Chant: April 2008 Archives

Aures habent et non audient

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What is Useless

"A Church which only makes use of 'utility music' has fallen for what is, in fact, useless. She too becomes ineffectual. For her mission is a far higher one. As the Old Testament speaks of the Temple, the Church is to be the place of 'glory', and as such, too, the place where mankind's cry of distress is brought to the ear of God.

The Church must not settle down with what is merely comfortable and serviceable at the parish level; she must arouse the voice of the cosmos and, by glorifying the Creator, elicit the glory of the cosmos itself, making it also glorious, beautiful, habitable, and beloved.

To Turn One's Back on Beauty

Next to the saints, the art which the Church has produced is the only real 'apologia' for her history. It is this glory which witness to the Lord, not theology's clever explanations for all the terrible things which, lamentably, fill the pages of her history. The Church is to transform, improve, 'humanize' the world — but how can she do that if at the same time she turns her back on beauty, which is so closely allied to love? For together, beauty and love form the true consolation in this world, bringing it as near as possible to the world of the resurrection.

High Standards

The Church must maintain high standards; she must be a place where beauty can be at home; she must lead the struggle for that 'spiritualization' without which the world becomes 'the first circle of hell'. Thus to ask what is 'suitable' must always be the same as asking what is 'worthy': it must constantly challenge us to seek what is worthy of the Church's worship."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
On the Theological Basis of Music
The Feast of Faith

Mercy Has the First Word

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Misericordia Domini

It is curious (and praiseworthy!) that Lutherans have, for the most part, conserved the Catholic practice of referring to a given Sunday by the incipit, or first words, of the Introit of the Mass. I noticed this not along ago while perusing The Brotherhood Prayerbook edited by The Reverend Benjamin T. G. Mayes, an American Lutheran pastor. Catholics are still accustomed to hearing the Third Sunday of Advent referred to as Gaudete Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent as Laetare Sunday and, perhaps, the Second Sunday of Easter as Quasimodo Sunday, but the custom has largely disappeared.

A Triumphal Arch

The Introit of the Mass is, according to Father Maurice Zundel, like a triumphal arch through which we pass into the Holy Mysteries. Each Sunday has its own name derived from the Introit. Today, therefore, is Misericordia Domini Sunday. Mercy has the first word in today's Mass.

The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord, alleluia:
by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous:
praise is comely for the upright. (Ps 32:5-6)

The Wound of Mercy

The death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ has bathed the whole world in mercy. The Mass, being the sacramental renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross, remains for all time the wellspring of the inexhaustible torrent of mercy that ever flows from the wound opened by the soldier's lance in Jesus' Sacred Side.

The Lex Orandi

Catholic culture is shaped by the Sacred Liturgy: not only by the calendar of the Church, but also by the Proper of the Mass. I have long argued that the Proper of the Mass is a constitutive element of the Lex orandi — not just the text of the Proper, but also the melodic vesture of the Gregorian chant that clothes it and expresses its meaning.

Termites in the House

The option of selecting an alius cantus aptus (another suitable chant) has, in no small measure, contributed to the dismantling of the Roman Liturgy. The Proper of the Mass is not a decorative element, added onto the fundamental structure of the liturgy as a kind of embellishment; it is, rather, a supporting beam of the whole edifice. Move it, and the whole structure is weakened and, with time, will collapse. Is that not what we have seen over the past forty-five years? The alius cantus aptus has, in most places, replaced the Proper of the Mass, and liturgical termites have infested the whole structure.

Recover the Propers

To my mind, one of the most urgent tasks of The Reform of the Reform is the suppression of the provision for an alius cantus aptus, and the restoration of the traditional texts of the Proper of the Mass, taking care, at the same time, that the texts given in the Missale Romanum correspond to those in the Graduale Romanum. The replacement, in the Missale Romanum of 1970, of the venerable sung texts of the Graduale Romanum with texts destined to be read, was an innovation without precedent, and a mistake with far reaching and deleterious consequences for the Roman Rite.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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