Friday, September 15, 2006

Reform of the Reform in Bavaria

Not to hit this subject too hard, but I thought it might be nice to consider the fine liturgies of this past week, now that the Holy Father has returned to Rome. Much has been posted here about the dedication of the organ on Wednesday, but there was even more to this week that ought to give us cause for hope, especially if influential liturgists throughout the world were watching and taking notes.

The Mass on the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary was absolutely splendid, with wonderful brass playing, excellent organ playing and improvisations, and an exceedingly refined choral sound of the Regensburger Domspatzen ("Cathedral sparrows"). (For those who've never heard the Domspatzen, they have a sound that's very warm and much like the choirs at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, USA, only it's a more mature sound, which is to be expected.) There was also a chant schola, which was highly involved in the chanting (in Latin!) of the Credo, the Sanctus, and, believe it or not, the Communion antiphon Diffusa est gratia from the Graduale Romanum. At Communion the choir also sang a fantastic modern motet, but unfortunately I haven't been able to figure out what it was.

At the same Mass, the Pope used the Roman Canon, sang the Preface dialogue, not to mention the Pontifical Blessing, which was in Latin--and the people knew their responses! As others mentioned, he might even have been saying some of the old incensation prayers at the Offertory as well; I too saw his lips moving. Sanctus torches were also used.

The music at yesterday's organ dedication was equally wonderful, and as one of my very well-qualified correspondents noted in reference to the robust congregational singing, this is congregational participation of the sort that we never get with much contemporary music.

It's also worth mentioning that, despite moments of polite applause for the Holy Father, these events were carried out in a way that clearly sent the message that they were sacred events.

Liturgical reform often, in fact mostly, happens by way of observation and imitation rather than by fiat from above. Were people watching this week? How many pew dwellers might--maybe--approach their music director this weekend and say, "Did you see the Pope's Mass? The choir sang this really wonderful piece......" Or how many might approach their pastor and say, "Can we use Sanctus torches, too?" or, "Father, can we chant the Sanctus?" Of course, nothing drastic will happen overnight, but if anything can influence liturgical renewal, it's an internationally televised Papal Mass.

Finally, I'm curious: Did anyone gain any ideas from this week's liturgies?

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