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Looking at the situation, Joseph Ratzinger is right. By now it's two generations of Catholics who sing new songs off copied sheets whose linguistic banality and musical vulgarity have reached the level of simplistic elevator music. So-called family Masses have replaced the Gospel reading with fairy tales from Ireland. Whoever resists these forms of self-secularization of the Church, is viewed as reactionary and 'pre-conciliar', even if he just insists that neither the liturgy of the Church should not be a training ground for clerical do-it-yourself men nor the sanctuary a stage on which unsettled priests, self-aggrandizing laypeople and 'equal-rights'-clamoring women fight their battles.
Does this basic problem of the new liturgy consist only in an execution problem which could be solved through "liturgical education" or long documents such as "Sacramentum Caritatis" ? Can the break with tradition be healed by today's rescinding of the "prohibition" of the old Roman Rite by the Pope? [READ MORE]
Between Fr. Z, Rorate-Caeli and The New Liturgical Movement, you can find your fill of news and commentary on this topic. They have been blogging in anticipation of this day for a looooooong time, and -- to quote Shawn Tribe -- can rightly say "Rejoice!":
You have witnessed a moment of history today. Rejoice, celebrate and soak it in. Lest anyone worry about it being anti-climactic from here, worry not. Once the celebrations are complete, be prepared, we have much work to do. We have scholas to build, priests to help get training and resources to, and much more. But do celebrate for awhile yet and enjoy the moment!
Certainly, even before the Pope’s motu proprio, many young people had developed a sense of alarm about liturgical reform. Faced with what the Pope has called ‘arbitrary deformations of the liturgy’ in the years since Vatican II, young people have looked at the Catholic liturgical past and sometimes regretted the way our liturgical present fails to match up.
We are, after all, the generation who grew up with the Clown Mass, too many emcee-style priests and homoactivist protesters inside the cathedral.
That the 1970 Missal proved to be vulnerable in the hands of such people has been a cause of great concern but not a reason to doubt the Council itself. Rather, it spoke to a necessary ‘reform of the reform’, an ongoing process of education and discipline, but not a reactionary break.
By liberalising the use of the 1962 Missal, the object is not then the scrapping of the ‘new’ Mass, rather a perfecting of the Roman Rite as a whole and a way of more perfectly implementing the teachings of Vatican II on the liturgy, in their entirety.
Many of us have long awaited and prayed for this day. Let us remember the Holy Father in our prayers. Let us also pray for the impossible, for a warm and welcoming reception of the Holy Father's Motu Proprio.
Let us also pray for joy -- joy on this occasion, as well as joy in the good will and wisdom of the Holy Father in leading the Church to this pass. Finally, whatever its reception, let us pray that the Motu Proprio may, in due course, powerfully help to facilitate a renewal of liturgical faith throughout the Church and a renewed desire to worship God in the spirit of truth, which is the root of all liturgical renewal.
"Yesterday afternoon in the Vatican, a meeting was held under the presidency of the Cardinal Secretary of State in which the content and spirit of the Holy Father's forthcoming 'Motu Proprio' on the use of the Missal promulgated by John XXIII in 1962 was explained to representatives from various episcopal conferences. The Holy Father also arrived to greet those present, spending nearly an hour in deep conversation with them.
"The publication of the document - which will be accompanied by an extensive personal letter from the Holy Father to individual bishops - is expected within a few days, once the document itself has been sent to all the bishops with an indication of when it will come into effect."
OP/MOTU PROPRIO/...VIS 070628 (180)
"Draft Five, Brief One"Whispers in the Loggia 6/29/07: "Word's been creeping out over The Document... so, as promised, here's a review of (credible) things as they stand."
It seems that Benedict, like many thoughtful believers, is concerned about the fact that the conciliar reform of the liturgy in the 1960s has in some way apparently failed to achieve its chief goal, which was to bring about an even greater reverence for the Eucharist, an even greater participation by the faithful in the mystery of Christ, an even deeper sacramental life within the Church. (That is what the conciliar fathers hoped to accomplish by approving a liturgical reform.)
And if there are in the "old Mass," as many argue, qualities too hastily discarded in the 1960s -- a sense of tradition which made it a bit easier for some to turn their minds toward the eternal, a sense of solemnity which helped some to turn their hearts toward God -- and if that loss can, even if only in part, be made good, if it can be remedied, by a motu proprio allowing the "old Mass" to be celebrated more widely, then it is a work of great import for the Pope to carry out.
If the "old Mass" is merely a "cultural" matter, the fad of a small elite, it will not flourish in any case, and the motu proprio will be a dead letter. But if it is a matter of renewing the Church, and if the dignity and holiness of the old rite strikes the faithful in such a way as to re-kindle in them a sense of that devotion which prepares them to encounter Christ, then allowing the old Mass to be celebrated more widely will be an act worth preparing for with much toil and care.
As a point of note, we are entering into a period where the Devil will certainly be trying to sow discord rather than see greater unity and progress accomplished. One can sense it even here in the comments of the past day. Anything that is of great good can be attacked, and the angles of attack are from all sides -- meaning we too can be unwitting contributors to such. Brother may even attack brother. We need to resist this steadfastly more than ever.
The liturgical issue is front and centre. There has been much battle done, and emotions can run high. Indeed, recall Fr. Zuhlsdorf's now famed "rules of engagement" as well. Be joyful. Celebrate! Let that shine through so that the excitement might become contagious. But while we do that, guard also against pettiness, mischaracterizations, accusations, polemics and needless absolutizations when disagreements are raised.
Let's keep our wits about us and wear fraternal charity on our sleeve.
William Bentley Ball wrote an essay in Homiletic & Pastoral Review titled "Him, not hymn", questioning the necessity of requiring the congregation to sing during reception of communion:
. . . there is another aspect of reception [of communion]: listening. We do need silence for that - silence not only from enforced singing but silence for our own yapping minds even though they try to be engaged in prayer. John Paul II recently stressed this very point. The hymn-singing obviously blocks the profounder reception of hearing what Christ may have to say to us. "Sorry, dear Jesus -- no chance to hear you. I’m told to spend these critically precious moments telling you, doing all the talking -- not hearing you." [. . .]
Either we are faced, at the Mass, with the reality of the actual Person of Christ coming to us in Communion, or we are faced with a gathering, an assembly, a prayer meeting. Now, the General Instruction does tell us that singing during reception is "an act of community." . . . Group-singing may help [restore a sense of community], but when it preempts prayer or obliterates reception, it attacks the essence of the Eucharist -- the Real Presence. To be a community heedless of that, simply in order to be in some sense, a "community" is not only pointless but destructive of the Faith.
I read this some time ago and agreed with it then, and recent experiences at Mass prompt me to once more appreciate William's proposal.
This is especially the case where, as I witnessed, many members are not singing at all (perhaps because they can't follow along with the contemporary melody), and a good portion of the congregation seems inclined to kneel directly following communion and make an attempt to pray.
If there is a single part of the service that might benefit from the institution of silence, a brief time for quiet reflection and prayer, or at least musical accompaniment without words, this seems to be the case.
What do other parishioners feel about this? Pastors? Musical directors?
Paragraph 114 adds: “The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care.” Then in paragraph 116 we find another shocker: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” That’s what the Council actually said. If you are in a parish which prides itself on living the spirit of Vatican II, then you should be singing Gregorian chant at your parish. And if you’re not singing the Gregorian Chant, you’re not following the specific mandate of the Second Vatican Council.
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.”
I was amazed. I called Professor William Mart, a Professor of Music at Stanford University and a friend. I said, “Bill, is this true?” He said, “Yes. The Psalm tones have their roots in ancient Jewish hymnody and psalmody.” So, you know something? 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.
"The Mass of Vatican II", by Fr. Joseph Fessio. Catholic Dossier 5 no. 5 (September/October 2000): 12-20.