Friday, 15 February 2013

The Ash Wednesday Liturgy, Propers, Rubrics and Obligations

Two days ago, we began our long Lent, made longer this year no doubt because of the renouncement by our beloved Holy Father of the See of Peter. We owe much to this man who walks in the Shoes of the Fisherman and one is a new awareness of the Church's liturgy both through Summorum Pontificum and the beginnings of what he called in The Spirit of the Liturgy, the reform of the reform.  We have, by the grace of his predecessor Blessed John Paul II and his own work, a new Missal. 

On Ash Wednesday evening, I was once again privileged to be able to sing the Holy Mass at the parish where I serve as Cantor each Saturday at the Anticipated Sunday Mass in northwest Toronto. The Mass there is well celebrated in the Ordinary Form.

Let us take a little look of the liturgical music which we put together for that Mass.

Lenten Prose: ATTENDE DOMINE (please join in singing the refrain in Latin, verses in English)
Entrance Antiphon: You are merciful - Cantor
Processional Hymn: O MERCIFUL REDEEMER, CBW #484

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Blessing and Distribution of Ashes
Antiphons I: Let us changeAntiphon II: Let the priestsAntiphon III: Blot outResponsory: Let us correct (Emendemus)Another chant: TAKE UP YOUR CROSS (if necessary)
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Offertory Antiphon: Let us exult - Cantor
Offertory Hymn: PARCE DOMINE (please join in sing refrain in Latin and verses in English)
SANCTUS Mass XVIII: Roman Missal Chant
AGNUS DEI Mass XVIII: Roman Missal Chant
Communion Antiphon: He who meditates - Cantor

Note in the Mass that the proper liturgical chants; the Entrance and Offertory Antiphons and the Communion Antiphon with its Psalm were sung. At the same time, the congregation had a Processional Hymn, an Offertory Hymn, a Communion Hymn and one at the Recessional. They sang the Sanctus, Agnus and Memorial Acclamation according to the Roman Missal Chants. This is acutoso participatio or actual/active participation. Listening is also, "participation." What else is noted? The Antiphons and Responsory for Ash Wednesday were chanted by the Cantor and then, as there were so many people and more on that at the end, there was another appropriate "chant" or hymn and this involved the singing with the congregation of Take Up Your Cross.

Now, let us take a look at what is below. What follows is taken directly from the page 20 of Antiphonary - Excerpted from the Roman Missal - English Translation of the Third Roman Missal, which we have been blest to have been using thanks to our current and previous Holy Fathers since the Advent of 2011.
Blessing and Distribution of Ashes 

While the Priest places ashes on the head of all those present who come to him, the following are sung:

Antiphon 1:  Let us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes, let us fast and weep before the Lord, that our God, rich in mercy, might forgive us our sins.

Antiphon 2 Cf. Jl 2: 17; Est 4: 17:  Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, stand between the porch and the altar and weep and cry out: Spare, O Lord, spare your people; do not close the mouths of those who sing your praise, O Lord.

Antiphon 3 Ps 50: 3:  Blot out my transgressions, O Lord.

This may be repeated after each verse of Psalm 50 (Have mercy on me, O God).

Responsory Cf. Bar 3: 2; Ps 78: 9:  R. Let us correct our faults which we have committed in ignorance, let us not be taken unawares by the day of our death, looking in vain for leisure to repent. * Hear us, O Lord, and show us your mercy, for we have sinned against you. V. Help us, O God our Savior; for the sake of your name, O Lord, set us free. * Hear us, O Lord . . .

Another appropriate chant may also be sung.

What do we notice between the two? The red in what was done corresponds directly to the red in the Missal, commonly referred to as "the rubrics." What else do we notice?  "While the Priest places ashes on the head of all those present who come to him, the following are sung:" In other words, this is not an option. There is no "or other suitable song" substituted. Note as well at the end it adds,  "Another appropriate chant may also be sung". As in the case above, we added a hymn, Take Up Your Cross as permitted. By this time, most people were back in the pew and it nicely covered the final imposition of ashes and the washing after the distribution.

This is what the Church expects for Her liturgy. This is what she expected on Wednesday. Now it refers specifically to this being "sung" it is not intended to be read; therefore if the Mass was read, then these would not normally be said, though there would be nothing preventing them being recited by a Lector but the norm for Mass in the Ordinary Form is that it be sung - solemn just as the norm in the Extraordinary Form is that it be Solemn. It is not being a rubrical stickler or liturgical cop to ask these questions. In fact, let us look further now at this direct quotation in the original Italian and atranslation with my bolding from the bulletin,  Notitiae 5 (1969) 406 published by the Concilium set up to implement Sacrosanctam Concilium:

Da più parti è stato chiesto se è ancora valida la formula della Istruzione sulla Musica sacra e la Sacra Liturgia, del 3 sett. 1958, al n. 33: “In Missis lectis cantus populares religiosi a fidelibus cantari possunt, servata tamen hac lege ut singulis Missae partibus plane congruant.”La formula è superata.È la Messa, Ordinario e Proprio, che si deve cantare, e non “qualcosa,” anche se plane congruit, che si sovrappone alla Messa. Perché l’azione è unica, ha un solo volto, un solo accento, una sola voce: la voce della Chiesa. Continuare a cantare mottetti, sia pure devoti e pii (come il Lauda Sion all’offertorio nella festa di un santo), ma estranei alla Messa, in luogo dei testi della Messa che si celebra, significa continuare un’ambiguita inammissibile: dare crusca invece di buon frumento, vinello annacquato invece di vine generoso.Perché non solo la melodia ci interessa nel canto liturgico, ma le parole, il testo, il pensiero, i sentimenti rivestiti di poesia e di melodia. Ora, questi testi devono essere quelli della Messa, non altri. Cantare la Messa, dunque, e non solo cantare durante la Messa. Documents on the Liturgy 1963–1975: Conciliar, Papal, and Curial Texts (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1982), edited and translated by Thomas C. O’Brien of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, 4154 (p. 1299):
Query: Many have inquired whether the rule still applies that appears in the Instruction on sacred music and the liturgy, 3 Sept. 1958, no. 33: “In low Masses religious songs of the people may be sung by the congregation, without prejudice, however, to the principle that they be entirely consistent with the particular parts of the Mass.”  Reply: That rule has been superseded. What must be sung is the Mass, its Ordinary and Proper, not “something,” no matter how consistent, that is imposed on the Mass. Because the liturgical service is one, it has only one countenance, one motif, one voice, the voice of the Church. To continue to replace the texts of the Mass being celebrated with motets that are reverent and devout, yet out of keeping with the Mass of the day (for example, the Lauda Sion on a saint’s feast) amounts to continuing an unacceptable ambiguity: it is to cheat the people. Liturgical song involves not mere melody, but words, text, thought, and the sentiments that the poetry and music contain. Thus texts must be those of the Mass, not others, and singing means singing the Mass not just singing at Mass. 

Whether we be priest or layman, bishop or liturgist, the question we need to ask ourselves, if the Mass we attended on Ash Wednesday last, if sung, was in accord with the rubrics of the Missal and if not, why not?" 
At you parish, did the heretical song "Ashes" make its way into the Mass you attended? George Weigel, catholic theologian, commentator and author wrote with my emphasis:
Thus, with tongue only half in cheek, I propose the Index Canticorum Prohibitorum, the "Index of Forbidden Hymns." Herewith, some examples.The first hymns to go should be hymns that teach heresy. If hymns are more than liturgical filler, hymns that teach ideas contrary to Christian truth have no business in the liturgy. "Ashes" is the prime example here: "We rise again from ashes to create ourselves anew." No, we don't. Christ creates us anew. (Unless Augustine was wrong and Pelagius right). ... What's a text that flatly contradicts that teaching doing in hymnals published with official approval?
So, what are we to do? As priests, liturgists, church musicians, the answer is clear. As laity the answer is obvious too. It is our duty to be educated. If the bishops' conferences fail in this, if the chanceries fail in this, we must take it up ourselves. We don't have excuses anymore. We have the Missal, the resources widely available on the Internet, much of it free. 
Let this be our gift of thanksgiving to God, our “Te Deum” for Pope Benedict XVI for all that he has done for us and to whom we owe so much. Let us remember this Lent, our Holy Father and Christ's Holy Church. Let us pray, not for the Pope we deserve, but for the Pope we need.

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As a postscript  I've sung the Ash Wednesday Mass at the Toronto parish for, I think, four years now. I am always impressed at the numbers of Catholics which attend. This year, they were even standing at the back, there were so many. Men were in great number as well which is always important to see and this was the parish's third Mass and it is not by any means a large suburban parish with thousands of registered parishioners  It was a cold February night, snow on the ground, damp and miserable as Toronto winters are, yet people came. Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation in Canada, not anywhere I expect. Yet, people come. Why? What is it that will bring us out on a weeknight in the middle of a Canadian winter?  It begs the question. What of the Holy Days of Obligation? In Canada, there are two, Christmas and the Octave Day of Christmas-Mary, Mother of God, that's it. When the Vatican allowed the local determination in 1969, we Canadians went for the lowest common denominator. How sad. Perhaps the people have a greater Catholic heart than the bishops think, even though they've known no different. Perhaps there is something that is awakening that desires us to live the liturgical life, the liturgical year. Could we at least see a return to Epiphany and Ascension of the LORD, if not to Holy Days of Obligation then at least to their proper celebration on January 6 and the Thursday, forty days past the Sunday of the Resurrection?  

How do we know the people won't come?

They came on Wednesday.

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