Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Mundelein Psalter: it's here!

My copy of the Mundelein Psalter arrived, a massive hardbound, beautifully produced volume, and I can't be more pleased. In some ways, it is a wonderful monument to our times, and the fantastic flood of top-quality liturgical resources now (and suddenly) becoming available, resources that are fitting to the task at hand (not just fly-away and throw-away missalettes). This one certainly is fitting. It is a treasure, suitable for parish use or private use, and certainly not limited to use in a monastic setting. For herein is the complete English-language Psalter with music and excellent notation and translations, along with a good quantity of office hymns that one can only hope will become more familiar in parishes.

The introduction prints the following bracing and revealing statement: "this volume does not intend to offer anything flashy or flamboyant. It does not boast of any innovation; it does not introduce the next fad. The Church’s prayer must be allowed to speak for itself, to express the joy and grief, the anguish and elation of God’s children across the ages and around the globe. This volume hopes to offer an opening to the radical beauty of the Judeo-Christian prayer, in an accessible, comprehensible way. This, after all, is the prayer of the Church."

But this is too modest, since this is, after all, "the first complete psalter containing the approved English texts of the Divine Office pointed for singing chant and available for public use." I'll not dwell on the point, but it is remarkable to think that this is the first complete Psalter.

This book offers a clear guide to making the Office a normal part of Christian life again, just as it was in the first thousand plus years of Christianity. The opening section reprints the General Instruction for saying the office, which I had never read (and didn't even know existed!), and that alone provides an excellent education into why our liturgical life should go beyond the Mass.

The editors must have spent thousands and thousands of hours on this. The patience and hard work that must have been involved is beyond belief actually. The book is $50, which sounds like a lot but once it arrives, you immediately realize what a bargain this is for a top-quality book of 1350 pages that opens up the whole of Christian daily prayer for all of us. You can order it here.

Certainly every Catholic musician and singer should own a copy. It is really a book for everyone. May it initiate a revival of the Office for the whole Christian community.

As a final note, I really wish that the last 40 pages of a great hymns (the real thing, yes, actual Catholic hymns) would be produced as a separate volume and made available for sale, or, better yet, a free download.

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