Pastor’s Corner – October 5, 2014
LITURGY CORNER 6
with Fr. James
And now for our final “Pop Quiz” question about Vatican II’s teachings on the Mass:
6. The primary criterion for evaluating the music used at Mass is:
a. Its antiquity and traditional use.
b. Its popularity with the regular congregation.
c. Its suitability to the sacred liturgical action.
d. None of the above.
ANSWER: c. Its suitability to the sacred liturgical action.
“Therefore, 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.” (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #112).
This “suitability to the sacred liturgical action” is why Gregorian chant is held in such esteem. The main places where we should have congregational singing is in praying the so-called “Ordinary” parts of the Mass. These are the “Kyrie” after, or part of, the penitential rite, the “Gloria,” “the Alleluia or Gospel Acclamation,” the “Holy, Holy” (Sanctus), the “Great Amen,” and “Lamb of God”. The ideal set before us by the Church is that the melody of each of these should fit the various distinctive liturgical actions that they are in themselves.
In a short, bumper-sticker sort of phrase: “The Church calls us to sing the Mass, not simply sing at Mass.”
OK, so what am I as Pastor advocating? That we scrap all our music and only sing Gregorian chant? No, that would not be a very practical idea.
What I would love to see, myself, is an intentional development of more integrated liturgical planning for the Sunday liturgies. At the strictly musical level, as individual singers in our choirs, I would love to see everyone involved in stretching themselves to grow in their vocal or instrumental skills, particularly inspired to make the Sunday liturgies more beautiful. I would love to see us as a community expand our repertoire of hymns, not simply in adding more things from Breaking Bread, or the Praise & Worship scene, but also realize that Church music existed before the 1970s, and did not start with the St. Louis Jesuits. The Second Vatican Council, and the popes since, urge us to mine the vast treasuries of Church music from the past. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy specifically proclaims: “The treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and cultivated with great care.” (SC #114). We should, even at Newman, at least give an occasional nod to this desire of the Council Fathers and the popes that followed.
So, primarily what I am advocating is that we seek to grow ever more mindful of what we are doing when planning and executing our liturgical music.