Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Abbot Zielinski: Sacred Music in the Mind of the Church

From L'Osservatore Romano, via Papa Ratzinger blog, an unofficial NLM translation from the Italian. [If any of our more fluent Italian-English speakers can help me to clean up sections of this, I would be grateful.]

Sacred Music in the Mind of the Church
The Universality of Gregorian

by Abbot Zielinski
Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church

Art and music, demonstrations of beauty, these are not extrinsic elements to the liturgy, nor are they purely decorative; they are very integral parts of worship, as Benedict XVI highlights in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of the 22nd of February 2007:

"This relationship between creed and worship is evidenced in a particular way by the rich theological and liturgical category of beauty. Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor. The liturgy is a radiant expression of the paschal mystery, in which Christ draws us to himself and calls us to communion. As Saint Bonaventure would say, in Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendour at their source. (106) This is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love." (paragraph 35)

In his spiritual exercises, called "oratorio" St. Philip used words and music: reading and remarks of texts of the Fathers of the Church or classical spiritual authors... while music was added to console them and [stir?] souls...

In the so-called "great oratory" music in liturgical celebrations became increasingly important and although it has never been considered an end in itself, its aim was the solemn worship offered to God and building of souls. La Chiesa Nuova was a center of music in Rome and counted amongst the friends and spiritual sons of the saint are the great musicians of the sixteenth century: from Anerio, Animuccia, Palestrina, Victoria. In all regions of Italy, congregations of the Oratory were places where the sacred music flourished.

St. Philip and his spiritual children put into practice what the Church tradition has always said: singing and sacred music, in offering praise to God in the solemnity of the liturgical celebration, supporting prayer and the connection of those who assist to the sacred mysteries. In sanctifying the faithful and [forming?] taste, sacred music also makes explicit the mysterious unity of the mystical body. St Augustine describes in his Confessions the life felt in Milan in the celebrations in which the faithful sang the psalms and hymns of St. Ambrose (IX, 7, 15-16). In a sermon the same St. Augustine said: "The new man knows what is the song again. [?] Singing is an expression of joy, and if we think of this with greater attention, it is an expression of love" (Sermon 34, 1). In this sense, Benedict XVI said during his visit to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music on Oct. 13, 2007: "How rich is the biblical and patristic tradition stressing the effectiveness of singing and sacred music, to move and lift hearts and, so to speak, in the same intimacy of the life of God." [I would appreciate a better translation of this quote - NLM]

Many pontifical documents and the Council of the last century recall the celebration of the solemn divine offices and music. As a result of this renewal of sacred music, the faithful came to know more the common Gregorian melodies... In recent decades, there has been proposed a variety of chants and songs to encourage the involvement of the faithful; unfortunately these are often lacking in form and content. The problem also emerges that many new compositions are so ephemeral and linked to their era that they must be replaced after a few years.

It must be stressed that the teaching [of the Church] does not require the participation of the people in all the liturgical chant, but recommends proper coordination of all, each according to their duties and ministries, which "leads to the right spiritual climate that makes the moment liturgical, aware and fruitful." (John Paul II, Chirograph on Sacred Music, 23 November 2003). The documents of the Church speak mainly of Gregorian because it is intimately linked to the biblical, patristic and liturgical and is part of the lex orandi of the Church. This is the track from motu proprio of St. Pius X (1903), passing through the encyclical Musicae sacrae disciplina of Pius XII (1955), the sixth chapter of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), the instruction of the then Congregation of Rites (1967), and the chirograph of John Paul II (2003) in commemoration of the centenary [of Tra le Sollecitudini].

In Sacramentum Caritatis, Benedict XVI says: "In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). 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 (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy." (paragraph 42)

It is not only possible, it is also desirable that the faithful, in the celebration of Mass, participate in the singing of the Gregorian parts that are allocated [to them]. This would be a return to the seriousness of the liturgy, to holiness and goodness and the universality of forms that must characterize any liturgical music worthy of the name, as reaffirmed both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We could start [?] from the Pater Noster, and the chants of the Mass. One should not underestimate the ability of the faithful to learn a minimum repertoire. We can learn a lot from the experience of African countries, where the Christian people sing the Gregorian melodies with ease...

It is not surprising, therefore, that sacred music is in crisis, because "I would go so far as to say that without Gregorian chant, the Church is mutilated, and that there cannot be Church music without Gregorian chant" as Monsignor Valentin Miserachs Grau, president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music [said]. "The great masters of polyphony [are greatly?] based on Gregorian, [mutuandone issues, the mode and poliritmia?]. This spirit informs the refined technique for this faithful adherence to the sacred and liturgical moment, [such as the] great Palestrina, Lasso, Victoria, Guerrero, Morales, and so forth." New compositions, both in Latin and in the vernacular, are all the more valuable the more inspired by Gregorian. John Paul II made famous the principle of St. Pius X: "the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple." (Tra le Sollectitudini, 3).

Despite the pronouncements of Vatican II and the papal magisterium, the music of the church is in crisis; suffers from the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture, which Benedict XVI spoke in his speech to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2005.

To retrieve the treasure of the great tradition of the Church, we must begin with Gregorian chant, which is able to communicate to the people of God a sense of Catholicism and lead to a correct inculturation.

The German writer Martin Mosebach noted that this music was peculiar also to the ears of Charlemagne or Saint Thomas Aquinas, of Monteverdi or of Haydn, and it was as strange in their age as it is in our age. Today, however, one is more inclined towards the music of other cultures than the Christians of many centuries ago. Besides, the melodies of the various local traditions, even of those of cultures different from ours, are close relatives of Gregorian chant and, even in this sense, Gregorian Chant is truly universal.

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