Throughout the next year, and until the implementation of the New Translation of the Roman Missal, The Authentic Update will focus on issues surrounding the New Translation and developments in Sacred Music arising from it. I hope you will visit here frequently and join in the conversation as the Church enters into this remarkable period of liturgical transformation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Preparing for Change

There has been an awful lot of talk about "change" in the liturgy during the past several years. We've had changes in some of the minor aspects of liturgical practice, such as who can cleanse vessels after communion or whether we can use the word YAHWEH (we can't!). Things that were one way once, and now are another way. Not much problem with either of these examples...maybe some ruffled feathers since there were apparently people who actually wanted to clean the vessels after communion I guess. And a correction insert in some hymnals, or tape over the word YAHWEH for the more frugal parishes. Such changes don't require a lot of preparation because frankly, they don't have a lot of real consequence at most parishes.

Then there are the changes like the new translation that will be coming our way this Advent, or perhaps even sooner in the case of the sung parts of the Ordinary as most Diocese in the US at least are permitted to begin using these responses as soon as September. It took a while to get a firm date nailed down, but eventually there was a date given and we began preparing for the coming changes. Since there were going to be all new Mass settings coming at a given point down the road, it didn't make any sense to take on learning new ones for the past year or two. A great amount of effort has been put into preparing the priests for the new texts as well. Since there implementation is a certain thing at this point, I don't imagine that there has been much emphasis on learning the old texts at the seminary level, and preparatory and catechetical resources for the laity have all been re-tooled for the new texts as well.

After all, why continue going in the direction of something that will shortly be obsolete, or in many ways already IS obsolete? It rises to the level of absurdity to imagine that a parish would have continued down the path of using and teaching from resources based on the old translation during the past year or two as though the time when the new translation would arrive were somehow not real. No, most parishes took on a transitional posture and began integrating the changes in the Missal text into parish catechetical programs, at least at the planning and preparation level, so as to mitigate the negative effects of change when it eventually comes. It just makes good pastoral sense to do so.

But some changes don't have a definite date attached to them, at least not yet. A lot of digital ink has been expended this past week on the "controversy" surrounding some aspects of the revision of the GIRM to accompany the new Missal. Some say it's a game changer...some say it's a tempest in a tea pot.

I know this...during the past 8 years we've heard....

"Liturgical music must meet the specific prerequisites of the Liturgy: full adherence to the text it presents, synchronization with the time and moment in the Liturgy for which it is intended, appropriately reflecting the gestures proposed by the rite. The various moments in the Liturgy require a musical expression of their own."
(November 2003 - Chirograph on Sacred Music -Pope John Paul II)

"An authentic updating of sacred music can take place only in the lineage of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony"
(2005 - Address to the Pontifical Academy -Pope Benedict XVI)

The assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Proper of the Mass as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings. When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended"
(2006 - Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship - USCCB)

"Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy."
(2007 - Sacramentum Caritatis - Pope Benedict XVI)

"After the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.

This chant is sung alternately by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Gradual Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduate Simplex for the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop."
(2011 - Revised GIRM - USCCB)

And then there is the inclusion of a complete chant setting of the Dialogues and Ordinary integrated into the new Missal and which are to be included in all published resources. And there is the explosion of online resources for vernacular chant, and specifically for vernacular Propers. All of this is moving in a very easily discernable direction.

And so my question is this: Do we begin preparing for where we are headed, a little at a time, as we have wisely done with the new translation so as to mitigate the ill effects of inevitable change? Or do we do an about face and try and move away from inevitable change in an attempt to avoid it? Music is certainly an important facet of the liturgy, and one about which people get very emotional. It is inevitable that there are changes coming down the road, and it is all but certain in what direction that change is going to be.

How are we going to get ready?


Liam said...

Inevitability is a grandiose concept in this context.

Chironomo said...

So you believe that things will never change? Talk about a grandiose concept!

Chironomo said...

I've seen the music at Mass go from Polyphony/Chant to guitar/folk to piano/folk to piano/keyboard contemporary to contemporary christian...all in the span of my life, mostly within the span of my career. My point is that it's pretty easy to see where we are headed, so what are we going to do to prevent that "pastoral problem" that so many are concerned with in every other context?

Liam said...

What I meant is the idea that change in a certain direction is inevitable. Your essay employs inevitability in two senses, and I was directing my comment at that one.

Chironomo said...

I would say that change in a specific direction (back towards traditional sacred music) is inevitable at this has always been inevitable whenever we have strayed from it (1200's, 1400's, 1600's, 1700's, late 1800's, and now...). The idea of music from the secular culture usurping tradition is as old as the church...and it has always resulted in a very sudden lurch back to tradition... sometimes through a bottom-up re-assertion of tradition as a result of cultural trends in the same direction (monasticism in the 1300's - Early 19th century reassertions of tradition after the revolutionary period in Europe, etc.), sometimes in a reactionary way through legislation (Pius IV at Trent, Pius X with Tra le Sollecitudini). Very often tradition re-asserts itself for a short time (50-75 years) before again being supplanted by secular forces. It's a constant battle...but a predictable one as well. We are leaving a period of secular assertion in the liturgy. Where are we headed....I think it is inevitable that we head back towards tradition.

That's what I mean when I say that. If secular music were able to permanently supplant the sacred music of the church, it would have done so nearly 1000 years ago. Or 800 years ago. Or 600 years ago. Or 250 years ago. Or 100 years ago. But it ALWAYS comes back. I have no reason to believe that now would be any different.

Liam said...

Except that the lurches back weren't nearly as dramatic in reality as they might have appeared on paper.