Sunday, September 25, 2011

Compare and Contrast

Our diocese is about to hold its annual clergy assembly, and one of the topics of discussion will be "The Changes in the Music for the New Mass". Both clergy and laity will be able to experience this presentation.

I admit I know nothing about the presentation. However, what I read in the "Diocesan Chronicle" does not leave me hopeful that the changes will be in line with the mind of the Church. The presenter, we are told, has a "firm belief in the primacy of congregational song" and this has shaped the music program he has directed at his parish for 16 years. The "Chronicle" article continues: "Strong insturmental leadership, combined with...student and adult cantors and a dedicated adult choir has contributed to liturgy that is, in the word's original sense, the 'work of the people'."

These words hold nothing but red flags for me. "Congregational song"?!? I imagine the congregation singing "On Eagles' Wings" and the like. I do not imagine we're talking about Gregorian chant.  "Instrumental leadership" always suggests to me lots of guitars, but I could be wrong in this case, of course. And despite the attempt to tie "work of the people" to the word "liturgy", I strongly suspect that what this really means is that the people are doing exactly what they want with the music, and are not paying attention to the Church's statements concerning the primacy of chant, the primacy of the organ, or any other guidelines concerning what is to be considered sacred music. I said...I could be wrong.  It's happened before.

Still, if descriptions matter, I think I would prefer a different program: "Mystical Body, Mystical Voice". I have not experienced this program, either. But look at the description: it "is grounded in sacramental theology and the liturgical rites of the Church"; it seeks to help the faithful "to understand the beauty of what [the new translation] offers for the enrichment of their knowledge and fruitful liturgical participation"; and it includes "an introduction to the new English chants of the Order of Mass." Much more is said in the brochure I received.

I think there's a battle going on. The purveyors of "church music" - those who get money for their compositions and their publishing efforts - will want to continue in the same vein they have been pursuing for the last 40 years. The people who seek to raise the standard of our liturgical music - to make it truly liturgical, to keep it focused on worshiping God rather than ourselves, and to make it an integral part of the Mass - will be pushing for a heightened awareness and understanding of the role of music in the liturgy, a greater understanding of liturgical and sacramental theology, and greater ACTUAL (not "active") participation in the Mass.

Let's not settle for a re-hash of what we already have in terms of dumbed-down music that sounds like the Protestant church down the street.  Let's up the ante. Let's raise our minds and hearts to God. Let's challenge ourselves.

Oh...I'm not suggesting that we picket the Diocesan Center during the presentation. I am suggesting that we ask our pastors for something that is less milk and more meat.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be courteous and concise.