Thursday, May 24, 2012

LET'S TALK VATICAN II, MY FAVORITE HOMILY TOPIC

This needs to be recovered and Vatican II may well see to it that it is:
And this needs to be recovered too and Vatican II seems to be assisting in this too ((This is a requiem for contemporary liturgy and music):













And this needs to be recovered too and Vatican II may well see to it that it is:













It looks like the Vatican wants to take Gregorian Chant seriously because, well, let me clear my throat, Vatican II does. And, by the way, didn't Vatican II take Latin seriously too (I think Gregorian Chant and Latin are complimentary spouses according to natural law). Wasn't it by way of exception that Vatican II merely suggested that some vernacular should be allowed in the liturgy, such as the Scriptures being read in the vernacular. But we shouldn't fuss about small details when in fact the "spirit" of Vatican II not only discarded Latin and his spouse or her spouse, not sure of the gender of either, Gregorian Chant in favor of an entirely vernacular Mass with pop music and Protestant anthems as its basis.

At another popular blog, PrayTell, someone opined why it wasn't renamed "What does Fr. Allan really say" or something like that since another person who comments on that blog always brought my blog to bear, with links galore, to his comments thus setting off a firestorm of insults which to my thick Italian skin was like olive oil. At any rate, I digress. Fr. Z on his blog (which has a similar name as the new one suggested for PrayTell)was discussing the Vatican's soon to be new initiative, which even there, seems to be controversial, but what else is new, we are talking about Italy, to bring back Gregorian Chant to parishes.(The way I pray the new translation is the way I now write, law of prayer, law of writing thing).

This is what Fr. Z says about the proper translation of Sacrosanctum Concilium concerning Gregorian Chant:

...The Council said that Gregorian chant was the characteristic music of the Roman liturgy. That fact has been entirely ignored. Also, the very purpose of liturgical music has been obscured. It is not simply ornamentation or accompaniment. Sacred music for liturgy is prayer, it is liturgy. Therefore, the idiom of the music must be appropriate for liturgical action and the texts must be liturgical texts and sacred texts. This has been widely ignored for a long time, with the result that there is great confusion and shoddy music everywhere.

Sacrosanctum Concilium 116: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as characteristically belonging to the Roman liturgy, with the result that, therefore, other things being equal, in liturgical actions it (Gregorian chant) takes possession of the first place."

If you aren’t praying with Gregorian chant, 50 years after the Council, then you are 50 years out of step with the Council mandated in the strongest terms.

The Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium go on to talk about the use of other kinds of music and they provide a welcome flexibility. But none of those other provisions eliminates or supersede or mitigate what SC 116 says. In other words, we shouldn’t justify the use of Gregorian chant. The Church has done that for us. We have to justify the use of something other than Gregorian chant.

It is time to start asking what we are going to do about that. The upcoming Year of Faith seems like an auspicious moment to take stock of this and do something about it. Gregorian chant will foster greater continuity with how Catholic have worshiped over the centuries, it will bring us into harmony with a serious mandate of the Council Fathers, and it will bring a greater sense of the transcendent to our liturgical worship. The way we pray has a reciprocal relationship with what we believe. Gregorian chant is liturgy, not decoration. Using Gregorian chant will do something to our Catholic identity. This is an appropriate goal for the upcoming Year of Faith."


My final comments: I have been a priest for 32 years. And I have to tell you that I did not really know what Vatican II actually taught about the liturgy because of the way I saw, experienced and heard the Liturgy of the Church since about 1966. The antithesis of what the Council actually taught about the liturgy was taught to me in the seminary by word and example. Latin was out, new forms of music was in and Gregorian Chant was to be discarded as a relic of the Latin Rite's past.

The first time I actually heard that Sacred Words in the Liturgy should not be set to popular music was told to me around the time of the turn of the new century by the High Anglican music director I hired for the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta, Dr. Janet Hunt, FAGO who is now the music director for Saint John Seminary in Boston, Mass (and now a Roman to boot). She had/has a love for Gregorian Chant and chant of all kinds, especially Anglican Chant. In fact she would set our Responsorial Psalm for Sunday's Choir Mass to Anglican Chant all the while telling me that Gregorian Chant was proper for us Romans! But I said, I like Anglican Chant better and she said, well yes, it is more like Polyphony, so I guess we can continue to use it and other Anglican anthems at Mass. I thought these were quite complimentary and far superior to the contemporary music almost every other parish in my diocese and around the country uses.

But we Latin Rite Catholics have our superior style too. But will the people like Gregorian Chant? Isn't that what it all boils down to these days, what people like and want? We treat our Catholic laity like customers at Walmart and want to give them what they want and cheaply too even if it destroys the Catholic identity of the Latin Rite Liturgy!

And so Pater Ignotus in his comments thinks highly of Gregorian Chant but also thinks with the majority of priests and bishops in this country that it is entirely okay to forgo what is proper to our Liturgy for other forms of music and he is correct in one way, that this is allowed by way of expansion but not to the exclusion of what is proper for the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church which is Gregorian Chant and this is explicitly, not implicitly taught by way of some obtuse spirit, in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

And so Charles Culbreth nails it when he responds: "I am the last person who would dispute your claim that other forms and styles of musical composition are finely suited to setting psalm and other texts, but that was not implicit in your question to me, so it is very disingenuous to divert attention away from my response to you with references to the Shaker hymn tradition or others (implied) as evidence to sway opinion away from the question of a nativistic and historically proven (and unequalled) sacral/musical language that is generically AND specifically known as Gregorian Chant. (Southern Orders' humble comment here, PI is notorious for diversionary tactics here!)
Nobody asked me to compare musical traditions. I was asked and I answered why I believe Gregorian Chant is supremely suitable to the Roman Rites of the Catholic Church."

7 comments:

rcg said...

It is possible that other forms of music are appropriate personal devotions and wonderful for singing after Mass in the Parish Hall shindig. But would it be appropriate for someone to interject his intentions spontaneously into the prayers of the faithful? I have experienced such in a Mass and it had a very Pentecostal feel to it. The Mass IS a prayer, not a collection of prayers or live show of prayers and Gospel tunes to be ad-libbed at will.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Improvisation is always self-indulgence, it is always about "me." It is fine for jazz and rock n roll...

William Meyer said...

Is there a good translation available of the documents of Vatican II? I have heard negative comments about the Flannery translation, which I have, and I know from my own explorations that the copies on the Vatican site are questionable, both from what appear to be uncorrected OCR errors, and also from translations of 1970 ICEL quality.

My limitations in Latin are severe, and unlikely to be remedied any time soon....

Henry said...

Here's my summary of the previous lengthy thread. Sacred music is not about what people like; personal preferences differ. It's not about what's good music--most good music is not sacred, and sacred music may be either good or bad. It's not about what's pious or faithful; most pious music, however fine, is not liturgical. It's not about what transports everyone to heaven, because it may or may not.

Gregorian chant is not the preferred sacred music of the Roman rite because it's the most beautiful; other music, and even other forms of chant, may be more beautiful. But Gregorian chant is nevertheless is officially the preferred sacred music of our rite, as per Sacrosanctum Consillium 116 in slavishly literal translation--incorporating Father Z's explanation of the juridical meaning of that ceteris paribus ("other things being equal"):

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as characteristically belonging to the Roman liturgy, with the result that, therefore, except in special circumstances, in liturgical actions it (Gregorian chant) takes possession of the first place.

So, to straighten all this out, all we've got to do is to implement Vatican II.

ytc said...

Father, you really have to just ignore Bill DeHaas...

I can't wait until this new CDWDS office actually comes out with some substantive documents on music and architecture. Fishwrap will have a hissy fit.

William Meyer said...

I did suggest to Fr. Z that he had nominated himself to produce a slavishly literal translation of at least the Constitutions published by the Council. ;)

I have read Michael Davies' commentary on the time bombs in the documents; I think that, had we a reliable translation, we might find they are less ambiguous than so far supposed.

f67d3cc2-a81a-11e1-a2bf-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Technically, that would be a Sermon, not a Homily....