Monday, 22 March 2010

Justfying my quote--Part III

As Schola Master and Choir Director for the former Toronto Apostolate of the FSSP, I have been quoted in The current edition of The Catholic Register. A friend from Rome has written asking that I justify and clarify me comments:

“The Extraordinary Form is the fullest form of Catholic worship to God,” wrote David Domet, 53. “It is how the Mass was celebrated in Rome for over 1,500 years: it was only codified… at (the 16th-century Council of) Trent to promote uniformity in the rite. The roots of this (liturgy) are (in) the Temple in Jerusalem… The said or sung propers, the psalms of the Mass, connect us with the roots of our faith… When I sing the Gregorian chant and chant the psalms, it is the closest thing we know to the manner in which our Lord Himself would have heard and sung the psalms.”
Part the Third: Gregorian chant and the chanting of the psalms is the closest thing we know to the manner in which Our LORD Himself would have heard and sung the psalms in the Temple.

It is unknown by most people that in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite or Novus Ordo liturgy, Gregorian chant is the prescribed liturgical music for the Mass. The proof is in two places. First,
"The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as proper to the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services" (Vatican Council II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No.116); second, the issuance of the 1974 The Graduale Romanum for the Novus Ordo and new calendar; essentially a smaller version of the Liber Usualis, which is ordered for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and last published in 1961. In this Graduale as in the Liber are the five Gregorian Proper for the Mass even if it is said in English. They are in Gregorian chant melismas and are the Introit, Graduale, Alleluia or Tract, Offertory and Communion and the appropriate Sequences and other Psalms and the Ordinary the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus.

Clearly, the Church intends Gregorian chant to be sung in both forms of the Roman Rite and the Second Vatican Council and all popes since have reaffirmed this.

But why and where did this music come from?

If we read the Psalms, we often see in Holy David's own words..."To the choirmaster... ." Clearly, we know from this and Jewish liturgical history as well that the Psalms were meant to be sung. they were songs of praise or repentance or of prayer and supplication and they were chanted to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When as an infant, Mary of Nazareth was offered to God in the Temple by Anna and Joachim, they would have heard the psalms being sung. When Our Blessed Mother returned to present her own child with Joseph her husband and as she heard the words of Simeon and the Prophetess Hannah, the daughter of Phanuel, they would have heard singing. When at twelve, Jesus was teaching in the Temple, the psalms were sung. And when he was at the Temple in the last week of His life before the Crucifixion and Resurrection, he heard and sang the psalms Himself as He would have done at the synagogue in Capernaum.

But what did this singing sound like?
Those Jews which accepted Jesus as Messiah practiced their Judaic faith with the LORD's Prayer and Supper and this developed before the end of the first century to the Divine Liturgy. These early Christians sang and what they sang were the psalms they knew from the Temple. It is recorded that a vision was held by St. Ignatius of Antioch of Angels singing to the Holy Trinity in alternating hymns or antiphons from the Greek for opposite voices. St. Ambrose of Milan later formalised this method of singing and developed the first four authentic tones. The chants for the Mass was codified or organised by Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century, he died in 604. Originally, the texts were chanted by memory, literally passed on orally. By the tenth century a system of writing down the chants and the music was developed and standards and uniformity became more commonplace, though to be sure, different styles were present with the different rites--Ambrosian chant for example.

It was Guido of Arezzo in 930 who developed St. Ambrose's work into a seven-note scale which eventually grew to eight. This scale of Do Re Mi, etc. named from the first letters of of the words to a hymn to St. John the Baptist, Ut Queant Laxis and where the notes fell on the system of lines and neumes developed by Arezzo. This is where our whole western music originates.
The only accidental (black key) was the B flat assuming it is sung in its written pitch of a C clef which we would now call, C Major. For a more theoretical understanding, one may visit Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum.

In the east the Byzantine chant is the equivalent. Using more accidentals, sharps and flats; more in-between notes and it has a distinctly different sound and both Gregorian chant and Byzantine chant share similar characteristics in that they are both made up of eight tones which are derived from the first four. Old Roman Chant which pre-dates Gregorian which became more suited to western ears is closer to Byzantine. If one listens today to the sounds of Byzantine or Old Roman Chant from which our Gregorian Chant derives one can hear the same sounds as that sung in the Orthodox Jewish liturgy.

Let me quote here from Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. from The Mass of Vatican II online at Ignatius Insight:
"Now, just a little footnote on the Gregorian Chant. In reflecting on these things about Church music, I began to think about the Psalms a few years back. And a very obvious idea suddenly struck me. Why it didn't come earlier I don't know, but the fact is that the Psalms are songs. Every one of the 150 Psalms is meant to be sung; and was sung by the Jews. When this thought came to me, I immediately called a friend, a rabbi in San Francisco who runs the Hebrew School, and I asked, "Do you sing the Psalms at your synagogue?" "Well, no, we recite them," he said. "Do you know what they sounded like when they were sung in the Old Testament times and the time of Jesus and the Apostles?" I asked. He said, "No, but why don't you call this company in Upstate New York. They publish Hebrew music, and they may know." So, I called the company and they said, "We don't know; call 1-800-JUDAISM." So I did. And I got an information center for Jewish traditions, and they didn't know either. But they said, "You call this music teacher in Manhattan. He will know." So, I called this wonderful rabbi in Manhattan and we had a long conversation. At the end, I said, "I want to bring some focus to this, can you give me any idea what it sounded like when Jesus and his Apostles sang the Psalms?" He said, "Of course, Father. It sounded like Gregorian Chant. You got it from us."

After speaking to Professor William Mahrt, Professor of Music at Stanford University, Father Fessio questioned Professor Mart on the information he received from the Manhattan Rabbi. Professor Mahrt confirmed that "Yes. The Psalm tones have their roots in ancient Jewish hymnody and psalmody." Father Fessio concluded that "if you sing the Psalms at Mass with the Gregorian tones, you are as close as you can get to praying with Jesus and Mary. They sang the Psalms in tones that have come down to us today in Gregorian Chant."

To say that our LORD sang Gregorian Chant would be silly. To say that Gregorian Chant is the closest thing we know to what He heard and sang in the Temple is obvious.


An Analysis of Sacrosanctam Concilium; Joseph Jaskierny, Kendrick School of Theology

Gregorian Chant: Back to Basics in the Roman Rite by John C. Piunno The American Organist Magazine June 2005 (

The Real Catholic Songbook by Jeffrey Tucker: Catholicity

No comments: