Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Many of us are analytical with minds that tend toward critique. While this can be helpful in many of the sciences, it can become sacrileges when it comes to the Mass and its various forms of celebration.

We all have our tastes too. Some people prefer Mass without music and even when the EF Mass was the only Mass, these faithful Catholics preferred the Low Mass over what they thought was the highfaluting Solemn High Mass.

As since the Church has a diverse cache of liturgical music for the Mass, EF or OF, there are bound to be taste issues.

With the advent of the OF Mass, this phenomenon multiplied especially with all the different kinds of languages for the Mass and the cultural tastes of different language groups for liturgical music and hymns.

Now we have Catholics who either love or hate the use of lay readers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and females serving as altar servers, lectors or EMCs.

But of course all these things are allowed in the OF Mass as well as a variety of ways, many more varieties compared to the EF Mass which basically had three styles of Mass, Low, High, and Solemn High. Although if a parish had the resources, it could sing a concert Mass regularly, which even two centuries ago popes condemned the use of concert Masses at during an actual Mass, like Haydon, Schubert and their contemporaries wrote. These Mass settings were set to secular melodies like so much of contemporary music sung at Mass today, sacred words set to secular melodies or genres.

I'm not saying we shouldn't criticize true aberrations or abuses in the liturgy. But there are many things that are codified or allowed for the Mass today that may go against tastes and preferences, such as preferring a low Mass rather than a Mass with Gregorian chant.


Gene said...

Yeah, but just because something is "allowed" does not always mean that it is either desirable or a good idea...

John Nolan said...

Composers from the Renaissance onwards have written both secular and sacred music. Same style, different genre.

If the music for a Mass is performed outside the liturgy (it could be a Haydn Mass, it could be a mass in Gregorian Chant with all the propers, dialogues etc) it is a concert performance. Mozart, Haydn, Hummel etc wrote for the liturgy; in fact in early 19th century Vienna it was forbidden to perform a Mass in a concert hall. The fact that nowadays it is more usual to hear these Masses in a concert rather than a liturgical setting does not make them "concert

By the way, which early nineteenth century pope objected to these settings?

Henry said...

John, I don't believe any early nineteenth century pope objected to "these Mass settings".

It is commonly passed off as received "wisdom" among liturgists of the PT stripe that Pope Pius X prohibited use the classical orchestral Masses. However, I wonder which of them has actually read his instruction on sacred music (Tra le Sollecitudini 1903) and point to one of its 29 numbered paragraphs that actually said that.

Paragraph 6 of TS says "that which appears less suitable for accompanying the functions of public worship is the theatrical style, which was in the greatest vogue, especially in Italy, during the last century."

However, the great orchestral Masses that might be in question were written specifically for the sacred liturgy and not for the popular theater. (Setting Masses to certain types of Broadway musicals might be an analogue today.)The classical orchestral Mass settings are covered by this umbrella only by the kind of deliberate misinterpretation that has been in "great vogue" since Vatican II.

John Nolan said...

Henry, quite so. Pius X objected to those settings which divided up the Gloria and Credo into distinct movements, as in the Bach B Minor Mass or the unfinished C minor Mass of Mozart, but in the greatest Viennese Masses these are through-composed. This is nowhere more evident than in Beethoven's great Mass in D, the choral writing of which clearly shows the influence not just of Palestrina, whose music we know Beethoven studied in preparation for this work, but of earlier masters such as Josquin and Ockeghem.

Pius did not condemn the use of the orchestra as such, although he banned certain instruments, in particular the pianoforte; nor did he object to soloists. His prohibition of mixed choirs was rescinded before Vatican II.

Mozart's Coronation Mass was used in St Peter's on 29 June 1985 (Herbert von Karajan conducting)and on the feast of Pentecost 2009 which was the bicentenary of Haydn's death, that composer's last and arguably greatest Mass, the Harmoniemesse, was used.