Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Recant! Return to chant!

Okay, so the title wasn't that clever. Magister does his usual intro and presentation of a substantive essay by an outsider. Today we have Valentino Miserachs Grau, president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, who expounded on the banality of present-day liturgical music and the merits of a return to Gregorian Chant.

Latin and Gregorian chant, which are deeply linked to the biblical, patristic, and liturgical sources, are part of that “lex orandi” which has been forged over a span of almost twenty centuries. Why should such an amputation take place, and so lightheartedly? It is like cutting off roots – now that there is so much talk of roots.

The obscuring of an entire tradition of prayer formed over two millennia has led to conditions favorable to a heterogeneous and anarchic proliferation of new musical products which, in the majority of cases, have not been able to root themselves in the essential tradition of the Church, bringing about not only a general impoverishment, but also damage that would be difficult to repair, assuming the desire to remedy it were present.

We have undervalued the Christian people’s ability to learn; we have almost forced them to forget the Gregorian melodies that they knew, instead of expanding and deepening their knowledge, including through proper instruction on the meaning of the texts. And instead, we have stuffed them full of banalities.

What a serious mistake! I would go so far as to say that without Gregorian chant, the Church is mutilated, and that there cannot be Church music without Gregorian chant.

But unfortunately, after us the curtain fell. Why this resistance to restoring, either completely or partially depending on circumstances, the Mass in Gregorian chant and Latin? Are the generations of today, perhaps, more ignorant than those of the past?

The new missal proposes the Latin texts of the ordinary in addition to the modern language version. The Church wants this. Why should we lack the courage of conversion?

Gregorian chant must not remain in the preserve of academia, or the concert hall, or recordings; it must not be mummified like a museum exhibit, but must return as living song, sung also by the assembly, which will find that it satisfies their most profound spiritual tensions, and will feel itself to be truly the people of God.

It’s time to break through the inertia, and the shining example must come from the cathedral churches, the major churches, the monasteries, the convents, the seminaries, and the houses of religious formation. And so the humble parishes, too, will end up being “contaminated” by the supreme beauty of the chant of the Church.

And the persuasive power of Gregorian chant will reverberate, and will consolidate the people in the true sense of Catholicism.

Read the complete article Gregorian Chant Is Returning from Exile. Maybe from www.chiesa.

It makes for convincing reading, though the follow-through at the local level would be interesting to see. Aside from massive liturgical reform as called for by some, one wonders if it would simply be enough for Mass to include Latin and chanting with all the elements: incense, holy water, etc. The Tridentine Mass is supposed to be wonderful, but what percentage of ordinary Catholics have actually seen what Novus Ordo could be if some effort were put into it?

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