Sunday, December 30, 2007

Musical Rubrics and the Missa de Angelis

The following concerns the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

A correspondent writes the NLM:

The Roman Kyriale and Missal have certain chants oriented for various events in the Liturgical year. Even the way the celebrant intones various things in the liturgy is "supposed to be" different for different feasts.

It seems a pretty obvious statement that most TLM communities, even the SSPX, uses the Missa de Angelis for a Sung Mass. Why is this, from your perspective? If there are rubrics that envision versions of the Sacred Chant being used to highlight a particular season then why do most of us only hear the "Missa de Angelis" at High Mass, giving us the false notion that other forms of the chant are incorrect? Is it a default? Are the musical rubrics written in sand?

Our Parish has taken on a new choir master and developed a parish choir. He seldom uses the Missal de Angelis. Some folks wonder, "What's up with that?". He used "Orbis Factor" for most of the Sunday's after Pentecost. Seems correct there. The Kyriale says that Kyrie is "for all Sundays of the year". He uses XVI as well, not a favorite of mine but simple none the less.

How are these chants "supposed to be used"? Is there a true right and wrong here? A technicality written in the sand?

These are good questions, and I shall try to answer them to the best of my ability. (I am not a rubricist, so feel free to interject with corrections.)

First, regarding the celebrant's intonations, a quick glance at the Liber Usualis yields a mixed bag on rubrics. (These probably do not have the legal force of rubrics in the Missal, although they are rubrics of a sort and I would think absolutely correct. Anyone have a 1962 Missal handy? There is an online Missal, but it didn't have any useful information, and it froze my computer, just as a special parting gift, I suppose.)

For instance, under the subtitle Toni Orationum, there are a number of options. Under the first option, Tonus festivus, it says: Hic tonus servatur in Dominicis et Festis. But for other tones the instructions are not so straightforward and allow for options. Surprisingly, there are no rubrics concerning the three preface tones--tonus solemnis, tonus ferialis, and tonus solemnior. Nevertheless, concerning these, the traditon that prevails regarding these tones--which is given away by their names--should be respected. One would not use the tonus solemnis for a funeral, and I should hope that one would not use the ferial tone for Epiphany.

An alternative is for the priest to employ recto tono in a number of places (particularly the prayers and the readings), but this should be used only sparingly and in any case temporarily.

Now concerning the Mass Ordinaries, the assignment of various Masses to certain times of year is a recent one, at least when this issue is considered in "Roman time." I am unaware of any requirement to use any Mass Ordinary at any time. One could even mix and match. I do wonder about the Requiem Mass, however, particularly since the Ordinary is interspersed with the Propers for that Mass. Those simple Ordinary chants would seem to be required, not to mention advisable. One other exception is that on ferial days the Ordinaries assigned must be used.

There remains the issue of the beating to death of the Missa de Angelis. This seems to be the pre-conciliar version of the Mass of Creation. It's the default setting. What's interesting is that there are more beautiful settings of the Mass that are just as singable, if not easier to sing. (None of this means, by the way, that it should never be sung, just that less is more.)

Why is Mass VIII overused? It seems to me to be good old-fashioned laziness. No one wants to bother to learn anything else. What's odd is that people in the congregation object when this Mass is taken away from them, yet many of the same people don't even bother to sing it. We have to branch out and be adventurous, lest the Traditional Liturgy become the Old Liturgy. Congratulations to the music director mentioned above who has taken a few smart and adventurous steps.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: