For those with relatively little time to catch up on reading but with a keen interest in Gregorian Chant, both its formal and spiritual aspects, there might be no better book to pick up than Dom Jacques Hourlier’s Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant.It’s more of a “booklet” than a book…75 pages in a 7’x5’ format… a collection of 5 lectures given by the author during a Youth Seminar at Solesmes in the Summer of 1976. These were published as a collection in 1984 after his tragic death in an automobile accident.
Despite the diminutive size, this book covers a great deal of ground….melody, language, form, liturgical function, symbolism, aesthetics… and of course, as the title suggests, the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant. Although there is an assumption by the author that the reader has at least some knowledge about the Chant, the language is simple and accessible and the most recent edition has been edited and footnoted for a wider readership.
He speaks about the beauty of Gregorian Chant…
Beauty is without doubt the most commonly perceived quality of Gregorian Chant, even though some listeners, probably the majority, could not explain why they find it beautiful. Men and women from every walk of life, including the simplest, hear in the chant something which differs from what they call cheap music. As witness, recall the wide success of Gregorian Chant Masses, or of Gregorian chant records and cassettes, even though all of them do not achieve the same level of perfection. It is useless to try and explain away this success as some kind of passing fad or as the manifestation of a partisan spirit among Christians with conservative leanings. These factors have little or nothing to do with the matter. The simple truth is that when people are exposed to Gregorian chant, they react to a beauty which is capable of affecting even children.
Most amazing is that the words are as relevant today as they were in 1976…perhaps even more so. Any church musician today committed to the “cause” of Sacred Music restoration can take heart from Dom Hourlier’s words about the “authority” of the Chant:
The true authority of Gregorian chant rests not on rubrics or legislative decrees, but rather on the concensus populi (the common assent of the people of God) and the sensus ecclesiae(the supernatural sense of discernment of the church). Led by their Priests and Bishops, the faithful everywhere have always sung Gregorian chant. It draws its authority from a vast number of enthusiastic Catholic Christians. Throughout the ages, it has been the musical language in the Western Church. The authority of Gregorian chant is based on tradition.
The book can be purchased online at a number of sites.