Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Shape of Things to Come- Part I

With the publication of the Motu Proprio last Saturday, it has become even clearer (to me at least) where we will be going with sacred music in a time not to far off. At the very least, last Saturday’s long-awaited release demonstrated that Benedict is not afraid to go against substantial opposition in defense of what he believes is right, and that it is possible to look at his past writings for an indication of where his mind is on these subjects. The Motu Proprio was a concise and pointed expression of what Joseph Ratzinger has been talking about for years, and it should be expected that he will similarly act upon other important issues that he feels strongly about. Of these issues, one of the most prominent is Sacred Music.

I really don’t believe that we are too far away from some real and meaningful reform of the Church’s Sacred Music practices. There have been some important, although not too visible, moves in the recent past that point out the direction we’re headed. Here’s where we’re at right now.

• 1970-2000: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger outlines his belief that Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony are the most suitable and appropriate music for the Roman Catholic liturgy in his writings on the topic, culminating in a concise vision expressed in “The Spirit of the Liturgy”

• 2001: Liturgiam Authenticam addresses the topic of texts to be used in music sung during liturgy, specifically proscribing that they be “drawn from sacred scripture and the liturgical patrimony of the Church” and also that they be “limited in number”. The Bishops conferences are given a 5 –year deadline for drawing up a “repertoire or directory of texts to be used for liturgical singing”.

• October 2006: The speech at the Regensburg Cathedral affirms the central importance of Gregorian Chant and Classical Polyphony in the reform of Sacred Music. (note the close proximity to the USCCB meeting in November!)

• October 2006: The Music Subcommittee of the USCCB holds an open hearing for input on revising “Music in Catholic Worship”, a revision which has apparently been called for from the hierarchy. The purpose of this revision seems to be to bring the document into agreement with the actual liturgical mandates of Vatican II and also with Liturgiam Authenticam regarding texts.

• November 2006: The USCCB addresses the mandate given in Liturgiam Authenticam and proposes a “Directory for Music in the Liturgy”. No action or response from the Holy See has yet been given for this proposal.

• February 2007: The Music Subcommittee of the USCCB meets again in Orlando Florida concerning the revision of MCW.

• April 2007: Sacramentum Caritatis, Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation, affirms (in strong language!) – “Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).”

• July 2007: The Motu Proprio “Pontificam Summorum” acknowledges the damage done to the liturgy in the last 40 years through failure to follow the norms set forth in the liturgical documents of Vatican II, and calls for adherence to liturgical norms in celebrations of the Missal of Paul VI (“The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives.”)

Now call me an optimist, but it looks like we may be headed toward some major changes in our music in the not-to-far future. The argument that the “music establishment” is just to entrenched and things are too settled in their ways to change doesn’t hold anymore in the wake of a Motu Proprio that took on the 600 lb. Gorilla of Catholic Liturgy. The only question now is which Gorilla is next...?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A New Beginning

Now that the Motu proprio has been released, I will return to the original purpose of this blog... to discuss Liturgical Music, and particularly the movements toward reform of liturgical music. Although the "party line" being heard among clergy today (Sunday July 8th) is "It won't really make any difference" when parishioners ask what this decree means, the truth is that it will make a HUGE difference, particularly in the liturgy we celebrate, and in the music of the liturgy. It will just take some time for changes to be made. I hope you will visit this site frequently and engage in discussion about these topics. I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, July 6, 2007

We Hold Our Breath...

"VATICAN CITY, JUL 6, 2007 (VIS) - Tomorrow, Saturday July 7, the VaticanInformation service will transmit a special service for the publication ofthe Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" of His Holiness Benedict XVI,"Summorum Pontificum," concerning the use of the pre-1970 Roman liturgy. The document will be accompanied by an explanatory Letter from the Holy Father."