Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Keep the Carols to a Minimum

The shopping malls have had Christmas carols playing since just after Halloween. The Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and independent evangelicals have long ago held the annual Christmas sing alongs. The parties have been taking place for a month and most of them played the same carols, in various popular renderings, on the CD player.

These same dozen or so songs have been a ubiquitous part of holiday life for many years. This is probably a tribute to the place of the faith even in an aggressively secular age, and nothing that Catholics should necessarily regret (though of course the timing is all off).

Are more carols--very late in the season--what Catholics hope to experience on Christmas eve and day? Maybe some people can deal with it just fine. But what, then, is memorable about Mass? What makes it different from every other aesthetic in modern life?

In fact, these holy days ahead have music intrinsic to the rite in a way that even the best carol can never be. We have Mass propers in chant and polyphony, the ordinary of Mass, as well as Latin hymns from the Gregorian books that are intended for people to sing. So I issue my annual call: let's leave the carols out of Mass this year.

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