Friday, May 16, 2008

Benedict makes the point... again!

It has been revealed that the Vatican is releasing a 4 CD set of Pope Benedict reciting the Rosary... IN LATIN!! From the ZENIT article on this....

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said requests from the faithful motivated Vatican Radio to release a four-CD set with all 20 mysteries of the rosary led by Benedict XVI in Latin.
Father Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, explained on the radio station that faithful accustomed to praying the rosary with CDs featuring John Paul II wanted the same thing with the German Pontiff.

“During his last years, Pope John Paul II was not able to pray the rosary live, but since there were various recordings, the listeners, the faithful, could use their cassettes of the rosary led by the Pope, thus facilitating their prayer and devotion," Father Lombardi said. "With the new pontificate, there was renewed interest in praying the rosary with the Holy Father.

"Father Lombardi said Benedict XVI decided to record the CDs in Latin because “we have received requests not only from Italy but from places such as Germany and other countries. So we have used this language for the rosary which everyone understands easily and because it is the universal language of the Church.”

What an AMAZING way to introduce the faithful worldwide to the use of Latin in prayer...!! Of particular importance in this release is Benedict's decision to use Latin... because it is the universal language of the Church. Rather than release the CD's in Italian, English, German, etc... (which Benedict could have easily done)... Benedict decided to use Latin because it is universal and easily understood by everyone.

The Holy Father is ending us a message here.... It's time to stop building the Tower of Babel.

Another Thread Unravels

An interesting article came to light these past few days. An interview with the aging Papal Master of Ceremonies Virgilio Cardinal Noe.... the MC of Paul VI and Pope John Paul II in the Italian paper Petrus. The upshot of the interview was Cardinal Noe's claim that Pope Paul VI's reference to "The Smoke of Satan" so oft quoted was, in fact, referring to the increasing experimentation and innovation taking place in he liturgy.

Noe goes on to explain that such innovation was never envisioned by the Holy Father, and that the "blame" has been wrongly laid on him for the development of the liturgy in that direction:
Noe: He spoke of the smoke of Satan because he maintained that those priests who turned Holy Mass into dry straw in the name of creativity, in reality were possessed of the vainglory and the pride of the Evil One. so, the smoke of Satan was nothing other than the mentality which wanted to distort the traditional and liturgical canons of the Eucharistic ceremony.

Petrus: It is thought that Paul VI was the real culprit as the cause of all the ills of post-Conciliar liturgy. But based on what you have revealed, Eminence, Montini compared the liturgical chaos, even if in a veiled way, actually to something hellish.

Noe: He condemned craving to be in the limelight and the delirium of almighty power that they were following the Council at the liturgical level. Mass is a sacred ceremony, he often repeated, everything must be prepared and studied adequately, respecting the canons, no one is "dominus" [lord] of the Mass. Sadly, in many after Vatican II not many understood him and Paul VI suffered this, considering the phenomenon to be an attack of the Devil.

OK... there has been a lot of discussion about this claim, most specifically why he is coming forward with this now. Cardinal Noe, now 86 years old, has nothing to gain from coming forward with this (at least nothing we know about... a future book maybe?) and he makes the point to th interviewer that this is a "scoop" for Petrus. This is something that the Cardinal wants to get out into the news.

Towards the end of the interview, the Cardinal makes another point that may give some clue as to why this statement and why now:
Noe: Liturgy must be carried out always and no matter what with decorum: even a sign of the Cross poorly made is synonymous with scorn and sloppiness. Alas, I repeat, after Vatican II it was believed that everything, or nearly, was permitted. Now it is necessary to recover, and in a hurry, the sense of the sacred in the ars celebrandi, before the smoke of Satan completely pervades the whole Church. Thanks be to God, we have Pope Benedict XVI: his Mass and his liturgical style are an example of correctness and dignity.

There is a lot packed into this brief statement that can give one pause. The first is the connection of this issue to Pope Benedict and his efforts concerning the liturgy. True, this is an interview with a Cardinal, and it the interview focuses on liturgical issues, but the reference to Pope Benedict is something of a non sequitur in the context. Also strange is the insistence of the Cardinal that something must be done, and in a hurry. This brings us back to the question of why this statement, and why now?

Consider the impact of the Cardinal's statement on the debate (war?) of the past 40 years between what has come to be known as the "Hermeneutic of Rupture" and the "Hermeneutic of Continuity". The "Rupture" camp has, to a great extent, built their argument on the claim that the reforms of the 1970 Missal of Paul VI came about as a result of Pope Paul VI's desire to reform the liturgy in the "Spirit of Vatican II", and they further claim that the reforms that developed in the coming years were, if not specifically promoted by the Holy Father, were at least supported by him. In other words, the reforms that resulted had the approval of the Pope. As such, the argument with the "Continuity" camp has always been one of "Our Pope" versus "Your Pope"... a no-win situation.

Cardinal Noe's statements would indicate that this is not the case at all. Rather, they present a scenario in which the Holy Father Paul VI not only opposed the innovations and experimentation, but saw them as inspired by evil forces. Consider how that affects the argument of the "Rupture" camp.... "Their Pope" believed that the liturgical innovations were the work of Satan. there is a continuity of the Holy See condemning the development of the liturgy since 1970? And the "Father of the Reform" himself saw it as inspired by evil forces? That would mean that the liturgy war of the past 40 years is not a "civil war" between opposing camps within the Church, but is a war between the Church and Satan.

Perhaps this is why Cardinal Noe is somewat insistent that it is necessary to recover, and in a hurry the sense of the sacred in the ars celebrandi, before the smoke of Satan completely pervades the whole Church. Clearly Cardinal Noe understands the nature of the conflict, and has made it clear that there are not two legitimate Catholic positons on this issue, but that there is a Catholic position and the position of Satan.

Something for the "Rupture" camp to consider.....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Changing Catholic Music Reqires A Correct Understanding of the Mass

While enduring this Sunday's "Pageant Mass" (Pentecost/ Mother's Day) and the various activities that took place within the Mass, my thoughts turned briefly to how it would be possible to incorporate actual Sacred Music into such a fiasco. This began me thinking seriously about the relationship between various aspects of the liturgy and how they come together to form a complete entity. My attention was caught by one particular snippet of this week's scripture -

"As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ."

How true this is for the Mass... all of the parts; Presider, Lectors, Music, Assembly, Vestments, Decoration... all of these have to come together to form a coherent whole. I've always felt that there is a serious problem when one or more of these parts conflict in style.

Consider a Mass in which the Priest wears beautiful and appropriate vestments, perhaps goes the extra mile and makes use of incense and chants his dialogues with the assembly. Does it really "work" to use Though the Mountains May Fall complete with strummers and drummers as the Processional? How jarring is it to have the chanted "Through Him, with Him and in Him..." followed by the "Amen" from the Mass of Glory? There is a strong sense that something is wrong, particularly when the music conflicts with he attitude and "style" of the Priest.

A good example of this is the "Teen Mass", complete with Evangelical praise songs, song leaders walking throughout the assembly with hand-held microphones and perhaps even the ubiquitous "song projector" screen behind the altar. Although I cringe at the thought, if the Priest processes in clapping his hands to the music, stopping to greet the teens in the pews during the procession, and completes the entrance with a resounding shout of "How's everybody doing tonight... are we ready to meet Jesus?"
then the Presider and the music are on the same page, stylistically speaking. The breakdown occurs when an elderly retired priest has to cover for the "hip" priest at this Mass. I'm sure you can imagine the stylistic train wreck. I don't have to imagine...I've actually seen this happen on more than one occasion, and it isn't pretty.

To make my point here, think of it this way. As long as the Priest presents the Mass as a social event in which we come together to seek and recieve mutual support for a comon cause, whether that cause is social justice, community action, world peace or whatever, the music at Mass will be more like the music at a 1960's Peace Rally than anything else, because that style of music is appropriate to that setting. A Mass in which the attention is focused on what WE are doing has no place for music or prayers directed to God. Music in this setting has to be about us and our cause.

Truly beautiful Sacred Music will only return when the Mass is understood to be about God, not about us. When the Priest leads us in the worship and praise of God through the sacrifice of the Mass, Sacred Music becomes necessary because the music in this setting must be about God and our worship and praise of Him. There is no place for music about US when the Mass is understood to be about God.