Adventures In Progressive Solemnity

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend a Mass in the Extraordinary Form recently.

Generally, although one is offered in my diocese every weekend, the distance and timing, and my own Sunday obligations are such that I instead seek a musicless Mass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was given to understand that this is all because, in the day, there really wereno rubrics for the people.

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

But even these seem to be a source of confusion.

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

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

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

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

It all seemed, it felt appropriate.

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

And why shouldn’t they?

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

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

But the internet is full of Facts that Everybody Knows – that aren’t true.

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t matter to me right now so much what the Church should haveasked of us as what She doesask.

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

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

7 Replies to “Adventures In Progressive Solemnity”

  1. Welcome, G, I'm ecstatic you're here!
    Regarding “legitimate diversity”- All I can see is Mahrt with his inimitable Yoda-like smile.

  2. It would appear that the book you link to is a translation of the code of rubrics for the 1962 Missale Romanum by an Australian priest with some commentary at the back. If you want more details about sacred music at the preconciliar liturgy, you'll have to refer to De Musica Sacra which was published in 1958. Another excellent reference book is Psallite Sapienter, A musician's guide to the 1962 Missal, by B. Andrew Mills, a CMAA publication. You might also look at the Guidelines for Liturgical Services by Fr. Scott Haynes on the website. We have called Fr. Haynes a couple of times to ask questions about EF litugical/musical issues, and he is very knowledgeable and helpful. You could also check the Musica Sacra Forum archives or put your question out on the forum. I have learned so much from the sacred musicians there. They have never failed yet to provide a helpful, accurate response to any question I've posed about the EF.

  3. Thanks, Julie.
    I know Fr Scott is terrific, and I love and appreciate the work the Canons Regular have done on the Interwebs and on the ground, but the thread at NLM referenced specifically this seeming lacuna in the SanctaMissa site.
    I hadn't even known of the existence of the document Fr Murphy translated, and it seems I wasn't alone in this.
    I have Br Mills book, but it, like Fr Haynes, and even Fortescue, not authoritative as it, essentially descriptive rather than prescriptive.
    And here's the thing — as you said, we usually think of these questions as being about "sacred music at the preconciliar liturgy," but the EF is also a post-VCII Liturgy, the Liturgy is ALIVE, it is alive NOW.
    I love the CMAA, and its members are its greatest resouce, but let's face it – hardly a thread on these questions has _ever_ not strayed into a sniffy, "well, it may be licit but nobody with any taste/intelligence/moral fiber would ever sing/say/do it that way," discussion.
    Typing the phrase "Rossini Propers," for instance, is like throwing a hand grenade.
    I don't have to tell you this after the way things erupted a few years ago in the forum where someone took issue with your use of the word "only."
    And you have obviously have experienced the "that's not the way Father X did it and he's a saint and besides we're used to it so you are wrong!!!!!!" syndrome I want to try to avoid.
    So I am eager to approach it from the POV of actual rubrics and liturgical law, rather than "the way it is/has always been done," even if that way is of well-informed, skillful and holy people.
    Since there is a great divergence in the ways it is celebrated, I want very much to know when those… sorry, Charles, don't you or Dr Mahrt laugh…. "diversities" are "legitimate."
    If the rubrics are best contained in the '62 Missal itself, I guess I'll have to track down an altar Missal rather than rely on commentary in a hand Missal or a book that says "written by…" (The only one I have is published in '60.)
    (Save the Liturgy, Save theWorld)

  4. Rubrics for musicians? I sing at EF Masses most Sundays and we simply do what's in the Liber Usualis. Nothing wrong with adding extra psalm verses to the Communion antiphon or using the Offertoriale Triplex. Equally nothing wrong with adding motets, hymns etc. (as long as they are in Latin) or organ interludes (outside of Advent and Lent). Also remember that all the Propers are said by the celebrant so nothing is missing if they aren't sung (in contrast to the Novus Ordo). An orchestral divertimento between the epistle and gospel would have been normal in Mozart's and Haydn's day and this tradition still continues in Vienna.

    The rubrics do not allow for much variation in the way Mass is celebrated, and most people nowadays would regard the Graduale Propers as the ideal (choirs who do them polyphonically are advertising the fact that they can't chant) but there's plenty of choice musically. Incidentally, De Musica Sacra was regarded as too prescriptive by the German bishops who had allowed singing in the vernacular, even at High Mass, since at least the 1940s, so they were given leave to disregard it.

  5. G., I apologize if I misread your question. Fr. Murphy's book is a translation of the rubrics for the 1962 Missale Romanum and also a commentary so it is indeed very useful, and I'm glad Clerget K. pointed it out to me on the forum since it resolved a question I had about active participation at the EF.

    I very much agree with you the the EF is ALIVE and dynamic and fully functioning and operational, and totally relevant to contemporary Catholicism ; I didn't mean to imply that it wasn't. All I meant to say is that De Musica Sacra (1958) is the last document that deals with the musical details of the EF. I suppose that is part of the difficulty with the many diversities you have observed—the most extensive official legislation concerning the music of the traditional Latin Mass is 57 years old, and yet I'm almost certain most traditional Catholics, including myself, would be very loathe to have any "updating" of the legislation, even if we all encounter at some time or another resistance to attempts to implement the existing legislation correctly. I would—speaking for myself—- be very concerned that any attempts to codify or ensure more uniformity may result in an overzealous tweaking and meddling with the EF by Vatican or local bureaucrats who may not necessarily possess traditional sensibilities which could conceivably cause far more problems than those that currently exist.

    However, that being said, your question about local variations in the EF is certainly pertinent and worthwhile, but don't be surprised if you run into some brick walls here and there. Keep digging and studying, and I'll be very interested in finding out what you discover.

  6. P.S. G., all the legislation and details necessary for the correct and successful celebration of the EF are contained in De Musica Sacra, the 1962 Missale Romanum and in Sacrosanctum Concilium, so all that really needs to be done is to seek and share a better understanding and awareness of the existing norms. That's a lifetime of work for one person right there! God bless you for your enthusiasm and interest in the Latin Mass.

  7. I have rarely sniffed at Rossini propers. It is true, they are the most rudimentary way to sing the proper texts, but at least you are singing the prescribed texts of the Mass–a starting point. From there you can graduate to more musically substantial settings, aiming even to sing on occasion a real Gregorian proper. The legitimate diversity entails singing whatever is best according to your ability. I do not think very much of rehearsing Rossini propers just ten minutes before Mass, but I think a lot of a choir that begins by perfecting them, and then moves on to more ambitious fare.

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