“Majesty” as a cure for the litmusic doldrums?

Over at INSIDECATHOLIC commentator “Mena” offers:

Also standing in the way of this one is the complacency of parishioners, and the multi-generational conflict about subjecting the the Mass to the whims of “progress.” I can’t be the only Catholic under 35 (or 45, 55, 65…) who questions the wisdom of the the hippie generation’s imprint on liturgy. A little majesty now and then is a good thing.

As a parish Director of Music for just now over four decades, I think Mena’s spot on with one observation, and wants to be overly compensated on the other side of that reality and equation. Complacency is not merely a symptom of the Church’s liturgical dis-ease, it has metasticized its way into the mindset of the vast majority of all the “stakeholders,” office ministers and lay faithful alike. The institutional mechanisms that have grafted convenience to obligation, such as entitlements to pulp missal subscriptions and the consumerist result of assured obsolecense guaranteeing a passive demand that private publishers, not the Church, are happy to maintain.
Priest/Celebrants also daily wrestle with routine as they perceive it, rather than office and opportunity, and many of them retreat to insulation from “community” even if they’re lucky to have vicars sharing a rectory. The old insulations, destructive behaviors or addictions, are too dangerous. So many of them manage to create “make work” daily lives like their secular counterpart CEO/CFO’s, checking out trends, reports, presiding over endless meetings, surfing the web and installing “clipboard management” modes of parish plant management. I mean no disrespect here; this is what the post-conciliar church has demanded of them.

To me the notion that the fruits of the VII reform were sour, and thus is causal to liturgical malaise is a red herring. The problem isn’t the “form” of the rite, but it’s perfunctory, un-prepared and cultic bassackwardness performance by people who spend far less time preparing than the poor soul with a guitar and six chords who rehearses weekly, and still can’t get it right.

Sure, there’s no majesty in this desolation. But the cure isn’t necessarily found through complaint, convenience or complacency. And majesty, alone, is a short term remedy.

The real path to healing our rites is a return by all to foundational humility.

That is already present in the Roman Graduals and Missals, in our own native musical forms. And the Church clearly teaches that adherence to the uniquely humble and supremely confident song is to be found in the chanted Psalter and ordinaries. What language is used is secondary protocol.

So, I’m wary of any discussions that have, as an underlying agenda, a commerce-interest. Whether this is manifested by the banal but popular forms, or the faux-majesty of tympani and trumpet motets and Masses that are trotted out at papal Masses of all stripes, the disease persists and remedy furthers itself away.

Whether one can credibly, in true humility, lead the singing of James Moore’s “Taste and See” without the fake inculturated trappings, or chants “Gustate et videte” with precision and beauty, is what matters in the liturgical vineyard.

I don’t see a lot of humility present in many quarters of modern culture, including the sacral. People should really take into consideration that what and how they sing at worship is, literally, singing for their very lives.

5 Replies to ““Majesty” as a cure for the litmusic doldrums?”

  1. The air of majesty is too much tied up in pomp and circumstance, pride and nationalism to be a common thread in liturgical fabric. Most of the time its just a good excuse to slide away from the trite and banal just far enough that it creates another counterfeited form of music that really doesnt have anything to do with liturgy. Perhaps there was after all, great wisdom in the documents warning us of drums and bells as those styles can be even more insidious in robbing the liturgy of its native forms of chant and polyphony.

  2. I agree, Charles, that humility, as other virtues, are in short supply in every nook and cranny of modern life. Submission of one's talents and energies to the given form requires humility. But the tradeoff is that it is in submitting to the form we are able to be a conduit of something much greater than ourselves with the added benefit that we open ourselves up to be formed, reformed and transformed by the Eternal Word.

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