Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in Hong Kong

Tomorrow is the Octave day of the Christmas octave, and so I wish to wrap up our series of Christmas Masses posts with this Christmas Mass from Hong Kong. We have been very blessed this year to have been able to share some photos from some parts of the world that we only too infrequently get to show. I would hope we might be able to see more from them in the future for other times of the liturgical year.




Christmas with the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem








Giveaway Draw for NLM Readers: And the Winner is...





Robert Kovacs


Congratulations Robert! You've won a copy of Archdale King's Liturgies of the Past
courtesy of Nova et Vetera

Please contact NLM to claim your prize



Thanks to Nova et Vetera for their participation and donation of this prize.

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Do make certain to go and look at Nova et Vetera's other offerings,
including many liturgical books proper to the Roman rite and to other Western uses:

Liturgical Books
Liturgical Studies
Antiquarian Missals etc
Antiquarian Breviaries
Antiquarian Chant Books
Antiquarian Liturgical Studies


Friday, December 30, 2011

Mary, Mother of God, Simple English Propers







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The book is available again!

Christmas in France

We now turn our attention to France beginning with the FSSP parish in Bordeaux (the first two photos are from the Midnight Mass and the remainder from one of the Masses of Christmas Day):








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Next, the FSSP parish in Lyon:








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The parish of St-Eugene in Paris:

Usus Antiquior in India

The website of Messainlatino.it have some interesting photos up of the usus antiquior celebrated in India. The first, coming from another blog, Te Igitur, shows the weekly Sunday Mass which takes place in the chapel of Saint Anthony School in Chennai, India. (Formerly Madras.)


You'll note here the fact that the Indians remove their footwear within church. Note also how the men and women sit on separate sides of the church.


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From the same sources, here are two images of a Mass in what used to be referred to as Bombay, and now Mumbai.



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas in America



St. Theresa's, Sugarland, Texas

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Christ the King, Sarasota, FL

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Blessing of Children on Christmas Day, Chicago

Don Giuseppe Vallauri: The Silent Prayers of the Roman Liturgy

Continuing on with our coverage of some of the presentations given at the FIUV's 20th general assembly in Rome this past November, we now turn to a paper by Don Giuseppe Vallauri, FDP, of the Orionist Fathers, where he considers the silent prayers of the priest in the usus antiquior.

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The Silent Prayers


Don Giuseppe Vallauri, FDP


In the Traditional Mass there are several silent prayers, or better, prayers said in silence, or at least “submissa voce”. The most important of these obviously is the Roman Canon. I do not consider the Canon a silent prayer, rather the opposite, and we all know why itis recited, “submissa voce”, of which Card. Ratzinger said in “The Spirit of the Liturgy”: “Anyone who has experienced a church united in the silent praying of the Canon will know what a really filled silence is. It is at once a loud and penetrating cry to God and a Spirit filled act of prayer. Here everyone does pray the Canon together, albeit in a bond with the special task of the priestly ministry”. I refer instead to the more humble, private prayers that the priest at Mass recites for himself, to accompany some of the actions that he is making.

The priest at Mass acts “in persona Christi capitis”, he embodies, he represents Christ and therefore, all his actions, even the most insignificant ones, like climbing the steps, have a meaning, a sacred meaning. These prayers are not as ancient as the Roman Canon, and it can easily be surmised that in the course of time the priest and or the Church felt the need to fill in the gaps, so to speak, and be reminded of his unique role, at every moment of the Mass.

At this point I would like to share a personal episode which highlights the difference between the two forms of the Mass and the attitude towards the silent prayers. I think it was in 2004, I made my Annual Retreat, together with some priest confreres of mine, at Douai Abbey, near Reading, in England. The Retreat master was Father Paul Gunter, O.S.B., a Benedictine monk of the Abbey, now a professor at Sant’Anselmo and consultant of the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Holy Father. His theme was precisely the silent, private prayers of the Mass, in the Missal of Pope Paul VI. In this missal, of course, the few silent prayers are all private, in the real sense of the word. They are few and, generally, are a shorter version of those of the traditional missal. One of the priests present, a little older than I, a good and committed priest, on the second day, when Fr Paul was commenting on the two lines of psalm 26, which is all that remains in the new missal of the prayer that accompanies the lavabo, said quite candidly: I never even knew that these prayers existed!

On the few occasions when I assist at a Novus Ordo celebration, I can honestly affirm that. in the majority of cases, the celebrant practically omits the Munda cor meum: usually he or the concelebrant that is to read the gospel makes at most a cursory bow to the altar, if at all and goes straight to the ambo. Of course, he can recite the prayer while going, but even trying to be very optimistic, I doubt it very much. The prayer which is invariably left out is one of the two set before Communion, each one a shorter version of “Domine Jesu Christe” and “Perceptio corporis tui”. I have seen even devout and traditionally minded priests pass directly from the Agnus Dei to “This is the Lamb of God”, sometimes even failing to genuflect before hand, as it is prescribed in the new missal. This is one further proof, if ever one more was needed, that simplification does not mean improvement. A shorter prayer is not necessarily recited better than a longer one. The problem lies elsewhere. Most celebrants of the Novus Ordo see themselves as presidents of the assembly: now, a president or chairman at meeting cannot afford to whisper quietly to himself.

Let us return to our chosen subject. The first characteristic of these prayers is humility. It is a recurring idea throughout the Mass, from the prayers at the foot of the altar to the last, inaudible prayer, Placeat tibi, Sancta Trinitas.

I said above, that the priest at Mass, but not only at Mass of course, acts in “persona Christi” and precisely for this reason he feels unworthy. It is as if he constantly needed to remind himself of his unworthiness for such a sublime role. A similar attitude is expressed by the kissing of the altar, which he does several times. Not only at the beginning, before the Introit, and twice during the Canon, but also every time he turns towards the people, he kisses the altar beforehand. Each time, he wants to be united with Christ, represented by the altar, he needs to be empowered by Christ himself, so that he can really re-present Him.

The first silent prayer, after the prayers at the foot of the altar, which, in the solemn Mass at least, are said by the sacred ministers alone, is Aufer a nobis. This is one of the most beautiful moments. The priest approaches the altar, the place of sacrifice and, realizing he is unworthy of such a task, prays that he may be purified. Humility leads to the request for purification. The altar already is the Holy of Holies, having been consecrated, set aside for the offering of the sacrifice. Who could approach it without fear? He prays Aufer a nobis, using the plural, because he prays in the name of the sacred ministers. As Dom Gueranger says: “The closer we are to God, the more we feel that even the slightest blemish on the soul is an obstacle to be removed. Already he has prayed: Deus, tu conversus, vivificabis nos. But since he is getting near to God, he asks again that his sins may be removed. Once arrived at the altar, standing as it were between the people and God, he touches it with his hands joined and kisses it: he pays homage to Christ, the altar, and at the same time to the martyrs and saints whose relics are embedded in the altar, or altar stone. He says another prayer “Oramus te, Domine” which begins in the plural but then he asks for the remission of his sins “peccata mea”, in the singular. Dom Gueranger notes: he uses the plural meaning that all the people who assist at the Holy Sacrifice must accompany the priest with their prayers. The saints are holy in mind and body: their relics are extensions of the Body of Christ, members of his Mystical Body.

If the altar represents Christ, so does his Holy Gospel. Before reading or chanting it, the priest, or the deacon at a solemn Mass, bows profoundly before the altar: in itself already a gesture expressing humility and trust. The prayer he says, quietly, “Munda cor meum” asks God that his heart and his lips may be purified so that he may announce the holy Gospel in the proper manner. According to J.A. Jungmann (Missarum Solemnia, Vol I, p.365), the “Munda cor meum” at the Low Mass began to be used in the late 15th century. After the publication of Summorum Pontificum, I remember reading an article in which a liturgist (Manlio Sodi, Dean of Liturgy and Homiletics at the Pontifical Salesian University, Rome), a critic of the Holy Father’s decision, said that the Traditional Mass gave little space to the Scriptures. Admittedly he was referring to the Lectionary, but also to the texts of the Mass: he seemed to forget that in the Traditional Mass there are always two psalms, 42 and 26 (6 verses), and recurring references to biblical images, like the Holy of Holies and, here, in Munda cor meum, to the Book of Isaiah: Isaiah's lips were purified by live coals before announcing the word of God (Is 6, 5-7). At the solemn Mass, the Bishop or priest blesses the deacon; at low Mass the priest asks to be blessed “Dominus sit in corde meo et labiis meis”: that God may use his heart to believe and love the Gospel, and his lips, that they may be apt to announce it to the world.

All the Offertory prayers are silent prayers, but I do not consider them personal, in the way we have seen so far, for they pertain to the offering of the sacrifice, and can be regarded as public. Such is also the short prayer that the priest says when he drops a small part of the Sacred Host into the chalice: “Haec commixtio, et consecratio …”. This prayer which accompanied the “fermentum”, the joining of the Sacred Host sent to him by the Bishop with the one the priest had just consecrated, is interpreted by Dom Gueranger in a fascinating way. He says that “this ancient rite is meant to indicate that at the moment of the Resurrection of Our Lord, his Blood was reunited with his Body. It was not sufficient that his Soul had rejoined his Body, but so that the Lord be complete, even his Blood had to be running in his veins, the blood which he had shed in the garden of olives, in the passion and on the Cross”. The term “consecration” should not be interpreted as a sacramental consecration, but simply as the rejoining of sacred things.

After the prayer which, at High Mass precedes the Kiss of Peace, the priest prepares himself for Holy Communion by reciting two prayers, which appear in the IX and X centuries Like the Offertory prayers, they arrived at the Roman Missal from the usage of Frankish-gallican dioceses. The first, “Domine Jesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi” states that in the saving death of Our Lord, the Most Holy Trinity was acting, the Father by his will, the Holy Spirit by his cooperation and assisting the humanity of Christ in his self offering. Then the prayer says that through the Body and Blood of Christ, which the priest is about to receive, again he may be purified of his faults, and be freed of future faults by observing the commandments of God and being always united with Christ.

The second prayer, “Perceptio Corporis tui, Domine Jesu Christe” returns to the theme of unworthiness and humility, surely the most fitting attitude at this point. It makes an almost explicit reference to the teaching of Saint Paul – Scripture again! – in the first letter to the Corinthians (11, 29), about those who eat the Body of Christ unworthily: for them, Holy Communion is not a sacred, holy gesture, but a condemnation. Time does not allow me to dwell further on the “silent prayers”, but an observation by J.A. Jungmann casts further light on them. He says that the “silent prayers”, though they are generally spoken in the first person singular, “originally were also meant to accompany the meditation of the people at Mass”. (Cfr J.A. Jungmann, Missarum Solemnia, Vol 2, p. 260). And also that “This is not a particular phenomenon: even the eastern liturgies allow the celebrant to pray privately, especially in preparation to and thanksgiving after H. Communion”.

On 17th October 2001, Blessed John Paul II sent a Message to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which said, among other things:

The People of God need to see priests and deacons behave in a way that is full of reverence and dignity, in order to help them to penetrate invisible things without unnecessary words or explanations. In the Roman Missal of Saint Pius V, as in several Eastern liturgies, there are very beautiful prayers through which the priest expresses the most profound sense of humility and reverence before the Sacred Mysteries: they reveal the very substance of the Liturgy”. A statement which surprised many, as it appeared not only to praise but to recommend the use of the Traditional Missal, six years before Summorum Pontificum! [Quoted in part by the essay “The priest at the offertory of the Mass” issued by the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff - 2009.)

The silent prayers of the priest at Mass, open for him a true sense of awe and amazement as he performs his holy duty. “This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist. But in a special way it should fill the minister of the Eucharist.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 5).

The Pontifical Vesting Prayers of the Usus Antiquior

As a follow up to yesterday’s post on the rite of vesting a bishop for the celebration of Mass, we here present the Pontifical vesting prayers of the Missal of St. Pius V in Latin and an original NLM English translation. Where the prayers quote or allude to the words of Scripture, I have followed the Douay-Rheims translation as much as possible. These prayers were originally meant to be said one by one in the act of donning each garment, but for practical reasons, it is a common custom to read them all at once, and then begin vesting. The prayers for the washing of the hands and six vestments (amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole, chasuble) are similar to those appointed to said by priests, but not identical, and generally longer; six are for vestments proper to bishops. The Missal itself makes no mention of vestment prayers for the deacon and subdeacon, but it is customary for them to say the same vesting prayers as priests where appropriate, adding those for the dalmatic and tunicle which were said by the bishop.

It is well known that many liturgical vestments were originally just ordinary clothes of the Late Antique period, which over time became stylized. After the traditional array of vestments had become established, the medieval love for symbolism and allegory was applied to it with enthusiasm as to every other aspect of the liturgy. For example, the third book of William Durandus’ famous commentary on the liturgy, the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, gives at least one spiritual meaning to each of the vestments proper to the various ranks of the clergy. Such allegories, once accepted, were sometimes then read back into the vesting prayers themselves, as seen in the Roman prayer for the pontifical gloves. The allegorical meaning of the coverings on Jacob’s hand in Genesis 27, explained by Saint Augustine in the tenth chapter of his book Against Lying, is quoted by Durandus, and also forms the basis of the prayer which the bishop says while donning the gloves. It should also be noted that these prayers contain many references, direct and indirect, to the Bible, a typical feature of liturgical customs originating in the Carolingian period.

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Orationes dicendae ab Episcopo quando in Pontificalibus celebrat

[The Prayers to be said by a Bishop when he celebrates in Pontificals]


Ad Caligas  Calcea, Domine, pedes meos in praeparationem evangelii pacis, et protege me in velamento alarum tuarum.

The Buskins  Shod my feet, Lord, unto the preparation of the gospel of peace, and protect me under the cover of thy wings. (Ephesians 6, 15 and Psalm 60, 5)
Cum exuitur Cappa  Exue me, Domine, veterem hominem cum moribus et actibus suis: et indue me novum hominem, qui secundum Deum creatus est in justitia, et sanctitate veritatis.

When the Cappa is removed  Take off of me, Lord, the old man with his manners and deeds: and put on me the new man, who according to God is created in justice, and the holiness of truth.
(Ephesians 4, 22 and 24)
Cum lavat manus Da, Domine, virtutem manibus meis ad abstergendam omnem maculam immundam; ut sine pollutione mentis et corporis valeam tibi servire.

When he washes his hands  Give strength to my hands, Lord, to wash away every unclean stain; that I may be able to serve Thee without defilement of mind or body.
Ad Amictum  Impone, Domine, galeam salutis in capite meo, ad expugnandas omnes diabolicas fraudes, inimicorum omnium versutias superando.


At the Amice  Place the helmet of salvation, Lord, upon my head, to overthrow all the deceits of the devil, prevailing against the cunning of all enemies.
(Ephesians 6, 17)
Ad Albam  Dealba me, Domine, et a delicto meo munda me; ut cum his, qui stolas suas dealbaverunt in sanguine Agni, gaudiis perfruar sempiternis.

At the Alb  Wash me clean, Lord, and cleanse me from my sin; that I may rejoice and be glad unendingly with them that have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. (Psalm 50, 3 and Apocalypse 7, 14)
Ad Cingulum  Praecinge me, Domine, cingulo fidei et virtute castitatis lumbos meos, et extingue in eis humorem libidinis; ut jugiter maneat in me vigor totius castitatis.

At the Cincture  Gird me, Lord, with the belt of faith, my loins with the virtue of chastity, and extinguish in them the humour of lust; that the strength of all chastity may ever abide in me.
Cum accipit Crucem pectoralem  Munire digneris me, Domine Jesu Christe, ab omnibus insidiis inimicorum omnium, signo sanctissimae Crucis tuae: ac concedere digneris mihi indigno servo tuo, ut sicut hanc Crucem, Sanctorum tuorum reliquiis refertam, ante pectus meum teneo, sic semper mente retineam et memoriam passionis, et sanctorum victorias Martyrum.

When he receives the Pectoral Cross  Deign Thou, Lord Jesus Christ, to guard me, from all the snares of every enemy, by the sign of Thy most holy Cross: and deign Thou to grant to me, Thy unworthy servant, that as I hold before my breast this Cross with the relics of Thy Saints within it, so may I ever keep in mind the memory of the Passion, and the victories of the Holy Martyrs.
Ad Stolam  Redde mihi, Domine, obsecro, stolam immortalitatis, quam perdidi in praevaricatione primi parentis; et, quamvis indignus accedere praesumo ad tuum sacrum mysterium cum hoc ornamento, praesta, ut in eodem in perpetuum merear laetari.

At the Stole  Restore to me, Lord, I beseech Thee, the stole of immortality, which I lost in the transgression of the first father; and, though unworthy I presume to approach Thy sacred mystery with this garment, grant that I may merit to rejoice in it forever.
Ad Tunicellam  Tunica jucunditatis, et indumento laetitiae induat me Dominus.

At the Tunicle  May the Lord cloth me in the tunicle of delight, and the garment of rejoicing.
Ad Dalmaticam  Indue me, Domine, indumento salutis et vestimento laetitiae; et dalmatica justitiae circumda me semper.

At the Dalmatic  Cloth me, Lord, with the garment of salvation, and the raiment of joy; and ever place upon me the dalmatic of justice.
Ad Chirothecas  Circumda, Domine, manus meas munditia novi hominis, qui de caelo descendit; ut, quemadmodum Jacob dilectus tuus pelliculis hoedorum opertis manibus, paternam benedictionem, oblato patri cibo potuque gratissimo, impetravit; sic et oblata per manus nostras salutaris hostia, gratiae tuae benedictionem mereatur. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui in similitudinem carnis peccati pro nobis obtulit semetipsum.

At the Gloves  Place upon my hands, Lord, the cleanliness of the new man, that came down from heaven; that, just as Jacob Thy beloved, covering his hands with the skins of goats, and offering to his father most pleasing food and drink, obtained his father’s blessing, so also may the saving victim offered by our hands, merit the blessing of Thy grace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who in the likeness of sinful flesh offered Himself for us.
(Genesis 27, 6-29 and Romans 8, 3)
Ad Planetam  Domine, qui dixisti: Jugum meum suave est, et onus meum leve: fac, ut illud portare sic valeam, quod possim consequi tuam gratiam.

At the Chasuble  O Lord, who said: my yoke is sweet and my burden light: grant that I may be able so to bear it, so that I may be able to obtain Thy grace.
(St. Matthew 11, 30)
Ad Mitram  Mitram, Domine, et salutis galeam impone capiti meo; ut contra antiqui hostis omniumque inimicorum meorum insidias inoffensus evadam.

At the Mitre  Place upon my head, Lord, the mitre and helmet of salvation; that I may go forth unhindered against the snares of the ancient foe, and of all my enemies.
(Ephesians 6, 17)
Ad Anulum  Cordis et corporis mei, Domine, digitos virtute decora, et septiformis Spiritus sanctificatione circumda.

At the Ring  Adorn with virtue, Lord, the fingers of my body and of my heart, and place upon them the sanctification of the sevenfold Spirit.
Ad Manipulum  Merear, precor, Domine, manipulum portare mente flebili; ut cum exsultatione portionem accipiam cum justis.


At the Maniple  I pray Thee , Lord, that I may merit to bear the maniple in lamentation; that with joyfulness I may receive a portion among the just.
(Psalm 125, 67)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in Berlin (Institut St. Philip Neri)





Msgr. Valentin Miserarchs Grau: "The rampant wave of false and truly dreadful liturgical music in our churches..."

Continuing on with our coverage of some of the presentations given at the FIUV's 20th general assembly in Rome this past November, we now turn to Msgr. Valentin Miserachs Grau's considerations of sacred music. [NLM emphases]

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IMPLICATIONS OF A CENTENARY:
PONTIFICAL INSTITUTE FOR SACRED MUSIC (1911-2011)

Monsignor Valentin Miserachs Grau
President of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music


The Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music was founded by Pope Saint Pius X in 1911. The Papal Brief Expleverunt in which the new School was approved and praised is dated on the 14th November of that year, even if the academic activities had started several months before, on the 19th January. A Holy Mass to impetrate graces was celebrated on the 5th January. The whole Academic Year 2010-2011 has been dedicated to commemorate the centenary of the foundation of what was originally known as “Superior School of Sacred Music”, later included by Pope Pius
XI among the Roman Athenaeums and Ecclesiastical Universities under the denomination of “Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music”.

In the atmosphere of liturgical and musical renewal that characterized the second half of Nineteenth Century and in the frame of the research of the pure sources of Sacred Music that leaded to Pope Saint Pius X’s Motu proprio Inter sollicitudines [Tra le sollecitudini], it became evident it would not have been possible to carry on the programme of the reformation without schools of Sacred Music. It was within the Associazione Italiana Santa Cecilia (AISC) [Italian Association of Saint Cecily that the idea of settle a superior school in Rome, the most suitable place for that, as being the center of the whole Catholic world. From the first projects until the
opening of the School thirty years elapsed!

The Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music was foreseen since its very beginning –and it has remained substantially faithful to this vocation– as a centre of high formation specialising in the main branches of Sacred Music: Gregorian chant, composition, choir conduction, organ and musicology. It is not then about a conservatoire, with the study of different musical instruments, but about a university centre specifically devoted to Sacred Music. It is obvious, of course, that music in general underlies Sacred Music: in the course of composition, for instance, one must start, as in any conservatoire, with the study of harmony, counterpoint and fugue; then follow with the study of variations, the sonata form, and orchestration, before arriving at the great exquisitely sacred forms (motet, Mass and oratory). The Pontifical Institute has recently adhered to the Bologna Convention and has consequently adapted its own syllabus and courses to the new parameters proposed by it. It is in this spirit that a superior biennium of piano has been newly introduced, although this subject was already largely present as a complementary matter in our curriculum.

I should underline the fact that in the year just elapsed the Pontifical Institute has reached a historical maximum of students with 140 inscriptions, a third of whom coming from Italy and the remainder coming from the five continents. In addition to the study of the various musical disciplines, we have to record other exquisite musical activities like the beautiful season of concerts –with the relevant participation of our teachers and students– and, of course, periodical solemn liturgical celebrations in chant.

The Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music is not a body in the Church with normative character, but a school where to learn, with the study and practice, how to become leaven and a model for service to the different churches throughout the Catholic world.

In order to commemorate in a suitable way such an auspicious anniversary, we began by organizing the Concert season 2010-2011 according to the historical framework of these last hundred years, with reference to the subjects of our teaching, and to the most relevant figures that distinguished themselves in the life of the Pontifical Institute. I would like to mention the Holy Mass celebrated by myself in the Ancient Roman Rite in the church of Santi Giovanni e Petronio in the Via del Mascherone on the 5th January 2011, exactly as it happened a century ago, on the same day and in the same church, when our first president Father Angelo De Santi, S.I., wanted to open the activity of the infant school with a Holy Mass celebrated “in the intimacy”, with the attendance of a few professors and students. I have celebrated in the Ancient Rite both for historical accuracy and for giving joy to a number of professors and students that since some time ago asked me to celebrate the Holy Mass in the extraordinary form.

The most relevant acts took place in the last week of May: the publication of a thick volume entitled “Cantemus Domino”, that gathers the different and many-sided features of our hundred-year history; the edition of a CD collection of music by the Institute; the celebration of an important International Congress on Sacred Music (with the participation of more than one hundred speakers and lecturers), that was closed by an extraordinary concert and a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving. During the Congress, three relevant figures related to Sacred Music were conferred with the honorary doctorate and held brilliant and highly-valued magisterial lectures.

I would like to underline that the Holy Father Benedict XVI has been in some way present in the centennial commemoration through a Letter addressed to our Grand Chancellor, The Most Eminent Lord Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, in which His Holiness remembers the merits of the Institute along its hundred-year history and insists on how important it is for the future to continue working along the furrow of the great Tradition, an indispensable condition for a genuine updating (aggiornamento) having all the guarantees that the Church has always requested as essential connotations of liturgical Sacred Music: holiness, excellence of the forms (true art) and universality, in the sense that liturgical music could be acceptable to everybody, without shutting itself in abstruse or elitist forms and, least of all, turning down to trivial consumer products.

This one is a sore point: the rampant wave of false and truly dreadful liturgical music in our churches. Nevertheless, the will of the Church clearly appears in the words of the Holy Father I have just mentioned. He had already addressed to us in the allocution pronounced during his visit to the Pontifical Institute on 13th October 2007. Moreover, it is still fresh in our memory the Chyrograph that the Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote on 22nd November 2003 to commemorate the centenary of the Saint Pius X’s Motu proprio Inter sollicitudines (22nd November 1903), by which Pope Wojtyla assumed the main principles of this fundamental document without forgetting what the Second Vatican Council clearly expressed in the Chapter VI of its Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on Sacred Liturgy. By doing that, Blessed John Paul II practically walked the same path traced by that Holy Pope who wanted his Motu proprio to have validity as the “juridical code of Sacred Music”. Now we must wonder: if the will of the Church has been clearly declared also in our times, how is it possible that the musical praxis in our churches distances itself in so evident a way from the same doctrine?

We must consider several problems at the root of this question, for instance the problem of repertoire. We have hinted at a double aspect: the risk of shutting oneself in a closed circle that would wish to essay new compositions considered as being of high quality in Liturgy. We must say that the evolution of musical language towards uncertain horizons makes the breach between “serious” music and popular sensitivity to become more and more profound. Liturgical music must be “universal”, that is acceptable to any kind of audience. Today it is difficult to find good music composed with this essential characteristic. I do not discuss the artistic value of certain contemporary productions, even sacred, but I think that it would not be opportune to insert them in the Sacred Liturgy. One cannot transform the “oratory” into “laboratory”.

The second aspect of the problem derives from a false interpretation of the conciliar doctrine on Sacred Music. As a matter of fact, the post-conciliar liturgical “renewal”, including the almost total lack of mandatory rules at a high level, has allowed a progressive decay of liturgical music, at the point of becoming, in the most cases, “consumer music” according to the parameters of the most slipshod easy-listening music. This sad practice sometimes determines attitudes of petulant rejection towards genuine Sacred Music, of yesterday and today, maybe composed in a simple manner, but according to the rules of Art. Only a change of mentality and a decisive “reforming” will –that I am afraid is far to come– would be able to bring back to our churches the good musical praxis and, together with it, also the conscientiousness of celebrations, that would not lack to entice, through the value of beauty, a large public, particularly young people, currently kept away by the prevailing amateurish practice, falsely popular and wrongly considered –even in good faith– as an effective instrument of approaching.

Regarding the power of involvement of which the good liturgical music is capable, I would like to add only what is my own personal experience. By a fortunate chance, I am acting after almost forty years, as Kapellmeister at the Roman Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where every Sunday and on feast days the Chapter Mass is celebrated in Latin, and with Gregorian and polyphonic chant accompanied by organ (and by a brass sextet in highest solemnities). I can assure you that the nave and the aisles of the basilica get packed and not rarely there are people that come after the ceremonies to express their gratefulness, moved to tears as they are, especially by the Hymn to the Madonna Salus Populi Romani (Our Lady, Salvation of the Roman People). They often cannot hold back the excitement and arrive to burst out clapping. People are thirsting for good music! It goes directly to the heart and is capable of working even resounding conversions.

Another compass of good liturgical music –always reminded by the Teaching of the Church– concerns the primacy of the pipe organ. The organ has always been considered as the prince of instruments in Roman Liturgy and consequently has enjoyed great honour and esteem. We know well that other rites use different instruments, or only the chant without any kind of instrumental accompaniment. But the Roman Church, and also the denominations born from the Lutheran Reformation, see in the pipe organ the preferred instrument for Liturgy. In Latin countries, the use of organ is almost exclusive whilst for Anglo-Saxon tradition the intervention of the orchestra is frequent in celebrations. This fact is not due to a whim or by pure chance: the organ has very ancient roots and has been praised along the centuries in the path of its historical improvement. The objective quality of its sound (produced and supported by the air blown into the pipes, comparable to the sound emitted by the human voice) and its exclusive phonic richness (that makes of it a world in itself and not a mere ersatz of the orchestra) justify the predilection that the Church fosters towards it. It is rightly so that the Second Vatican Council dedicates inspired words to the organ when stating that “it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things” (SC, 120), in which it does no other thing that to recall the preceding doctrine both of Saint Pius X and Venerable Pius XII (especially in the splendid Encyclical Letter Musicae sacrae disciplina). By the way, I would like to remark that the publication of the PIMS that has got more success is the booklet Iucunde laudemus, that gathers together the most relevant documents of the Church’s Magisterium regarding Sacred Music. Just in these days, since the first edition was sold out, we have re-edited this work updated with further ecclesiastical documents, both from the preceding teaching and the one of the reigning Pope.

In our quick review of the main points underlying a good liturgical musical praxis, we have now arrived to a last but not least question, one that should be firstly considered: the Gregorian chant. It is the official chant of the Roman Church, as the Second Vatican Council reasserts. Its repertoire includes thousands of ancient, less ancient, and even modern pieces. Certainly, we can find the highest charm in the oldest compositions, dated back to the Xth-XIth Centuries. In this case also it has to do about an objective value, since the Gregorian chant represents the synthesis of the European and Mediterranean chant, related to the genuine and authentic popular chant, even that of the remotest regions of the world. It is a deeply human and essential chant that can be traced in its richness and variety of modes, in its rhythmic freedom (always at the service of the word), in the diversity and different degrees of its single pieces, according to the individual to whom the execution is assigned, etc. This is a chant that has found in the Church its most appropriate breeding ground and constitutes a unique treasure of priceless value, even from the merely cultural point of view.

Therefore, the rediscovery of Gregorian chant is a sine qua non condition to give back dignity to the liturgical music and not only as a valid repertoire in itself, but also as a source of inspiration for new compositions, as it was the case of the great polyphonists of the Renaissance, who –following the guidelines of the Council of Trent– created the structure bearing their wonderful works departing from the Gregorian subject matter. If we have in Gregorian chant the master path, why not follow it instead of persisting in scouring roads that in the most of cases drive to nowhere? But to undertake this work it is necessary to count on talented and well-prepared people. This is the goal of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music. This is because of these noble ideals that it fought along the last hundred years and will continue to fight in the future, in the conviction of paying an essential service to the universal Church in a primary field such that of liturgical Sacred Music. Saint Pius X was so persuaded as to write in the introduction of his Motu proprio these golden words:

Among the cares of the pastoral office, not only of this Supreme Chair, which We, though unworthy, occupy through the inscrutable dispositions of Providence, but of every local church, a leading one is without question that of maintaining and promoting the decorum of the House of God in which the august mysteries of religion are celebrated, and where the Christian people assemble to receive the grace of the Sacraments, to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, to adore the most august Sacrament of the Lord's Body and to unite in the common prayer of the Church in the public and solemn liturgical offices (…) We do therefore publish, motu proprio and with certain knowledge, Our present Instruction to which, as to a juridical code of sacred music, We will with the fullness of Our Apostolic Authority that the force of law be given, and We do by Our present handwriting impose its scrupulous observance on all” (Inter sollicitudines).

It would be desirable that the courage of Saint Pius X finds some echo in the Church of our times.

Rome, 2011.
Mons. Valentín Miserachs Grau
President of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music.

The Vesting of a Bishop in East and West

Back in October of 2008 we showed readers some video of the beautiful and profound pontifical vesting rites of the usus antiquior and we also showed to you some stills from the vesting of a bishop within the Byzantine liturgy.

Recently, the blog Byzantine, Texas brought some video to my attention which shows the latter. This comes within an Eastern Orthodox context, but it would be similar within an Byzantine Catholic context:



And here, to re-cap again, is one possible manifestation of the pontifical vesting within the Roman rite. I say one possible manifestation, because the vesting could also take place within a chapel, or even at the throne. As well, the prayers that are associated with each particular vestment could either be prayed together -- as seen in this video -- or (my own preference) prayed as each vestment is put on. (Readers may want to jump forward to the 2:00 minute mark.)


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas, Ss. Trinita, Rome