Saturday, 16 July 2011

Two Liturgical Reads

From The Heresy of Formlessness...

"I am firmly convinced... that vernacular hymns have played perhaps a significant part in the collapse of the liturgy. Just consider what resulted in the flowering of hymns: Luther's Reformation was a singing movement,and the hymn expressed the beliefs of the Reformers. Vernacular hymns replaced the liturgy, as they were designed to do; they were filled with the combative spirit of those dismal times and were meant to fortify the partisans. People singing a catchy melody together at the top of their voices created a sense of community, as all soldiers, clubs, and politicians know. The Catholic Counter-Reformation felt the demagogic power of these hymns. People so enjoyed singing; it was so easy to influence their emotions using pleasing tunes with verse repetition. In the liturgy of the Mass, however, there was no place for hymns. The liturgy has no gaps; it is one single great canticle; where it prescribes silence or the whisper, that is, where the mystery is covered with an acoustic veil,as it were, any hymn would be out of the question. The hymn has a beginning and an end; it is embedded in speech. But the leiturgos of Holy Mass does not actually speak at all; his speaking is a singing, because he has put on the "new man", because, in the sacred space of the liturgy, he is a companion of angels. In the liturgy, singing is an elevation and transfiguration of speech, and, as such, it is a sign of the transfiguration of the body that awaits those who are risen. The hymn's numerical aesthetics-- hymn 1, hymn 2, hymn 3-- is totally alien and irreconcilable in the world if the liturgy. In services that are governed by vernacular hymns, the believer is constantly being transported into new aesthetic worlds. He changes from one style to another and has to deal with highly subjective poetry of the most varied levels. He is moved and stirred-- but not by the thing itself, liturgy: he is moved and stirred by the expressed sentiments of the commentary upon it. By contrast, the bond that Gregorian chant weaves between the liturgical action and song is so close that it is impossible to separate form and content. The processional chants that accompany liturgical processions (the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion), the responsories of the Ordinary of the Mass that interweave the prayers of the priest and The laity, and the reciting tone of the readings and orations-- all these create a ladder of liturgical expression on which the movements, actions, and the content of the prayers are brought into a perfect harmony. This language is unique to the Catholic liturgy and expresses it's inner nature, for this liturgy is not primarily worship, meditation, contemplation, instruction, but positive action. It's formulae effect a deed. The liturgy's complete, closed form has the purpose of making present the personal and bodily action of Jesus Christ. The prayers it contains are a preparation for sacrifice, not explanations for the benefit of the congregation; nor are they a kind of "warming up" of the latter. In Protestantism, vernacular hymns came in as a result of the abolition of the Sacrifice of the Mass; they were ideally suited to be a continuation of the sermon. Through singing, the assembled community found its way back from the doubting loneliness of the workday to the collective security of Sunday-- a security, be it noted, that arose from the mutual exhortation to remain firm in faith, not from witnessing the objective, divine act of sacrifice."

[Mosebach, Martin. The Heresy of Formlessness. Trans. by G. Harrison. Ignatius, 2006. (p.40-42)]

And this incredible free on line book by Francis Koerber with live hyperlinks.

What Should We Be Singing Now?

Now, how do we get this to happen in our parishes?

What do you think you could or should do to facilitate what the Church really desires in liturgical worship?


Young Canadian RC Male said...

How about first of all, get the liberal priests and associated clergy/administration kicked out of their parishes, then get them replaced by good priests and admins. Same goes for Catholic School administration (well what we have left of a Catholic School System). To accomplish this, I say teach the remaning people in parishes who are more traditionally minded to "go nuclear" and not fund those liberal parishes until Gregorian Chant and altar rails are restored. Protest with our wallets. Oh and donate to good parishes with gregorian Chant and TLMs, and Una Voce of course. The balance will speak for itself, and before you know it the bishops will have to put the good priests in those parishes else face closure and a possible loss of the faithful not to mention Catholic media attention.

I know this sounds harsh, but liberals are hypocrites in that they allow freedom as long as you tow to their line of thinking. You gotta hit them hard and show their true nature to the public. Asking nicely won't change people's minds to allow resotration of the traditional Catholic faith.

Freyr said...

Getting even with your abuser may well be very emotionally satisfying but it is not likely to produce any lasting change. Moreover these tactics are already being used against traditional Catholics. No, real change requires different tactics.

As for the hymns, the cranky cantor is probably right. I know the music in my own parish is not even up to my admittedly low standard. I just wish there was something that could be done about it that doesn't involve getting into a knock down fight with our choir director. Protesting with my wallet is a silly notion because they already know they aren't getting much from me.

Vox Cantoris said...

Cranky...who me?

YCRCM...where will we find the replacement priests?

1. The Church needs more priests, how about you are some of your contemporaries? Whom are you encouraging or praying for to become a Priest of God?

2. Freyr is correct, using "their" tactics is not going to get us far.

At the Church where I sing on Saturday at 5 there are four Masses for Sunday. Sunday at first is a parishioner, ballad kind of church music, with a guitar, he's been there for 30 years, next is a children's choir and the third is a contemporary type. On Saturday is myself and an organist. We provide a good sung English Mass, Somerville, Togni, Proulx and the Psalm from CBWII, all Propers in English from the Simple English Propers and they still get their four hymns.

This is not ideal but it is a start...I would like to eliminate the Offertory Hymn soon and just go with the Proper and some organ music.

I have done this in just over two years. First, they had to get used to me and that there was no more Glory and Praise, straight CBWII, then I slowly added the Communion Antiphon...

It can be done but we need practical methods and people need to be educated.

It starts with the Pastor...make an appointment to see him, talk to him...remember, few of them were liturgically formed and the reality is that they'll get little support from the bishop if they upset people.

Truly though, it needs to come from the Chancery and the standard needs to be raised.

Young Canadian RC Male said...

Vox, thanks for the reply and letting me air out a bit of frustration.

On point 1: Well, I would say the priesthood is a longshot for me, and I don't want to do it for 2 reasons: 1) juvenile as it is, I was given the "most likely to be a priest" title in my Gr. 8 yearbook. I'm not stupid and know it was more of a joking insult, but it still hurts me to this day. 2) Losing my right to marry in the Latin Rite. Being loved means so much to me, and I've had such experiences with women that my personal wounds are quite big. And I cannot just walk into another seminary like a Ukranian Catholic Byzantine rite just so I can keep that right (they'd see in 5 seconds I'd be unsuitable to the priesthood in that way). You are right on asking me to pray for vocations. I haven't been praying that in a while, and I have just the thing at home: A yellow double-sided wallet size card with prayers from Serra Club International.

Point 2. Thing is, polite discourse doesn't always work. However, I can see that you mean brute force isn't going to get positively viewed results (though my inner emotions and thoughts seem to think outherwise ...)

You know Vox, the way you did it seems to be the best route to take ... as long as the pastor and the music ministry are reasonable. Unfortunately if they are of liberal mindset and a little pompous it will make things more challenging. Regardless, I think in essence you answered your own question in your reply to me. I personally think the way you did it is more feasable. "Brick by Brick" or slowly and gradually.

By the way, on a lighter note: "Cranky...who me?" is quite the funny saying. That should be plastered on a T shirt with a caricature of maybe yourself or some other elderly person or a traditional loving young Catholic (or even a whole bunch of people,) with perhaps a saying to follow up the phrase, dealing with TLMs/scholas/cantoring. I think I have just discovered a new business venture to make money for Una Voce Toronto or your personal needs in a humourous and fun way :).

Anonymous said...

His comments are a more complex way of saying what my nine year-old stated last week. "Dad, why do we sing "Gather Us Together" when we have songs like "Panis Angelicus"?

Vox Cantoris said...

Out of the mouth of babes!

Gabby said...

The best way to change things is to change what's done in the seminaries. I've noticed that some priests keep doing what they experienced before they were ordained: unfortunately our pastor experienced Carey Landry and liked it. The suggestion that there is something wrong with that music is not well received, "Are you trying to say that what we sang in the seminary was wrong???" "Hmmm, yes."