Thursday, March 24, 2011

On Liturgical Chant, and Thinking in Centuries

I've been doing a lot of work in the English translation of the new Missal lately. Mostly I've been combing through the General Instruction and the rubrics (fodder for future blog posts, I'm sure), noting changes there (mostly in terminology and capitalization), but today a few of us sang through the chants as they will appear in the new Missal.
Well! I find it fascinating.

They are clearly the simplest Latin chants, adapted so that the English can fit into the Latin meter. The result is not terribly natural for English singing (particularly not when compared to English plainchant!), but is singable enough, and the non-Latin-scholars in our group had little difficulty with it.

Coming to these from a Latin chant background was an interesting experience. Many of the chants are modeled on the Latin - which means that they are similar, but not exactly. The most noticeable difference is that any note that was lengthened - whether by a horizontal episema, quilisma, or bistropha - is no longer lengthened (try singing the Sanctus giving all the notes the same metrical value - phew!)

But the Gloria, the Creed, the various responses - these are all based on the Latin tones. Again, not the same, but based on. Even the tone for the Lord's Prayer and its doxology is not the familiar one but the Latin one!

So I can't help but wonder: Why? Is it possible we've set ourselves up so that English-speaking congregations around the world will be able to easily learn the Latin tones in 5-10 years, as Rome has been asking of us for decades?* The Latin (or Greek, as the case may be) to the same tone is printed below for the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy),** the Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest), the Lord's Prayer,*** the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), and these parts are always referred to in the GIRM as I've recreated them above (as opposed to the current translation, in which only the Latin name is used).

Of course I don't like everything about the musical notation (two syllables for Bap-tism in the Creed is vying for first place), but it's cool to see: as the English-speaking Catholic world is being given words that reflect in detail the Latin of the editio typica, we are also being given chants that similarly reflect the Latin ones in our tradition. Would that I might see the day when Catholics around the world can actually sing a few unifying pieces in Latin!

Cantate Domino canticum novum laus eius in ecclesia sanctorum!

*Pope Pius X asked for this in Tra le sollecitudini (par. 3) in 1903; the Second Vatican Council mandated it in Sacrosanctum Concilium (par. 54) in 1963; and Pope Paul VI sent a booklet called Jubilate Deo to every bishop in the world with "a minimum selection of sacred chants" (letter here) in 1974. Other examples exist, but I find these both most important and most compelling.

**The Kyrie is sometimes just called the Kyrie. I haven't managed to figure out why this one gets to drop its translation, but none of its brethren do.

***The Lord's Prayer, like all the others, is given first in English, then in Latin, to the same tone. Of note: the doxology after the Lord's Prayer ("For the kingdom") is only given in English, though it, too, is to the familiar Latin tone.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On celebration versus populum and the location of the tabernacle

Skimming through these old periodicals never ceases to give me new insight into old problems. Why didn't I start doing this months ago!?
In his address to the Assisi congress of pastoral liturgy on September 22, 1956, our Holy Father [Pius XII] declared: "To separate the tabernacle and the altar is to separate two things which should remain united by their origin and their nature. The question of how the tabernacle could be placed on the altar without interfering with celebration facing the people admits of several different solutions. On these the experts will give their opinion."

The Holy Father's remarks were generally understood to mean that he took both the liturgical and pastoral legitimacy of the altar versus populum for granted, that he accepted as certain the possibility of reconciling a worthy tabernacle with such an altar, and was encouraging the specialists (liturgists, artists and architects) to work on the problem and to come up with suitable solutions. The problem has now, however, eight months later, officially been declared insoluble.

"Liturgical Briefs," in Worship, Vol. XXXI, No. 10 (Nov. 1957), 612.

Somehow, I suspect that this solution, which works well for our Eastern brethren, might not hold up so well in the Latin Church...

From the National Liturgical Week (conference) in 1950

In the Mass as celebrated in 1950, as in the EF now, the priest says the entire Our Father, and the servers respond with the last line only. There are no rubrics for the people. The custom now in most places I've been and heard of is for the people to sing the last line only. There is much talk of people singing the whole Pater Noster (as in many places they say the second set of Domine, non sum dignus with him, or try to), and I think this would be a laudable practice, both for its own sake and for the unity it would bring to the two forms of Mass. I encourage discussion in the comments (if any of you are still reading!).
Father Shawn Sheehan (Cambridge, Mass.): I would like to have Father Ellard tell us what are the official directives on the congregational recitation of the Pater noster.

Father Gerald Ellard (St. Mary's, Kansas): To the best of my knowledge that is an open question. By the analogy that the congregation recites at a Low Mass what it sings at High Mass or answers to the priest, the singing of the Our Father or its recitation by the congregation at a Dialogue Mass would seem to be ruled out. However, all things to the contrary not withstanding, there seems to be a custom in Rome that at High Mass the people sing the Our Father. And I saw a detailed description of two Dialogue Masses in Rome under papal control in which the recitation of the Our Father by the entire congregation was provided for. To the best of my knowledge, there is no prohibition of it, nor is there, beyond this example, any encouragement for it. This is as far as my knowledge goes. I know that there is quite a strong feeling that it would be a good prayer for the people to recite along with the celebrant. I know also that priests have the feeling that this would be a lay encroachment on a clerical privilege, and so I suppose the debate will go on until we have further direction.

Discussion after Gerald Ellard, S.J., "A Brief History of the Dialogue Mass,"
in For Pastors and People: National Liturgical Week 1950, Conception, Mo.: The Liturgical Conference, Inc., 1951, p95.

Note: In a 1963 issue of the journal Worship, a negative response is given to an inquiry about the above, but with the editor's expressed desire that such might change.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How little things change in 80 years!

Somewhat more than three hundred years ago, the western world was set agog by the publication of a new astronomical theory. Men who had grown up in the belief that the earth was the center of the universe, were surprised at rumors that there could be a different axis about which all turned. People who felt confident of the stability and immobility of the earth became alarmed at the idea of their drifting through space. It was not easy to make them change their poitn of view. It was difficult to persuade them that the sun was the center, and the earth but one of many planets dependent upon it. The story of Galileo illustrates the hesitations, the controversies and the misunderstandings that had to be gone throught before the truth was accepted. It took time, it took explanation, and it took much conciliatory effort before old ways were adjusted to new ideas. But once the change was made the world was better for having a wider and truer horizon for its knowledge.

For the many millions of souls that have grown up in the faith under the influence of self-centered beleifs and practices, the implications of the liturgical movement come with a similar shock. Accustomed as they have been to have all devotions and spiritual exercises revolve about their own needs and advantages, they find it hard to accept the full significance of the liturgy’s “All for the greater glory of God!” Used to dominating and directing every detail to the end that their prayers and penances bring sensible consolation to them, they find it annoying to have to take part in exercises in which their personality does not seem to stand out sufficiently. It is not that they object to the Mass, but they prefer the benefit they seem to derive from the sermon—just as with priests and sisters there may be no question as to the expediency of saying the office, but they prefer the immediate benefit they seem to derive from the half-hour of meditation. Even the best disposed of us make the mistake of trying to crowd the liturgy into the scheme of private devotion. We become enamored of the art, the music, the ceremonies, the festivals of the liturgy, and proclaim ourselves ardent supporters of the liturgical movement because “we get so much out of it.” Between this subjective attitude and the objective nature of the liturgy there is a difference, a difference that may be noted by contrasting an ego-centric and a theo-centric piety. One of them looks to self, with its fears, its joys, its hopes. The other moves on the eternal axis of: “This is the Will of God, your sanctification.”

-J.L. Connolly, “The Liturgy and Personal Piety,”
in Orate Fratres, Vol. V, No. 10 (Sept. 1931), 453-454.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

from "The Liturgy and Women"

The good Christian woman is as it were a natural sacrament in the world, an external sign of inner grace radiating goodness. She is a power for good in the world to which only the most debased of men will fail to respond, and whose active influence the world never needed more sorely than today. Her true mission she can fulfill, as of old, only by drinking deep at the fountain of the true Christian spirit, the life of the Church. She must become imbued with the spirit of Christ, as were the women of early Christianity. Above all, she must, under the moulding powers of the one true Sacrifice eternal of the Altar, become another Christ, burning with His own zeal to spread His kingdom in the hearts of men.
Virgil Michel, O.S.B., "The Liturgy and Women," in Orate Fratres, Vol. III, No. 9 (July 1929), 274-275.

No, I have not forgotten about this blog. Perhaps an inspirational quote will help to fill the page until my thesis is finished and I have time to return to blogging...
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