This is Part IV of my look at Virgil Funk’s “Commentary” on the USCCB document Sing To The Lord: Music In Divine Worship. Although it is Part IV of my series, it covers Part III of Virgil Funk’s “commentary” as it appears in the Ordinary Time I edition of OCP’s Today’s Liturgy.
As has become my regular practice, Fr. Funk’s commentary is in BLUE, my commentary is in BLACK and any official documents of the Church are indicated in RED.
Different Kinds of Music for the Liturgy (Paragraphs 67-85)
“In the introduction to this section, Sing to the Lord presents some new theory. To the careful reader, it makes a theoretical shift away from Music in Catholic Worship by reaching back to the notion of “holiness” in Musicam Sacram. Music in Catholic Worship 23-24 (which this section of Sing to the Lord replaces) emphasized a ministerial functional theology and the emotional impact of music. These were treated as the foundation for music’s role in the liturgy.”
Let’s stop there and take a look at what he just said, and didn’t say. To begin with, forgetting for a moment the use of such terms as “reaching back” and “notion of ‘holiness’”, is it not once again disingenuous to portray the positions put forward in Sacrosanctum Concilium, Musicam Sacram and even Tra le sollecitudini as “new theory”. This new theory he is speaking of is the following:
“Sacred music is to be considered the more holy the more closely connected it is with the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.”65 This holiness involves ritual and spiritual dimensions, both of which must be considered within cultural context. (Sing to the Lord 67)
Why would he make a point of saying that this document presents “new theory” when it is in fact the stated aesthetic principle that has governed Sacred Music since at least Pius X? In fact, it is arguable that this has been, and still is the “theory” stated in the documents of Vatican II, regardless of what nonsense Music in Catholic Worship tried to suggest. Isn’t that the very reason why MCW was replaced, because of such glaring errors as this? We go on…
“Sing to the Lord (67-71) begins with a three-fold analysis of music’s “holiness” which involves a “ritual dimension”, a “spiritual dimension” and a “cultural context” as the foundation for music’s place in divine worship. “
To begin with, this is a slight misreading of what Sing to the Lord 67 says. Only the “ritual dimension” and “spiritual dimension” are applied to the discernment of music’s “holiness”. The “cultural context” is applied to the specifics of what constitutes a ritual or spiritual dimension, not to the music itself. Not a big deal, but it gives an indication of the depth at which Fr. Funk probes a subject.
Of greater importance in this statement though is a lack of historical perspective in the analysis, leading to the (incorrect) conclusion that the reason for discerning the “holiness” of music is for the purpose of determining it’s “place in divine worship” . But, to use Fr. Funk’s own words, the “careful reader” will recognize Sing to the Lord 67;
“Sacred music is to be considered the more holy the more closely connected it is with the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.”65 This holiness involves ritual and spiritual dimensions, both of which must be considered within cultural context.
It is taken nearly word for word from Sacrosanctum Concilium 112:
Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. (SC 112)
...which itself builds upon Tra le Sollecitudini 2:
It must be holy, and must, therefore, exclude all profanity not only in itself, but in the manner in which it is presented by those who execute it. (TLS 2)
And so the “careful reader” would notice the continuity, not only of the language, but presumably of the context in which these parallel statements appear in the two previous documents. In both TLS and Sacrosanctum Concilium, the issue of music’s “holiness” appears in the context of a concrete criteria for discerning the suitability of an individual piece of music for use in the liturgy at all, not merely as a theoretic or theological “foundation” for music’s role in general. That Fr. Funk sees it in this way is made clear in the statement that immediately follows:
“This shift in theoretic perspective does not seem to have a significant impact on the guidelines regarding pastoral practices that follow. However, it will be interesting to follow the development of theories about music in ritual that grow from this threefold statement.”
Is Fr. Funk saying that music’s “holiness” is merely a theoretic consideration, useful only for spinning out “theories about music in ritual”. Both TLS and Sacrosanctum Concilium put it forward as an actual criteria that the musician is to use in determining the suitability of a specific selection for liturgical use, and having a well-founded suspicion as to the identity of the individual that penned this particular section of Sing to the Lord, I would have to conclude that was intended to be the purpose there as well. My guess is that Fr. Funk would like to not put too much emphasis on the issue of music’s “holiness” since it is closely intertwined in both TLS and Sacrosanctum Concilium with the Gregorian model for sacred music.
And speaking of Gregorian Chant, that is the next topic covered in Fr. Funk’s commentary:
“The treatment of Gregorian chant (72-80) provides a pastoral interpretation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy’s statement that “other things being equal”, chant should be given pride of place in Roman Liturgy (72-73). There are two pastoral concerns among these “other things”: (1) “that the congregation is able to participate …with song,” and (2) that Bishops, Pastors and liturgical musicians be “sensitive to the cultural and spiritual milieu of their communities”.
At this point, Fr. Funk steps into the issue of ceteris paribus, which I will address momentarily. His concern, as is the concern of most who oppose the re-introduction of chant into the liturgy, is that we address the “pastoral concerns” and be “sensitive to the cultural and spiritual milieu” when even THINKING about using chant. The assumption here is that it will be divisive and upsetting to the folks in the pews, so we need to be VERY careful when even attempting such a thing.
I’m curious as to why Fr. Funk left out the words “…in the Liturgy…” in his quote in (1) above. The quote, when left complete reads “that the congregation is able to participate in the Liturgy with song,” a statement that in no way precludes the use of chant sung, for instance, by the choir or even by the choir and whatever assembly members are able to do so at any specific point in the liturgy seeing as they will be participating in other singing within the liturgy. However, as Fr. Funk has framed it, it seems to say that the use of any chant would require that the congregation be able to sing it.
Similarly, in the quote in (2) above, Fr. Funk has left off the ending. The complete quote should read
“They should be sensitive to the cultural and spiritual milieu of their communities, in order to build up the Church in unity and peace.” (Sing to the Lord 73)
Again, a curious omission… unless of course one realizes that Latin is the Church’s traditional approach to unity, and a proven effective one at that! Fr. Funk apparently wants the Bishops, Pastors and musicians to be sensitive to those who resist the use of Latin and/ or chant, but not necessarily to those who advocate its use as a unifying element in the liturgy. Better to just avoid the issue of unity rather than propose a common language as the solution…
But he didn’t avoid getting into the ceteris paribus milieu. This is an important point, and one which I wish the Holy See might chime in on at some point since it has enormous impact on this most important statement in Sacrosanctum Concilium. The complete quote from Sacrosanctum Concilium is as follows:
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. (SC 116)
Those familiar with legal language (and this is from a legal document which was written as such in Latin) will recognize this as a classic “ceteris paribus” statement. In common language:
"Cēterīs paribus is a Latin phrase, literally translated as "with other things the same." It is commonly rendered in English as "all other things being equal." A prediction, or a statement about causal or logical connections between two states of affairs, is qualified by ceteris paribus in order to acknowledge, and to rule out, the possibility of other factors which could override the relationship between the antecedent and the consequent. (Wiki footnoted -Schlicht, E. 1985.)
Stay with me here…. The “causal statement” in Sacrosanctum Concilium 116 is the following:
The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
Simple enough. SC 116 adds the modifier ceteris paribus to acknowledge and rule out those “other things” that might be thought to override the relationship between the antecedent (The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy) and the consequent (therefore it should be given pride of place in liturgical services). A "plain language" reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium 116 might look something like this then:
“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, regardless of what other things might occur that would seem to discourage its use or encourage the use of some other music, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services anyway. "
But Fr. Funk and many others claim the exact opposite! They continue to claim that these “other things” must always be acknowledged and given precedence. The law says that they are to be acknowledged and always ruled out. It amazes me that an expert of Fr. Funk’s status has not considered this position as being indefensible, at least legally.
And so you might ask – “But isn’t this also what Sing to the Lord claims also, in section 73? Isn’t Fr. Funk just commenting on what the document says?” Yes, that is true, and that is one of the many reasons why Sing To The Lord was not submitted to the Holy See for approval. Section 73 conflicts with the particular law in force in Sacrosanctum Concilium, and so it (Sing to the Lord) would have had to have been modified, and that was not something that was desired by Bp. Trautmann, the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy.
But I digress…. Back to Fr. Funk’s commentary:
“Sing to the Lord encourages communities to introduce and use, as a first step, Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, Agnus Dei XVIII, and then the more difficult chants of Gloria VIII, the Credo, and Pater Noster. (It’s interesting that no chant setting of the memorial acclamation is suggested, though such settings have been composed from chant models). What is daring about this section is the controversial suggestion that chant melodies of the Graduale Romanum be fitted with vernacular texts by composers (77).”
This must have been a most painful paragraph for Fr. Funk to have included in his article. He says that it is interesting that no chant setting of the memorial acclamation was included. That's interesting? There are no approved settings to include, and so it was probably though better to leave this issue to further development. What I find interesting is that he makes absolutely no comment about this paragraph, considered by many to be the most striking paragraph in the entire document. He simply states what it says and moves on. And even while simply stating what the document says, Fr. Funk under-represents the tone of this part of Sing to the Lord. The actual wording in the document is as follows:
The Second Vatican Council directed that the faithful be able to sing parts of the Ordinary of the Mass together in Latin.70 In many worshiping communities in the United States, fulfilling this directive will mean introducing Latin chant to worshipers who perhaps have not sung it before. While prudence, pastoral sensitivity, and reasonable time for progress are encouraged to achieve this end, every effort in this regard is laudable and highly encouraged. 75. Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered. (Sing to the Lord 74)
So to be clear, Sing to the Lord points out that Sacrosanctum Concilium says that the faithful should be able to sing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin. Sing to the Lord then says that this WILL MEAN (not “might mean” or “could mean” but “will mean”) introducing Latin chant to worshipers who perhaps have not sung it before. Fr. Funk says that this introduction to chant “is encouraged”…. what is actually encouraged is the prudence and pastoral sensitivity and reasonable time, although it notes that “While prudence, pastoral sensitivity, and reasonable time for progress are encouraged to achieve this end, every effort in this regard is laudable and highly encouraged.”
I understand the confusion. I'm still not sure exactly what that passgae might be saying.
Fr. Funk then makes what is perhaps the most curious comment in this entire series:
“What is daring about this section is the controversial suggestion that chant melodies of the Graduale Romanum be fitted with vernacular texts by composers. (77)”
Agreed.....that would be daring and controversial were it actually true. What does SttL 77 actually say?
The Entrance and Communion antiphons are found in their proper place in the Roman Missal. Composers seeking to create vernacular translations of the appointed antiphons and psalms may also draw from the Graduale Romanum, either in their entirety or in shortened refrains for the congregation or choir.
Whatever Fr. Funk may have been thinking, this passage very clearly says that composers seeking to create vernacular translations (of the antiphon texts) should base their translations on the Latin originals found in the Roman Missal. They may also make use of the texts in the Graduale Romanum (which are usually much longer) “either in their entirety or in shortened refrains for the congregation or choir”. The entire passage is about the texts, telling composers to base their translations on the texts from these sources. There is no way to construe this as saying that SttL calls for composers to fit English words to the Gregorian melodies. Did he even read this document? Really….
“The section on composers (81-85) seems to be written by composers for composers, for the Bishops guidelines are very heartening for composers and text-writers. New and diverse compositions based on the sacred liturgy are encouraged.”
And they always have been… the question raised by the guidelines is exactly what is meant by music that is part of the “treasure house of sacred musical art.” Sing to the Lord (84) seems to be inspired by a passage from John Paul II’s “Chirograph on Sacred Music” ….
“In continuity with the teachings of St Pius X and the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary first of all to emphasize that music destined for sacred rites must have holiness as its reference point: indeed, "sacred music increases in holiness to the degree that it is intimately linked with liturgical action". For this very reason, "not all without distinction that is outside the temple (profanum) is fit to cross its threshold", my venerable Predecessor Paul VI wisely said, commenting on a Decree of the Council of Trent. And he explained that "if music - instrumental and vocal - does not possess at the same time the sense of prayer, dignity and beauty, it precludes the entry into the sphere of the sacred and the religious". Today, moreover, the meaning of the category "sacred music" has been broadened to include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself. (Chirograph on Sacred Music -4)
Sing to the Lord, while nowhere nearly as blatant, says much the same:
“In the years immediately following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, especially because of the introduction of vernacular language, composers and publishers worked to provide a new repertoire of music for indigenous language(s). In subsequent decades, this effort has matured, and a body of worthy vernacular liturgical music continues to develop, even though much of the early music has fallen into disuse. Today, as they continue to serve the Church at prayer, composers are encouraged to concentrate on craftsmanship and artistic excellence in all musical genres. (SttL 84)
Is Fr. Funk’s analysis of this maybe a little rosy? The document seems to be saying that there needs to be an effort to concentrate on craftsmanship and artistic excellence. If it is a compliment, it is a back-handed one! And a little further on, Fr. Funk mentions a term used in the document without any explanation or definition.
“For melody, the composers must be ‘steeped in the sensus Ecclesia’ ” (83).
Perhaps he’s hoping that the average Today’s Liturgy reader will have no idea what that means. The actual document (SttL) says:
“The Church never ceases to find new ways to sing her love for God each new day. The Sacred Liturgy itself, in its actions and prayers, best makes known the forms in which compositions will continue to evolve. Composers find their inspiration in Sacred Scripture, and especially in the texts of the Sacred Liturgy, so that their works flow from the Liturgy itself.76 Moreover, “to be suitable for use in the Liturgy, a sung text must not only be doctrinally correct, but must in itself be an expression of the Catholic faith.” Therefore, “liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about faith which are untrue.”77 Only within this scriptural, liturgical, and creedal context is the composer who is aware of the Church’s long journey through human history and “who is profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae” properly equipped “to perceive and express in melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy.” (SttL 83)
So they must be “profoundly steeped” in the sensus Ecclesia. But what is this sensus Ecclesia? The quote-within-a-quote is from John Paul’s “Chirograph”, but it appears in that document as a quote from yet another earlier document, namely Pius X’s Tra le Sollecitudini. Perhaps a look at John Paul’s statement would give us some insight into what is meant by sensus Ecclesia in Sing to the Lord:
“With regard to compositions of liturgical music, I make my own the "general rule" that St Pius X formulated in these words: "The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and flavour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple". It is not, of course, a question of imitating Gregorian chant but rather of ensuring that new compositions are imbued with the same spirit that inspired and little by little came to shape it. Only an artist who is profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae can attempt to perceive and express in melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy” (John Paul II – Chirograph on Sacred Music 12)
So… Sing to the Lord is referring back to John Paul’s Chirograph which refers back to Pius X’s Tra le sollecitudini in saying that composers need to be “profoundly steeped” in the history and tradition of the Gregorian forms and their relationship to the liturgy when composing new liturgical works, aware that “The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and flavour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple”. In light of such a standard, Fr. Funk’s claim that “For melody, the composers must be ‘steeped in the sensus Ecclesia’ ” seems a little shallow. This part of Sing to the Lord is not nearly so “very heartening for composers and text-writers” as he would like to think. The assumption in this document seems to be that an awareness of this sensus Ecclesia has been seriously lacking up to now. That was certainly the position of John Paul II in the Chirograph. Perhaps that was what Fr. Funk meant when he says:
“Sing to the Lord recognizes that some repertoire – both melody and text – should be abandoned. “
I would love to hear Fr. Funk’s opinion about what repertoire that may be…
(TO BE CONTINUED)