Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crisis Magazine on the Vatican II Hymnal

Crisis Magazine recently published a piece on the "Vatican II Hymnal" published by Corpus Christi Watershed. Here is an excerpt from the piece:

The Church put specific prayers and chants in place for every Mass many centuries ago, with the intention that we should sing them regularly and ritually: an Introit at the beginning, a Gradual and an Alleluia after the readings, an Offertory and a Communion.

Each is an exquisite gem that inspires everyone who hears. Each bears an aura of antiquity that is astounding: many of them would have been heard and sung by St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Albert the Great.

The Church prefers that we use these chants today, and yet most of us have never heard them before. The Catholic Church does allow for some latitude in the music planned for Mass, but what was intended as an extraordinary exception has become a universal rule. Sunday Mass is now dominated by songs which are quite often musically inferior, thematically inappropriate, and lyrically shallow. The result is a lack of unity in God’s family and a watering down of the Mass’s inherent beauty.

Just as the Scripture readings are formally set and repeated in cycles throughout the ages, so also is the music we are meant to hear and share in. It is all for a reason, of course—it all works together to form a particular picture.

For example, at the Mass for the first Sunday after Easter last year Catholics heard specific readings from Acts of the Apostles, the 1st letter of Peter, and the Gospel of John. The homily expounded on those readings (one hopes) and in some way exhorted parishioners to imitate the first disciples spoken of in those readings. The Church thought all of this through a long time ago for the sake of the faithful—in general, everything at that specific Mass should celebrate these particular themes and subjects. That is the “picture” it forms.

The music should add even more color and texture to the overall picture. The best way to do this is what the Church has prescribed for centuries: chant. Gregorian chant is the best, most common way of singing what are called the “Propers” of Mass: the Introit, the Gradual, the Alleluia, etc.

This would amount to a revolution in parish music programs, and Ostrowski is sensitive to the seismic disturbances this would cause.

“I would suggest a two-step program,” he says. “Firstly, every secular, undignified, emotionally-driven song needs to be gradually banished from our churches. Secondly, we ought not to instantly take away hymns, because we have become so accustomed to them—and many are truly beautiful and they enhance worship. However, we should remember that chanting, especially the Mass Propers, is our ultimate goal.”

Read the entire article here: Crisis Magazine

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