Vespers of the Holy Cross

Our own beloved Frogman Noel Jones sums up the Vespers service, which combined chant, polyphony, and hymns from several choirs into an overwhelming experience that was surely a first for most everyone present:

This Colloquium service, sung in the church where Fr. Carlo Rossini was choir director and organist (Thanks for that information, Fr. Frank Phillips, CR!), was full of chant and polyphony.

Jeff Ostrowski’s chant choir set a high standard that was met then by Wilko Browers as he directed his Intermediate Women’s Chant choir chanting O Crux Gloriosa,their sound soaring through the building, as if the building were on fire. It was a performance that made you wish it would go on and on….and it did, getting better and better.

It was amazing.

But.

Then Dr. Mahrt conducted the Vexilla Regis by Tomás Luis de Victoria.

The dynamics of the mens and womens parts created waves of sound, the men on the left and women on the right, that were like floodlights of different colors washing around the entire church.

It was not better than the chant version, it was equally stunning, both raised goosebumps.

Amazing. Hearing two known Masters conducting and one on his way up there.

And the entire faculty were in attendance.

For my part, it was easily the most challenging musical experience of my life. It lasted one hour and twenty minutes, and perhaps one hour of that involved chanting and singing. The amount of Latin was overwhelming even for someone with experience. The navigation between the chant and polyphony was never anything but extremely tricky. One had to always be intensely focused on the mechanics.

The eyes had to be super disciplined the entire time. If you lost concentration for an instant, it was all over. So, for example, you had the first verse in chant and you had to focus on the pointing, which different tones for each Psalm, but in the very next verse you were singing polyphony, a piece that might be SATB, SAT, or ATB, depending, but you had to know in advance and get it right immediately. There were transposition issues throughout. Just singing the right notes at the right time was a challenge enough, but then you add style and text plus standing and sitting and bowing rubrics and you have a serious job here.

The pressure intensified given that we had only 3 days to prepare, a total of maybe 5 hours of rehearsal time. In my own tenor section, the level of excellence was so high that I certainly developed a lower opinion of my own skills. One wrong note, one missed accidental, and everyone knew it.

What did I gain beyond this musical experience? I had something of a dawning of consciousness about the sheer massiveness of the apparatus of the Roman Rite and its place in history — the moving parts, the fitting together of such a vast tradition through the ages, the coming together of so many countries and places. There is just no way for one person to “compose” what we sang last night. It was composed by the passage of sacred time. And now we come to the point really: my experience really demonstrated to me what it means to pursue the sanctification of time.

The loss of the Divine Office in the lives of Catholics is deeply tragic. I understand that now better than I ever have.

Vocation as Vacation?

This is the enigma of Colloquium. “To spend exorbitant amounts of personal funds, time, and energy that one might gain opportunity to endure the queues and petty torments and rituals of the TSA/Airline/Airport politburos, to sing “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, I’ve seen humid days that I thought would never end….” (©Jeffrey A. Tucker), so as to increase one’s abilities and skills in an ancient form of G*dspeak which provides great joy to yourself, your peers and the tired, meek and lowly PIPs at home, knowing that you will return to the bosom of the parish, ennobled and emboldened to “push back” the nattering nabob sheep when they attack, or to nudge the elephant in the room that is clerical disinterest or resistance………………………..or not?”

That is the question, dear Yorick!

But yet, “here we are, altogether as we chant our chants, joyfully!” (Even though some might wonder if we don’t “take off” from an isolated punctum with absolute perfection in all concerns of musicality and ritual meaning, will the top of Jeff Ostrowski’s perfect Marine’s buzz-cut head pop off like an animated feature in “Monty Python?”) Yes, here we are!

And as we’ve broken bread with three squares-a-day during this week at Dusquesne, I’ve informally determined that this event amounts to the only substantial “vacation” time most of us will afford ourselves for the entire work year! Who else does this? Do the illuminati and plebes of the corporate world go down to Hilton Head or up to Cape Cod to hob-knob for brief moments with the Clintons and Kennedy’s on their official retreats, and then plop down into their clubhouses, pencils in hand to pour over the writings of Fan Li, Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan? Heck, who knows? Maybe they do. Or maybe they’re out on the links, or flaying their squash racquets, or worse, blurrily watching the vagaries of the Dow Avg. with their little friend, Ketel One, nearby. Who knows? Who cares?

In my dictionary, you look up “Passion,” you see an icon of Christ collapsing a third time under the weight of the crux. Now, in my revised dictionary, you look up “passionate,” you see zoetrope sequences of the various facial expressions of one Jeffrey Ostrowski!
Those CMAA folks who know me, know I’m partial to great movies. “Whaddya mean “great movies?” Well, mostly weird stuff. “Whaddya mean “weird stuff.” Uh, off-beat, compelling, sometimes life-altering, sometimes off-the-charts bizarre. Okay, Jeff Ostrawski IS…..the “Buckaroo Banzai” of our life and times in chant. (You have to do the cinema math, one can’t explain “Buckaroo Banzai.”) This whipper-snapper (and I DO MEAN “whipper-snapper!) probably pulled out the Excalibre of chant at age five, found the peep-stone spectacles which compelled him towards endless libraries of autographs, manuscripts, facsimiles and uhrtexts at age nine, and so forth until now we have the chant version of the offspring of Stephen Hawking and Indiana Jones.

For you partial to cartoon caricatures, Jeff could be likened to a cross between the Tazmanian Devil and that Enfante Terriblé kid in “Family Guy.” I simply think he’s our own Buckaroo Banzai in a barong, performing brain salad surgery one moment, choosing well the true Holy Grail among many the next, and taking the chant world into the eighth dimension, despite the contrariness of the many evil Dr. Emilio Lizardo’s around the world. (See the film, I ain’t got time to ‘splain.)

Still and all, Jeffrey Ostrowski is a serious, devoted, and reverently earnest man. And he has, among others in leadership roles, literally transformed the notions of many other serious…..earnest chant proponents of how to effect the chant from conception to acquisition to rendering to its spiritual culmination. If I had to liken his methodology to a sport, I’d say that would have to be Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA to you cage-fighter enthusiasts. On Monday we’d learn via TaiChi; Tuesday it’d be Karate, Wednesday-Kung Fu, today more like Leonides versus the whole of Persia! One moment he will liken a chant phrase to an airplane’s takeoff, cruising and then landing, and the next he might stomp a foot and aim a death stare off into space should our schola not intuit a cadence in the manner which he had already drilled into our brains a great many times. It was funny today when Jeff mentioned Msgr. Bartolucci in passing. I remember distinctly thinking to myself on our second day’s session, “Bartolucci wishes he were Ostrowski!” (Though, of course, that would be a cultural impossibility.)

Well, our band of real men in tights may not achieve the elegant thrust and effortless landing of a stealth jet fighter, but we’re awfully close to singing with the precision of a really good metro train moving from station to station. You know, that clean whoosh of initial thrust, the smooth ride between terminals, and the perfectly measured braking into the next stop, ahhhhhhh. And Jeffrey smiles, somewhere between Dennis the Menace and the Dalai Lama, knowing that he charted the course and his matey’s brought her safely to harbor.

But Jeffrey, according to his own testimony, has difficulty sleeping through the night. One night he claimed the declamation of the word “are” kept him awake. He was serious! And many other perplexities vex his REM time. So, what do you think Jeffrey and his beautiful bride do for vacation? COLLOQUIUM I’d wager; in a heartbeat.

Sundown in Pittsburgh on a Friday peers through the skyscrapers from my dorm room.

That was almost as bad as, “It was a dark and stormy night….”

And coming from a Vesper Service to almost literally die for, all I can think of about these wonderful vacationers, every one of whom likely gives more time, talent and treasure to their parishes, and who receive the ack-ack of flak cannons from all quarters with a side dose of grace now and then, is “Well done, good and faithful servants.” Oh, and “when you get back you have three funerals and a wedding that Father’s fitting in on Friday night after confessions. You okay with that?” Sure, you think?!? I sang with Jeff Ostrowski. I can do anything!

Archbishop Chaput: Evangelization and the Renewal of the Liturgy

I had the privilege last night to attend a lecture given by Archbishop Charles Chaput, a part of the Hillenbrand Lecture Series of the Liturgical Institute of the University of Our Lady of the Lake, Mundelein, which followed a solemn celebration of Mass and Vespers, with the Archbishop, for the liturgy on the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Music for the Mass was offered by the participants of the Liturgical Instutite “Sacred Music Retreat” under the direction of Kevin Allen.

It was an inspiring lecture, and was very honest and forthright, as is Chaput’s style. He takes up the question asked by Romano Guardini, 75 years ago: Is modern man capable of the liturgical act? Of course, his answer in the end is yes, but he offers some very keen and practical insight into the task of liturgical renewal in our day in age.

In taking up Guardini’s challenge, Archbishop Chaput offers reflection on four points as a contribution to our next task of liturgical renewal:

1. We need to recover the intrinsic and inseparable connection between liturgy and evangelization.

2. The liturgy is a participation in the liturgy of heaven, in which we worship in Spirit and truth with the worldwide Church and the communion of saints.

3. We need to strive to recover and live with the same vibrant liturgical and evangelical spirituality as the early Christians.

4. The liturgy is a school of sacrificial love. The law of our prayer should be the law of our life. Lex orandi, lex vivendi. We are to become the sacrifice we celebrate.

He concludes:

“The liturgical act becomes possible for modern man when you see your lives and work in light of God’s plan for the world, in light of his desire that all men and women be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. The mystery we celebrate with the angels and the saints must take root deep in our lives and personalities. It must bear fruit. Each of us must make our own unique contribution to God’s loving plan — that all creation become adoration and sacrifice in praise of him.”

That Chaput is typically not seen as being as liturgically focused as he is focused on cultural and pro-life issues, it was good to hear him agree that “in the post-conciliar era, the professional Catholic liturgical establishment opted for the former path, trying to adapt the liturgy to the demands of modern culture… [and] that time has shown this to be a dead end. Trying to engineer the liturgy to be more “relevant” and “intelligible” through a kind of relentless cult of novelty, has only resulted in confusion and a deepening of the divide between believers and the true spirit of the liturgy.”

Let the liturgy speak for itself, he seemed to say. Let us conform ourselves to Christ and live the life of the Church’s liturgy. Amen!

Here’s the complete text of the lecture.

Yesterday’s Events at the Colloquium

There is far too much happening to even begin to provide comprehensive coverage but let me first mention the extraordinary form Mass yesterday that celebrated the Feast of St. John Baptist, one that ended with the great hymn Ut Queant Laxis as the recessional. The Mass setting was Palestrina’s Missa Brevis, as sung by Kurt Poterack’s choir, along with motets by Tallis (sung by Brouwers choir) and Guerrero (sung by Horst Buchholz’s choir).

St. John has a special place in the hearts of all musicians because all scholarship indicates that it was he (not Cecilia) who was long considered the patron saint of music in the first millennium (the job was handed over to St. Cecilia after St. John’s long service).

The Mass was of course very beautiful, complete with all sung readings and the most solemn sung parts.

The evening’s events broke new ground. The idea was initially proposed by William Mahrt and carried out by Arlene Oost-Zinner: a panel on the growth of sacred music programs in academia. The panelists included Kurt Poterack (Christendom College), Paul Weber and Alanna Keenan (Franciscan University Steubenville), Ann Labounsky and Sr. Marie Agatha Ozah (Duquesne University), Susan Treacy (Ave Maria University), and Peter Jeffery (Notre Dame University).

Each talked about the program of his or her institution and commented on the dramatic change in the attitudes of students today as compared with the past. The interest in sacred music and chant is very intense, to the point of representing a serious paradigm shift. Professor Jeffery in particular spoke of the support he has received from the administration to forge a program that will have national influence, and he looks forward to working with student groups in the year’s ahead.

To see all these panels and here their comments struck many people as very significant, for it demonstrated that the change we are seeing at the parish level is being mirrored in higher learning as well.

Here is an image of Professor Jeffery buying a colloquium tee!

The Privatization of Liturgy and the Suffering of Publishers

One stands in amazement at what the USCCB and ICEL – in fact, it is rather difficult to locate the center of responsibility here – are forcing upon publishers as they frantically attempt to provide musical settings of the Mass for the forthcoming new English translation.

I do not deny the right of the national conferences to regulate the texts of the Mass but the policies in place to keep this text and its music under wraps defy all good sense. No one has explained why it is so absolutely necessary that no publisher on the planet be permitted to distribute full Mass settings of the upcoming translation, even though the texts are widely available and many efforts are underway to educate the faithful. Is having music available not part of education?

ICEL has even opened up a website to explain why the new translation is necessary and wonderful (and I agree): http://www.becomeonebodyonespiritinchrist.org/. I’ve enjoyed these videos (which feature Vivaldi’s Latin settings as background music!) but I still find no instructions concerning what may or may not be published and under what conditions. Nor does the USCCB website seem to explain this.

The instructions must be arriving via private email. But here is the bottom line in the words of World Library:

We have been asked by the United States Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship to remind you that no publisher may take orders for Mass settings until the final text of the Missal is issued. We have also been asked to remind you that the musical settings are for preview only and not yet approved for liturgical use. In addition, we are not yet being allowed to share any complete settings.

Moreover, it is not even clear what power is being invoked in order to prevent production and distribution. Is it a matter of copyright or a matter of religious obedience? It is hard to say.

Nonetheless, the publishers are doing heroic work, trying to be obedient while attempting to preview their music without giving full versions or permitting you to buy it: WLP, OCP, GIA, and Liturgical Press (which doesn’t seem to have a special section on this set up yet).

You will enjoy touring the WLP site. I appreciate the efforts puts into this strangely truncated preview, even if the settings conform to the convention of metrical songs that are dependent on accompaniment and are based on tunes regarded as catchy in a popular sense. The Richard Proulx Gloria is of high quality, and Lisa Stafford’s Mass of Grace has potential, and surely we cannot place blame on either the composer or the publishers for attempting to turn the Gloria into an antiphon/response structure; the root of the problem is really deeper here.

I would love to understand the thinking of those who are so emphatic about keeping the texts from being released until the last possible minute. If the goal is to put as much financial pressure on the publishers as possible, that surely must be counted as success. But how this approach is helping to prepare the way for the new texts is unclear.

Crochu and Gatté Officium Nocturnum

Andrea Sanguinetti sends the following:

Hi, i suggest that in your page of latin chant books you put the following link: http://www.gregofacsimil.net. In that page follow the link ‘RESTITUTIONS’ (in the left part of the page), and you’ll find the whole responsories of officium nocturnum in square notation in pdf files in a transcription according to Hartker manuscript made by D. Crochu & D. Gatté. I think it’s a very important and good work. Regards. Andrea Sanguinetti.

Following the instructions, with my navigation complicated by language and many non-standard characters that do not render properly on my windows laptop, I do find many beautiful PDF files. Perhaps some can explain more about the origin and goal of the project. 

Reasons for Peace and Contentment at the Colloquium

After many years of attending the Colloquium, I’ve noticed what many people have noticed about the special environment this year: there is a blessed peace and contentment at this year’s event, one that is supportive of learning, productivity, good singing, social happiness – all preconditions to the most generous occasion of  grace. I’ve been trying to think of the particular sources of this special environment this year, and I have a few theories.

  • The organization of this year’s event, led by program director Arlene Oost-Zinner (who is also leading the intermediate women’s schola), is truly a marvel. The hugely complex machinery of scheduling, events, rooms, music, along with a thousand details at each time slot, from morning to night, is humming as never before. The assistance of many volunteers has been inspiring. 
  • The Duquesne University staff has been pleased to have us on campus and has been extremely helpful at every turn. The same is true of the Church of the Epiphany, which has welcomed us, even to the point of making special physical accommodations for the extraordinary form in the sanctuary.
  • Issues that usually split liturgical musicians and Catholics have settled down to a civil coexistence, most especially the old struggle between partisans of the new vs. the old liturgy. The new consensus was nicely framed by Ed Schaefer: the preconciliar structure of Mass and the Divine Office is the elder brother from which the structure of 1969/70 can learn. 
  • Remember the rhythm debates that dominated the chant scene during a huge part of the 20th century? There was a time when ever singer had to take a side in the great debate and defend it and organize one’s musical colleagues around it. At this event, I suspect that most people just aren’t that interested in some kind of battle or taking a side. Each conductor is different. Each singer has a special appreciation for one or another way of singing. We are all glad to learn from various perspectives and approaches. Even at individual Masses, the chant propers come across as musically unique events. Seeing how this works, one wonders what all the fuss what about. 
  • Even on issues of contemporary vs. traditional music, there is a sense of peace. Everyone now knows what the Second Vatican Council meant by giving chant first place. And yet most of the musicians here are working within parish reality, which is to say, they are all transitioning from one place to another, but with direction and purpose. I’ve heard very little in the way of put downs toward the problem music in the Catholic world today (even I’ve controlled my tongue!); rather, energies are all focused toward doing more to achieve the ideal.
  • One final area of peace concerns the old cultural split between academic musicologists and parish-based practitioners. There are many of both types here but they aren’t arguing. They are talking to each other and learning from each other, working to build bridges between the world of scholarship and the world of relentless parish schedules.

That Requiem Mass

Ten years ago, it was exceedingly difficult to hear or experience the Dies Irae of the Requiem Mass. That was before the age of Youtube (where there are dozens of recordings and performances) and also online editions, as well as ever more use of this grand and glorious Sequence in the Catholic Mass. For reasons that seem very unclear at this late a date, someone apparently had an issue with this chant and discretely failed to list it for the Requiem Mass in the post-1969 liturgical books. But that doesn’t mean that it cannot or should not be sung, for one of the blessing of the new liturgy is its liberality and openness to a wide range of traditional experience. So while the chant it is not printed in the books, it can still be used in the Mass, and so it has been at the Colloquium for many years now.

This year was special in many ways.  The chant was never rehearsed ahead of time. We had a plan for alternating low and high voices but we did no dry runs before Mass. But it was hardly necessary. The intonation began, the low voices picked up the song, and then the high voices took over at the double bar. On it went through the haunting melody and text from first to last, with 250 singers spread randomly throughout the large parish space. It was an amazing sound, all encompassing. It is a long chant but it was strangely disappointing when it ended. I think everyone wished it could have gone on longer.

It was not in the interest of an “authentic” performance that the air conditioners and fans had all been turned off in the parish. It was to keep down the static noise level. But, to me, the temperature of the building was nearly sweltering, and grew hotter throughout the Mass. To sing this stunning music of the Requiem Mass in that temperature did lend to the experience something approximating authenticity. I didn’t hear a single complaint about it. It would have seemed unseemly, given the subject matter, which the fiery Gradual from Brouwers’s high-voice schola seemed to capture perfectly. 

Fr. Pasley’s homily was absolutely brilliant. He reminded us that the purpose of this Requiem was to pray for the departed souls of the deceased members of the CMAA. He told of their trials and struggles and all the sacrifices they had made professionally and personally for the cause, at time when telling the truth about the music of the Church and keeping it alive was to write yourself out of the history books. Of course the trends of history have changed, and now the current generation looks at people like Msgr. Richard Schuler and the others as prophets who saw the future. They did not live to see their cause victorious. Maybe we will not either. We must think beyond our time and time itself – and isn’t this the very point of the liturgy?

Following the Mass, we made our way to the next sessions. To everyone’s amazement, the clouds began to darken suddenly and sheets of rain came pouring down on Pittsburgh, trapping hundreds in porticoes of buildings and under canopies. The rain did not let up for a long time and many had to make their way to dinner and become soaked along the way. But we greeted a great crowd in the dining hall, ate fresh Southwestern food, and listened to a gentle and erudite talk by William Mahrt on the structure of the Psalm in the Divine Office. As is usually the case with his lectures, people listened with amazement and a growing sense of humility in the face of the marvelous theological structure given to us by our history and liturgy.

Explanation of the Ceremonies of Holy Mass Part 2: I will go to the Altar of God

Today there is an option to sing man-made hymns chosen by the priest or a parish staff member during Mass. But the Church has always appointed texts from the Psalms to accompany ritual actions at Mass. The Introit, or Entrance Antiphon, is taken from the Psalms and other scriptural texts to proclaim the theme of this particular celebration of the mysteries of divine life. The Church has never believed in singing at the Mass or praying at the Mass; the Church sings and prays the Mass. At the beginning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacred ministers and those who serve them make their way in a dignified procession to the altar. A thurifer leads the procession with a smoking vessel of incense called a thurible. The smoke of the incense symbolizes our prayers rising to God and has since antiquity been a sign of homage to holy people and holy things.
 
Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth.[1]

Behind the thurifer comes the crucifer, who holds aloft before our eyes the image of Christ who came to save us. Just as the Israelites wandering through the desert looked upon the image of a bronze serpent and were healed of their illnesses, Christians gaze upon the likeness of the Crucified and are stirred to devotion, to reverence and to prayer. The crucifer is accompanied by two candlebearers, who carry lights that symbolize Christ, the light of the world who pierces the darkness of sin and death, lights given from candles blessed on the Feast of the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the temple on 2 February, made from the wax of bees who work diligently like Christians at their appointed task. Other servers, representatives of the faithful at the Sacrifice, process as so many saints to the Throne of Grace. A deacon, the servant of the priest and the Church, clad like the priest except for his dalmatic of joy and gladness, enters, holding before him the beautifully bound Book of the Gospels to place upon the altar. The priest enters the church as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, amidst great joy and Hosannas, always mindful of the awe-inspiring events which will take place in this holy place.

 The priest arrives at the foot of the altar. In ancient times, he did not enter the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary of the Church, until he had taken off his biretta as a sign of submission to God and genuflected to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the sanctuary. He would recite with the ministers the words of Psalm 42, I will go to the altar of God, to God the joy of my youth and then recite a formula for the confession of his sins.

The priest then, right foot first, enters the inner precinct of the sanctuary. In the temple of Jerusalem, only the High Priest could enter the inner sanctum once a year, and say the name of God. Now the minister of the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, enters into the holy place another Christ, so that God may become present amongst men and dwell within their hearts.

In the sanctuary there is a table. This is no ordinary table for an ordinary meal; it is an altar of sacrifice and the table of Passover. The Jewish ritual of the Passover meal and the sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem find their fulfillment on the altar of the wood of the Cross on which was sacrificed the Lamb of God. The altar of the Mystical Sacrifice of the Mass is of wood or of marble, but it represents Christ in His tomb.

The altar is covered with three fair linen cloths, which symbolize the winding sheets in which Christ was placed in the tomb. Christians from earliest times celebrated Mass in altars raised over the remains of those who gave their lives as witnesses to the faith, sacrificing their lives because of their belief in the sacrifice of Christ. Today the Church places relics, physical remains of or objects belonging to the saints, to remind us of the connection between the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of those who are nourished by the Eucharist.

Behind the altar is always to be found an image of the Crucified Christ. This image is a powerful reminder of the unity between the sacrifice of Calvary and the sacrifice of the Mass. When Christ died on the Cross, he faced outward to the West. Since the beginning of the Church, Christians have prayed facing east, facing Christ who died gazing at them and whom tradition holds will come again at the end of time, from the east. The universal custom of the Church has always been for priest and people to face, if not directional East, at least liturgical East, at Mass, indicated by the image of the Crucified. Only two exceptions are known: in Rome, the ancient basilicas were built westward facing, so the priest stood behind the altar people actually turned their backs to the altar to face East during the consecration of the Mass; and now, in many places in the West, where Mass is celebrated facing the people so they may see the rites on the altar. The eastward position is not so that the priest can have his back to the people; on the contrary, it is so that priest and people may be together on the same side of the altar, worshipping the LORD together and awaiting His Second Coming.

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, also referred to as the Old Latin Mass, the priest prayed as he approached the altar,

Take away from us our iniquities, we implore Thee, Lord, that with pure minds we may worthily enter into the holy of holies: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Now as then, he kisses the Altar, the symbol of Christ. In the Extraordinary Form he prays,

We implore You, Lord, by the merits of all Thy Saints, whose relics are here, and of all the Saints, that thou wouldst deign to forgive me all my sins. Amen.

The Mass is not just a celebration for the men and women physically present in the church; it is a celebration of the entire celestial court, and the priest calls on the saints to assist him in his ministry to the People of God. He kisses the altar to make reparation for the traitorous kiss of Christ. He kisses the altar to remind us all of the intimate relationship between God and the soul professed by the Beloved in the Song of Songs, Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. The Mass is more than an act of worship; it is that intimate kiss of love between Christ and His Bride, the Church, a kiss by which new life is generated and death overcome by the Resurrection.

In the Extraordinary Form, the priest-celebrant assists at most of the Mass from his position at the altar. Only a Bishop would preside from a throne set off to the side. In the Ordinary Form, after the priest or bishop reverences the altar he goes to a special chair off to the side. Chairs in the ancient world were a symbol of authority. When Jesus explained the scriptures in the synagogue where the Jews gathered to study the Word, he sat and taught from a chair. A bishop’s church is called a cathedral because the Bishop teaches sitting in a large throne-like, called a cathedra in Latin. Today, priests have smaller and less ornate chairs than Bishops, but the principle is the same: the one who is seated has authority to teach.


[1] Revelation 8.3-5

Though he may be insufferable, LEND ME A TENOR!


That is the only association with Broadway musicals that might be considered appropriate for Colloquium 2010. At the conclusion of the always expected, yet ever fresh and invigorating, extemporaneous welcome address given by the ever erudite Bow Tied One Monday evening, necessity called him to don his gym teacher whistle and clipboard, and do the S-A-T-B headcount for each of the five polyphonic choirs. And, of course, the headcount eventually turned into a cheery auction- “Can we get a few more tenors for the Palestrina? Howabout a few more tenors for Vespers, guys? Guys?” Of course, it seems that by Tuesday every choir had a requisite, if not ideal balance.

I have tried to describe my first two colloquiums to my choristers, to internet fellow travelers and friends, and per usual my words (the oh-so-many and run on words) have failed. But, maybe this comparison, outlandish as it may be at first blush, might just clarity my feelings and experiences. When the great John Paul II returned as the Holy Father to his motherland, the streets and main square of Warsaw overflowed with three million catholic souls, and by all accounts those 3M souls were of one mind, one heart, one spirit and of one purpose. That being the relentless truth that Jesus Christ is Lord, He alone, with His Mother and countless saints and angels points the Way, the Truth and the Life that is here and to come with His Father through the power of the Spirit. And those Poles gathered that day with a dignity, integrity and will exemplified by our Lord’s Vicar.

Here in sultry Pittsburgh, CMAA has convened an assembly of a mere 250 souls. And we, too, are one with Christ as on that day in Warsaw. Our purpose is apparent and really never needs explanation. We are to honor God, we are to share in his suffering and sacrifice at the altar of remembrance and reminiscence. And we are one by explicitly and implicitly recognizing that by bringing to the table only that which is, of its nature, sacred, beautiful and universal, we are honoring the truth through submission and humility to the worship traditions of Christ’s Church. Dr. Ed Schaefer brought this to the fore in his address last evening: those who stubbornly decree that to restore musical and liturgical legacies that are fifteen centuries proven amount to nothing more than museum worship cannot comprehend (ineffably?) that by traveling along this organic path, we cling lovingly to our Church’s apostolic succession. “This,” Schaefer says, “frees our souls (priests and lay alike) from the licit, understood but nevertheless, self-oriented possibilities that vary from parish to parish around our country and world. If Christ is Truth, and the Truth sets us free, then we can only be free by submission to His Will.”

The Polish faithful hoping to catch a glimpse, or hear a phrase, or take up a chant that day in Warsaw were a truly persecuted people under the thumb and scrutiny of Polish Communist authority and its Soviet masters. But on that day, nothing could starve those millions from rejoicing, from prayer and praise, from thanks and renewal, and eventually from freedom. And, as Dr. Schaefer, Dr. Mahrt and so many have echoed before them, “the continuity of tradition includes the realization that we are a persecuted church.” And all of us baptized, not just R2’s or SoV2’s, or others between those enclaves, constitute the body of this persecuted church. We are, or should be, celebrating the joy of being counter-cultural, according to Dr. Schaefer.
Well, the up-and-down-and-up-and-down again geography of Dusquene has this soul’s arches, blisters, quads and knees profoundly suffering. But, this year, exactly as it has been over the last two years, finds me joyful in extremis!

Alleluia, Amen.