emphasised that professional choirs should be carefully fostered wherever possible. But such things are not possible everywhere. Yet good liturgical music which aims to achieve all these ends which we have considered is both desirable and possible in any parish. Great musical skill and expertise is not necessarily required. What is needed is the desire to raise the mind and heart to God by celebrating the Liturgy itself in the most dignified and elevated way possible with the resources available. The words of psalm 46 serve as a guide: “Sing wisely”, or “with understanding.” In his book “A New Song for the Lord”, Pope Benedict interprets these words as “Sing artistically for God”. Such artistry, according to the Pope, is not meant to be understood as mere skill, but as what is done with the aim of bringing those who share in it closer to God. Pope Benedict’s understanding of the power of beauty in Christian art and music is rooted in the disclosure of God’s beauty through our humble and conscious attempt to co-operate with the Creator in our own acts of making and doing.
The Institute will therefore offer assistance to priests, ministers, lectors, cantors, choirs and members of the congregation, guidance on the best way to approach liturgical music. It will aim to do so, therefore, not only by giving practical training and advice, but also, I may even say especially, by giving a thorough catechesis on the theological nature of liturgical music. Music has the power to enhance the liturgy when those who are responsible for it have a deeper understanding of its proper place in the whole. Music must be the servant of the liturgy and of the whole Church gathered together in God’s presence. We hope to help bring about a deeper understanding of what good liturgical music is, and how to perform it. We hope to offer guidance to all those who are interested in knowing more about the history and forms of liturgical music in the Catholic Roman liturgy.
The Institute cannot function in isolation from the wider Church. There are many initiatives throughout the Church both here in the British Isles, and further afield especially in North America, whose aims are similar to our own, and whose work may well come to be closely allied to ours. There are two specific influences on me to which I wish to draw your attention. First, it would not be right for me to omit to mention my great debt to Dr Mary Berry, foundress of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, of which I was privileged to be a founder member in my undergraduate days, and of which I am now a chaplain. She strove tirelessly, though often thanklessly, for a revival and understanding of Gregorian Chant within the Church’s liturgy. There are many projects now taking shape which owe a great deal to her vision, energy and her prayerful love of the Church. I also want to mention with appreciation the patient work of the Association for Latin Liturgy (ALL) with which I have had the pleasure of being closely associated for over thirty years. That Association has not only remained consistently faithful to the Church’s call for the use of the Latin language in all approved forms of the Roman Liturgy , but has applied energies out of proportion to its relatively small resources to provide practical help for the implementation of that vision in parishes since its foundation. I am glad that the ALL fully supports the aims of this Institute and look forward to continuing to work with it in fostering the use of Latin in the Liturgy.
Your Grace, You do us a great honour by your presence here today. It is a providential sign to us that this new work of the Birmingham Oratory, under the protection of Blessed John Henry Newman, is fully undertaken within the unity of the local Church. That unity is expressed both by your presence here today, by your celebrating the Sacred Liturgy for us, according to the new translation of the Roman Missal and using the chant settings which have been provided for use within the liturgy. On behalf of the Fathers of the Oratory, I also thank Your Grace for kindly agreeing to be one of the Patrons of this Institute, and allowing us to work in close co-operation with the Maryvale Institute of Higher Religious Studies.
I also wish to place on record my thanks to those who have played a special part in making this Institute and its launch a possibility. First, to Fr Richard Duffield, our Provost, whose idea it was some time ago to set up an Institute for Liturgical Music here at the Oratory. I also wish to thank Mr James MacMillan, the noted Catholic Composer, who not only kindly consented to be co-patron with His Grace the Archbishop, but who has also been of great assistance in making introductions and creating links between various Catholic church musicians and proposing various plans for future development of our work. It is unfortunate that he has to be absent today, but I am happy to record that he is directing the music at the priestly ordination in Oxford of a friend of our Institute, Laurence Lew O.P., which is taking place today. Then I offer thanks and acknowledgement to those who have been most generous in their practical assistance, especially to Carol Parkinson and Graeme McNichol who have provided invaluable Administrative assistance, ably and generously helped by Philippe Lefebvre who designed the literature and the website, and to Angela Dunn, who has contributed as always most unselfishly by producing the booklets which we will be using at Mass and Vespers today. There are others, too, who deserve thanks, but I hope they will forgive me if I make my thanks to them now in a general way.
All that remains is for me to say that I hope you will enjoy the rest of this day and I will now ask His Grace to give us a blessing to inaugurate our new work.
At the outset of his article, Ford writes, “Nothing in the Holy Father’s official teaching ought to be construed as anything other than (1) affirmations of the essential truth and goodness of the postconciliar liturgical reforms and (2) reminders about some dimensions of this reform that need more attention (particularly, sacrality and beauty).” In the accompanying footnote, he refers to three examples of this teaching: the encyclical Deus Caritas est, the apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis and the motu proprio Summorum pontificum. He then goes on to describe, via commentary on a quote of Fr Anthony Ruff, the intention of Pope Benedict XVI for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite to be mutually enriching. He then states that the Ordinary Missal of the Roman Rite is the Missal of Paul VI.
Yet he then goes on to say, “The personal preferences of the Holy Father are just that: personal preferences.” Are we to conclude that, because Pope Benedict XVI chose to propose two forms of the same Roman Rite and encourage their mutual enrichment by way of a motu proprio, that this is merely the Pope’s personal preference? Also, if the document is evidenced as not construable as anything other than “(1) affirmations of the essential truth and goodness of the postconciliar liturgical reforms and (2) reminders about some dimensions of this reform that need more attention (particularly, sacrality and beauty)”, why is that in the realm of both official papal teaching and personal preference at one and the same time? Need the two contradict one another?
No one would suggest that all forms of paper that come out of the Vatican are worthy of the same assent. But is a motu proprio issued by the Pope’s personal initiative by that very fact only an indication of a personal preference, and on that basis can be ignored or minimized? The fact that the Missal of Paul VI is the ordinary Missal of the Roman Rite, a fact that Summorum underlines, does not detract from the fact that the Pope as Supreme Legislator of the Church has made a decision that the Roman Rite has two forms, and both are to be respected. It is hard to see how that is a personal preference.
Dr Ford does notice, however, that “revisiting the wide options” in the General Instruction for music would allow for the use “of the traditional music of the Roman Rite.” He also notes that “[m]any of us are still singing only modifications of the four-hymn sandwich of the late 1950s, singing at Mass rather than singing the Mass.” Here, in fact, is a powerful indication of continuity: the music of the Extraordinary Form can easily be used in the Ordinary Form, an indication of mutual enrichment. And may Dr Ford preach that truth from the rooftops! Sing the Mass, don’t sing at Mass!
But it seems that, for Dr Ford, mutual enrichment from the EF to the OF ends there. In fact, as he insists that the ordinary form of the Roman Rite is the Missal of Paul VI, he seems to take for granted that the point of departure for any discussion on liturgy and music must be the Missal of Paul VI because it is the Ordinary Form. His later observations on how certain aspects of the EF are incompatible with the OF are drawn from that fundamental premise.
But Pope Benedict XVI has introduced two notions into the liturgical discussion which make me think that the Ordinary Form of the Mass is not actually the point of departure for these discussions at all. The concept of the hermeneutic of continuity, which has been a theme of this pontificate, stresses the fundamental unity across both rites. Also the concept of liturgical pluralism and the equality of rites, introduced in SP, also stresses their fundamental unity. Therefore, any discussion about the liturgy and music of the Roman Rite must have as its point of departure the Roman Rite as a whole, Ordinary and Extraordinary, seen in a continnum insofar as possible. Even more than that, the point of departure is not the General Instruction of the Roman Missal of Paul VI, but the answers to the more basic questions about liturgy, music and the life of the Church, as well as the shared and sharable patrimony of the Roman Rite.
For Dr Ford, the evaluation of the EF’s place in the Church has to be seen against the backdrop of “the common spiritual good of the People of God.” For him this notion has come to us in part because of what he identifies as three “seismic shifts in sacramental theology that began in 1903.” He names them as “the active participation of the all the priestly people of God, the primacy of the word of God, and liturgy as the work of the Holy Spirit.” For devotes the next part of his article to an analysis of how the EF shores up against those three themes.
First of all, I would like to point out that, theologically at least, those three themes so dear to the classical liturgical movement (and the new) have their remoter origins in German Romanticism long before 1903. The sacramental understanding of the Church that Scheeben would popularize in the nineteenth century would take root in theology and become very fruitful around the time of Vatican II in Magisterial documents. I am not sure why Ford insists in 1903 (St Pius X’s motu proprio on sacred music, perhaps?) as a watershed date. I would like to read more about what Dr Ford thinks about this connection, because it does seem like the first time such a theology erupts into the Magisterium, unless I am mistaken.
For Ford, the fact that the EF uses terms “assembly/congregation/faithful people” only 30 times and the OF over 500 demonstrates that the EF cannot be a vehicle of the active participation of the priestly people of God. For him, the EF seems to represent an impoverished ecclesiology. But were the divines of the classical Liturgical Movement and many theologians before Vatican II not also convinced of this ecclesiological truth and ready to make it practical in the lives of the faithful, far earlier than the 1969 GIRM? If the active participation of the priestly people of God is a theological truth, then is it not true no matter what rubrics accompany the text of the Mass? Does the proliferation of certain words necessarily indicate more clearly this truth? How then can one explain those who do not actively participate in the OF and are not aware of the dignity of their baptismal priesthood? Also, has Ford analyzed the use of those terms in the Eastern Rites? Does their presence, frequence or absence somehow indicate a false or impoverished ecclesiology?
Dr Ford also faults the EF, whose last legal incarnation was 1962, for not including paragraphs 3 and 4 from the 1981 Lectionary for Mass: Introduction. Yet, why are these paragraphs, which speak eloquently of the foundation of liturgical celebration on the Word of God, not applicable to the EF? Is the Word of God, which is “a living and effective word through the power of the Holy Spirit” somehow blocked in the EF? Can the Holy Spirit not work through the readings at an EF Mass?
It must be noted that here we seem to reduce the Word of God to the Holy Scriptures. But, as Dei Verbum 10 reminds us, “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church.” The Word cannot be reduced merely to the readings at Mass. The primacy of the Word refers, not only to the liturgical proclamation of the readings of Scripture, but to the Church’s reception as Ecclesia discens of Revelation through Scripture and Tradition. Why does a rich theological conception of the Word of God illuminate the EF as deficient?
Ford gives us a clue why he thinks so. After he opines that the introits of the Graduale Romanum might be kept in the OF because they do not violate his conception of the Word in worship, and that the occasional Kyrie and Agnus Dei could also be sung in their original languages, he proposes that we “consider surrendering all the graduals, alleluias, tracts, offertories . . . and the communions of Ordinary Time that evidence no connection to . . . any of the readings proclaimed.”
It must be noted that the music of the OF as expressed in the Graduale Romanum forms a unity with the old Roman lectionary cycle, as well as the proper orations of the Masses. The recent editions of the Graduale try to keep as much of this system intact as possible, but in such a form as to be coherent with the OF liturgical year. Many of those antiphons indeed seem to have little to do with the readings of the OF. In fact, at first glance, some may seem to have little to do with the Readings of the EF as well. Since Ford takes the OF as his point of departure, this discrepancy leads him to conclude that the entire Graduale must be overhauled to be more consistent with the OF.
There are several observations to be made. First, the current editors of the Graduale have taken the EF as their point of departure, and not the OF. Second, the option to do either the continuous readings or the sanctoral cycle of readings in the OF also leads to some interesting juxtapositions of antiphons, readings and proper orations, so such discrepancy is not alien to the OF. Third, how can the reduction of the entire Graduale into a book of Introits fulfill the express wish of Vatican II for the preservation of Latin and Gregorian chant? Fourth, now that Pope Benedict XVI has introduced a notion by which the Roman Rite considered in its fundamental unity must be the departure point for discussion on liturgy and music, should that, and not the EF or OF, be the standard by which future editions of the Graduale be revised?
Ford argues that the Creed “must be in the vernacular”, but why? Surely, if the Creed is a statement of the unity of our faith, why is it so inconceivable that the Roman Rite in both forms uses it in Latin? Would that not better underscore the unity of the faith, and would it not allow people from various languages to all participate in a powerful moment of unity in the Mass when repeating the words of the belief which unites them beyond words? He furthermore argues that the addition of three acclamations after the Institution Narrative means that the Sanctus, as another acclamation, ought to be sung in the vernacular. First of all, liturgical historians are not at all unified as to whether the Sanctus was always envisioned as an acclamation in the same way the acclamations inside of the Eucharistic Prayers of the OF are now considered. This is another instance of using the OF as a point of departure and not the substantial unity of the Roman Rite. Second, if we jettison the greater part of the Latin Ordinary and almost the whole of the Graduale, as Ford suggests, how can we then fulfill the desire of the binding legislation of the Roman Rite on music, Musicam Sacram 47, “Pastors of souls should take care that besides the vernacular “the faithful also know how to say or sing, in Latin also, those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”
For Ford, the reason is very clear: it’s not in the vernacular: “The very meaning of the Incarnation is the vernacular.” Does this mean that the Incarnation is deprived of meaning for people if they actively participate in the Mass by singing in Latin in communion with the Church that is the extension of the Incarnate Word in the world? For Ford, “since today’s lectionary is a vernacular lectionary, today’s music between the readings must be almost always in the vernacular.” Yet, the Missal and the Lectionary are, in their typical editions, in Latin. The vernacular is a permission granted for the good of the faithful by Sacrosanctum concilium, not the absolute form of the liturgy. Ford’s point of departure is not even from the text of the GIRM of the OF, but from the actual practice in many places, without verifying if that practice is in accord with the Church’s Magisterial teaching or law. Yet he still envisions that some of that music may not be in the vernacular, without specifying where or how, but most importantly, why.
Ford also re-produces the well-known statistics about the relative amounts of the Scripture contained in the OF and the EF. Several comments can be made. First, the lectionary of the EF developed historically as it did for all sorts of reasons, and was neither accidental nor invented in a liturgical laboratory by experts. The cycle of Mass readings must be seen in unity with the Divine Office and other liturgical rites as well. The Roman lectionary developed in tandem with the Office at a time when the Office was part of the normative experience of the Christian more than it is today. The riches of the EF lectionary consist, not in quantity, but in the way they, along with the other Scriptures contained in other liturgical rites, developed along with the history of the Roman Church. Salvaging that precious treasure and offering to the faithful as part of the patrimony of every Catholic is one of the most beautiful consequences of SP, and one not appreciated nearly enough. Second, the mere exposure to larger amounts of Scripture, like the mere exposure to larger amounts of prayer, does not necessarily translate into comprehension. Has it been verified that Catholics are really more conversant with Scripture than they were 40 years ago? In what does that biblical literacy consist and how can we evaluate it? The expansion of biblical literacy in the Church is a noble mission, part of her essence to evangelize. But is it the burden of the Mass alone to carry that? Or are there other factors, notably catechesis and preaching? Is it really true that exposure to the full riches of the EF, Mass and Office, is still an obstacle to the Word of God taking root in individuals and the Church? Are there also no pedagogical merits at all to a lectionary cycle which breaks down and digests frequently repeated passages of Scripture? Also, are these statistical totals taken merely from the Epistle and Gospel readings, or from the totality of Scripture which surrounds the Mass and Office?
The EF Mass is also deficient in pneumatology, compared to the OF, Ford claims. Eastern Orthodox controversialists have condemned both the EF and the OF as being insufficient in pneumatological content compared with Eastern liturgies. And many notable theologians, such as Yves Congar, have opined on the historical reasons and practical consequences of the relative lack of engagement of the Holy Spirit by the Church in ther life and prayer. Yet no one has asked, Why has the Roman Rite developed this way? Many contemporary commentators are content to assume that, because the West has historically been so pneumatologically discreet, the Western liturgy is deficient. But is the action of the Spirit limited to epicletical formulae in the Mass? Can the Holy Spirit not act independently of the absence, inference or dispersion of epicletical formulae just as the consecration of the Eucharistic elements is held to be obtained in the consecratory formula of the Prayer of Addai and Mari, where the consecratory formula could be considered absent, inferred or dispersed?
Dr Ford seems to indicate that for Professor Mahrt, Dr Schaefer and I in our various articles on mutual enrichment of the two forms of the Roman Rite, it “is almost all one way.” I cannot answer for Mahrt or Schaefer. As for me, I contend that, in reality, mutual enrichment cannot be from point A to point B, whether it be from EF to OF or OF to EF, although in my article to which Ford refers, I delineate practical ways in which the liturgy could go from point A to B. I argue that mutual enrichment should not take as its point of departure A or B, the EF or the OF.
Viewing the two forms of the Roman Rite under the principle of the hermeneutic of continuity, the point of departure for discussions about mutual enrichment must go back to a basic: How is what the Church does in her public prayer incarnate in the rites and music as developed through time in the Roman Rite? The answer to that question does not begin by looking at the relative riches or poverty of one rite or another, at how one historical incarnation of the rite is like or unlike a subsequent or previous theological development, or even the utility of the faithful’s comprehension of the rites themselves.
Ford is right to maintain, “The pastoral effectiveness of a celebration will be greatly increased if the texts . . . corresponds as closely as possible to the needs, spiritual preparation, and culture of those taking part.” When considering how the two forms may enrich each other, it is insufficient to say that they can’t, and that the hope that they can is just a personal preference of the Holy Father. We can say, however, that the Holy Father has seen that the Church must find a way for the liturgy to be able once again to meet the basic needs of her people. The task of pastors, liturgists and musicians is to elevate the culture of the Church’s children by a spiritual preparation which can allow them to encounter the Mystery which is encountered in any form of liturgical rite. We need not change the liturgy as the Church hands its various forms down to us, but open the riches of all liturgical forms to that priestly people who hunger and thirst after Truth.