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Rev. David M. Friel
Master of Arts Thesis Dr. Theodore Kiefer, Advisor 02 April 2011
The Gregorian propers command a singular role as the primary liturgical chants of the Roman Rite. In recent times, and especially in the United States of America since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), their unique role has been challenged by the growing introduction of popular hymnody to supplant the proper chants. Both liturgical chant and popular hymnody are good, even necessary, components of healthy Catholic culture, but the two genres are strongest individually when they maintain independence from each other. After a brief
introduction to the history of the Proprium Missae, a presentation of the virtues of the propers and the authentic role of hymnody will help to develop a pastoral plan for building up both distinct genres.
I. Brief History of the Proprium Missae Historical Development of the Proprium Missae The prayers, chants, and other components of the Mass as it is celebrated in the Roman Rite have developed over the Christian centuries into an immense and precious heritage, including some texts still in use today that can be traced at least as early as the fourth century. As part of the process of development, the structure of the Mass was formed to include unchanging elements as well as parts that vary by the day or season. Thus, what has come to be called the Ordinarium Missae consists of those parts of the Mass which remain constant throughout the liturgical year. These “ordinary” components are to be distinguished from the Proprium Missae (the “propers”), which consists of the parts of the Mass that vary according to the particular day, saint, or mystery being observed. The present study concerns the seven propers that have traditionally belonged to a minister other than the priest celebrant (i.e., chiefly the schola cantorum, cantor, or lector) as part of the concentus (namely, the introit, gradual,
alleluia, tract, sequence, offertory, and communion). There are also three proper prayers to which the priest gives voice as ingredients of the accentus (namely, the Collect, Secret/Prayer over the Gifts, and Post-Communion), but attention here will be given to the seven “sub-genres” of propers generally executed by the choir. The first such category within the Proprium Missae is the introit, which originally took the form of a festal, processional antiphon chanted together with psalm verses (or even a whole psalm, in the Old Roman form). In their modern Gregorian form, however, each introit includes only one brief verse.1 It is the first words, or incipits, of these introits that have given traditional names to the feasts of the liturgical year (e.g., Gaudete Sunday, Laetare Sunday, Quasimodo Sunday, Requiem Mass, etc.). The texts of the introits are, almost without exception, Scriptural, and roughly two in three are taken from the psalms. Melodically, each introit is very unique. Whereas the ancient chants for antiphons in the Divine Office often overlap with similarities (as their vast number almost requires), the chants for these introits, which share the antiphonal form, appear to have been consciously crafted to be unique.2 The collection of introits displays a wide selection of modes (all eight) and an aversion to cadential similarity, such that each introit is very memorable and recognizable.3 Yet, while the introits are melodically quite disparate, they are at the same time very homogeneous in form, length, and style. Their common form is an antiphon with a single psalm verse, the Gloria Patri, and the repeated antiphon; their length is
1. Josef A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development, vol. 1, trans., Francis A. Brunner (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1959), 324-325. 2. James McKinnon, The Advent Project: The Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). This landmark work hypothesizes that the musical complexity and annual organization of the introits are evidence that their composition was the work of an elite schola cantorum, likely during a time of peace and prosperity (namely, the seventh century). 3. David Hiley, Western Plainchant: A Handbook (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 109-116.
uniformly rather brief; and their style is mostly syllabic or neumatic, with occasional melismatic passages.4 The second “sub-genre” of Mass propers is that of the offertorium (also called the offerenda). Developed at least from the time of Saint Augustine, the offertory gave musical accompaniment to the procession of the people, who traditionally brought material gifts to the Church for distribution among the poor. The chant likely began in the antiphonal style, but, the collection of material goods having fallen out of practice, the verses were abolished in the Missal of Pius V. The current form of the offertories, therefore, includes only the refrain, which is usually a passage from the psalms. The focus of the texts tends to center more on the theme of the season or particular celebration than on the action of offering. These chants can be rather challenging for singers, since their melody lines usually combine wide ranges with melismatic episodes. The distribution and reception of Holy Communion is similarly accompanied by a proper chant, called the communio. These pieces, which appear musically tied to the introits, began in the form of antiphonal psalmody. Verses would be sung until all communicants had received the Blessed Sacrament, as described in the Apostolic Constitutions of the fourth century.5 Since the twelfth century, however, when frequent reception of Communion had grown less common, the form has been a simple antiphon without verses.6 The texts of the communions often derive from the psalms, like the other propers, but many of them, uniquely, are taken from the Gospels.
4. Christoph Tietze, Hymn Introits for the Liturgical Year (Mundelein, IL: Hillenbrand Books, 2005), 23. 5. See The ew Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Michael Randel (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1986), 182. Hereafter, abbreviated “Randel.” 6. Jungmann, vol. 2, 396.
Their theme is almost unfailingly pointed toward the particular feast being celebrated, and not necessarily to the communion rite.7 Each of the foregoing types of chants—introits, offertories, and communions—is designed to accompany the ritual actions (processions) of the Mass. The two remaining
propers—the gradual and alleluia (or tract)—are, alternatively, designed predominantly as both a response to and preparation for the Word of God. The time at which these chants occur in the liturgy, historically, was not filled with any other action. Thus, the gradual and alleluia serve as liturgical respites for meditation and rejoicing.8 The gradual is so named because it was chanted from the altar step, since only the Gospel was proclaimed from the top platform.9 It originally involved the chanting of an entire psalm, with the assembly intervening with a periodic refrain (much like the responsorial psalm, the counterpart to the gradual in the Missal of 1970). Over the course of many centuries, the structure of the gradual became simplified to include only a respond followed by an accompanying verse. With the revised Graduale Romanum of 1908, however, the option was given to restore the original form, in which the responsum is repeated after the chanting of the verse.10 In the modern ordinary form, either the responsorial psalm or the gradual may be sung between the first and second readings. The musical character of the graduals tends toward the melismatic, and many of them also appear centonate, bearing signs of compilation from preexisting, stock phrases of chant. Manuscript evidence shows that, together with the gradual, the alleluia is among the oldest proper Mass chants. Traditionally begun after the gradual or the second Scripture reading,
7. Jungmann, vol. 2, 399. 8. Jungmann, vol. 1, 432. 9. Jungmann, vol. 1, 432. 10. Jungmann, vol. 1, 428.
the alleluia precedes the proclamation of the Gospel. The musical range of most alleluias is very small by comparison to the other propers, but they can be equally ornate. In form, the alleluia is chanted once by a cantor and then repeated by the schola or all present. On its repetition, though, the terminal –a syllable of “alleluia” is extended into a lengthy melisma, called a jubilus. The tract replaces the alleluia during penitential seasons. In the ordinary form, this replacement occurs only during Lent, and, in the extraordinary form, it occurs also during Septuagesima and Requiem Masses. In form, the tracts consist of a number of psalm verses with no repetition. Because of their highly melismatic nature, they account for some of the longest chants in the Liber Usualis. The tracts use only two modes and are highly centonized, often composed of nothing more than a succession of formulaic passages. The only element of the Proprium Missae remaining to be mentioned, the sequence, we shall present in somewhat greater detail here because of the significance it will have in our later treatment of hymnody. The sequentiae have been named variously over the centuries. They were predominantly known as prosae throughout the medieval period, but they had also been called hymni because of their relation to the innovative liturgical hymns of St. Ambrose in the fourth century.11 No complete account of the origin of sequences can be given, inasmuch as they seem to have developed organically within the liturgy while receiving little early documentation. Nevertheless, there is one general account of the sequences’ birth that commands near consensus among scholars as the most likely explanation of their origin. On this account, the sequences grew in a way similar to the rise of tropes, corresponding in time to the great age of Western monasticism. Tropes were chanted commentaries upon the sacred liturgy that served both as flourishes and as introductions to such liturgical texts as the introit, offertory, communion, Gloria, Sanctus,
11. Ruth Ellis Messenger, The Medieval Latin Hymn (Washington, D.C.: Capital Press, 1953), 6-7.
and Agnus Dei. Of themselves, tropes were non- or extra-liturgical. The practice of troping began soon after the close of the Scriptural canon in the fourth century and ended near the end of the twelfth century.12 Throughout the duration of their usage, tropes came in different forms. Some consisted solely in the extension of the melody into a prolonged melisma, with no incorporation of additional words.13 Others were interpolations that grafted a text onto a
melismatic passage of the liturgical chant; that is, a syllable would be assigned to each note of the melisma. Alternatively, the trope could add both text and tones to the established chant, as in the famous trope on the Easter introit, Quem queritis in sepulchro. Precisely how tropes were executed is a matter of some speculation, but their influence in the creation and spread of sequences is clear.14 The unverifiable, yet widely accepted tradition among musicologists claims that the father of sequences in the Roman rite is Notker the Stammerer (c. 840-912), rendered in Latin as “Notker Balbulus.” A monk of the Abbey of Saint Gall, which sits in modern-day Switzerland, it is believed that he experimented with the practice of troping by giving syllables to each note in the melismatic ending of the alleluia chants. The jubilus extension common to the alleluia form afforded prime material to receive syllables for singing. Seizing this opportunity, Saint Notker added words to the jubili as a mnemonic aid for learning the notes. As the words were given more meaning and beauty, however, this new kind of trope began to be appreciated for the sake of the words’ meaning as well as the musical notes. Indeed, it became a genre of its own,
12. Randel, 877. 13. The term “melisma” refers to a musical phrase with several notes sung to a single syllable. Cf., Randel, 480. 14. William T. Flynn, Medieval Music as Medieval Exegesis (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1999), 13-16, 48-56.
completely removed from the practice of troping. Eventually, the sequence became distinct even from the alleluia chant from which it received its life.15 The development of the sequences is well categorized into early, middle, and late periods.16 The early period begins in the ninth century and is summarized in the work of Notker, who published his Liber hymnorum in 887 as a collection of sequences, among which many were his own handiwork. These early sequences were characterized by a loose form of couplets interspersed with a few single, uncoupled lines, particularly at the beginning and end of the text. One could diagram their structure in this way: A BB CC DD . . . X.17 The sequences of the early period possessed rather inconsistent meter, and almost no extant sequences from this period employ any degree of rhyme. Assonance, however, was a common feature of many sequences.18 In terms of usage, the sequence repertory was far from standardized in this period. A few (perhaps twenty-five) sequences from Notker’s collection became reasonably well known throughout central Europe, but most sequences were found only locally or regionally.19 An Italian school emerged early, featuring sequences much shorter than those of Notker. Both the Italian sequences and those of Notker in southern Germany give “the impression of a solemn sermon”20 by their artistic style and refined theological content. The champion of the middle period is Adam of St. Victor (d. 1146), a monk at the Augustinian monastery of St. Victor near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Encompassing the eleventh and twelfth centuries, this was a transitional period in which the sequence genre forged
15. Messenger, 41-42. 16. Some scholars, however, prefer to speak of only two categories, early and late, with a period of transition between the two. Among those preferring this latter categorization is Professor László Dobszay. For our purposes, however, we shall distinguish the three periods: early, middle, and late. 17. László Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” Sacred Music 134, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 10. 18. Adrian Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (Albany, NY: Preserving Christian Publications, Inc., 1999), 273. 19. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 9. 20. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 11.
by Notker Balbulus underwent revision and achieved greater solidity. The exemplar of Victorine sequences is one written to the Holy Cross, entitled, Laudes cruces attollamus. The sequences composed by Adam of St. Victor and his contemporaries exhibit more strict form than those of Saint Notker, using only couplets and no single, unpaired lines. It was also at this time that rhyme was first introduced to this written form, in addition to the assonance Notker employed so widely. Rhyme was still not a necessary quality of the form, but it had begun to grow in popularity. Additionally, the length of each line started to become more or less even, albeit not perfectly so, and the overall length of the Victorine sequence began to grow considerably, often including ten or more couplets.21 The final stage in the development follows the middle period and lasts until the Protestant revolt. There is no clear figure to serve as the paradigm of this late period from its inception in the mid-twelfth century, but the thirteenth-century sequences of Saint Thomas Aquinas (12251274) are perhaps its greatest achievements. Notably, of the very few sequences retained for use in the Roman rite, one of the texts utilized was written by Thomas Aquinas. These, together with the other sequences of the late period, display even greater metrical regularity than those of the former centuries, and rhyming couplets had become the almost invariable standard form of the now polished genre. Each half of the couplets consisted of two eight-syllable lines followed by one seven-syllable line (i.e., 8-7-7 / 8-8-7); moreover, the rhyme scheme within these couplets was A-A-B / C-C-B. Any aberration from the established strophic pattern in these later works could well be presumed to be the conscious intention of the author.22 More significant than the external conformity of the sequences to a set, hymn-like form, however, was the immensity of their growth in profundity. The Parisian influence upon the
21. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 12-13. 22. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 13.
sequences at St. Victor had introduced the beginnings of Scholasticism to the writing of new texts, and the scholastic influence burgeoned even further in the late period, such that sequences became highly vivid, precise, and meaningful expressions of theology. Thus, what likely began as Notker’s memorization tool for the melismatic jubili of the alleluia chants grew over the course of centuries into an independent liturgical art blending poetry with music.23
Analysis of the Conciliar Intention As is widely known, the sacred liturgy is one topic that received particular attention during the Second Vatican Council. Within the realm of liturgy, sacred music, too, was an area of special concentration. While many interpretations exist in this field, the authentic intention of the Council regarding the renewal of music in the liturgy can only be ascertained with fairness by a genuine reading of two documents: the Council’s own “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963), of which the sixth chapter is devoted to sacred music, and the post-conciliar “Instruction on Music in the Liturgy” (Musicam Sacram, 1967) issued from the Sacred Congregation of Rites. What emerges clearly from these documents is that sacred music is an “integral part,”24 indeed, the “humble handmaid,”25 of the sacred liturgy. The Council documents regard musica sacra in the same way as had Pope St. Pius X’s motu proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini—the first papal document ever to be addressed to the universal Church on the sole topic of sacred music. I propose that there is found a great continuity in the vision of the twentieth-century pontiffs and the sacred Council concerning the nature, purpose, and usage of sacred music.
23. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 13-14. 24. Sacrosanctum Concilium, Second Vatican Council, 4 December 1963, 112. 25. Tra le Sollecitudini, Pope Pius X, 22 November 1903, 23.
Friel 10 This continuity has not been universally perceived, of course, in the near half-century that has passed since the Council. At least three general perceptions of the authentic conciliar intention have risen to prominence in that time. (Although we shall employ names that have been applied to these varying approaches, these terms ought not to be overstated or misunderstood as mere stereotypes.) The first of these, which has been called the “progressive” position,26 exalts the so-called “spirit of Vatican II.” This position holds that the “spirit” sought to abolish Latin in favor of the vernacular, replace chant with folk song, and empower the laity over the clergy. This reckoning sees a severe disconnect between the Missal of Pius V and the Missal of Paul VI. A second common account of the conciliar intention—the “traditionalist”27 position— begins with ironically similar premises but ends with totally divergent conclusions. Like the first approach, the traditionalists believe that the missal promulgated in 1970 represents a fundamental rupture from all those that precede it. They look upon the conciliar documents with suspicion as untrustworthy texts ridden with loopholes and limitations. They accuse the
Council’s writings of being insincere in their praise for Gregorian chant and their expressed desire for preserving tradition. Thus, both the first and second accounts agree that what has actually ensued in what we now call the “ordinary form” is what the Council intended; the progressives see this as a good and liberating thing, though, whereas the traditionalists view it as the deliberate destruction of the Roman Rite. The third perspective takes the alternate position: that the current status quo of liturgy in the ordinary form is not exemplary of what the Second Vatican Council intended. This
26. Jeffrey A. Tucker, Sing Like a Catholic (Richmond, VA: Church Music Association of America, 2009), 16. 27. Tucker, Sing Like a Catholic, 16.
Friel 11 “conservative”28 position looks to the texts, themselves, rather than their “spirit.” It sees
sincerity in the documents’ praise for chant and polyphony, and it believes that the ordinary form celebrated well is a liturgy of nobility and continuity. This approach holds considerable appeal for those younger generations in whom the often-cited “spirit of Vatican II” is not (and never was) alive. If this third position is tenable and has legitimate bearing for determining the Council’s true intention, then one would expect to see sacred music “keeping to the norms and precepts of ecclesiastical tradition and discipline.”29 The Constitution states (to the surprise of many) that “the Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy” and that, therefore, “it should be given pride of place [principem locum] in liturgical services.”30 It further praises polyphony,31 holds the pipe organ “in high esteem,”32 and considers the role of the Catholic composer to be a “vocation.”33 It is even so bold as to encourage “the whole body of the faithful” toward “active participation” in celebrating with the “the treasure of sacred music.”34 Nowhere does Sacrosanctum Concilium suggest a new framework for the Mass in which the propers, together with the ordinary, would have no part. The early documents of the Liturgical Movement on music (i.e., Tra le Sollecitudini, 1903, and Divini Cultus Sanctitatem, 1928) also have legitimate bearing on our understanding of the conciliar texts, since the Council’s treatment of music in the liturgy grew organically from what it refers to as “the restoration by St. Pius X.”35 These earlier documents show a preference
28. Tucker, Sing Like a Catholic, 17. 29. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112. 30. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116. The Latin original, principem locum, more literally means “principal place” or “first place.” 31. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116. 32. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 120. 33. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 121. 34. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 114. 35. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 117.
Friel 12 for the term “sacred music” (musica sacra) over “liturgical music” (musica liturgica).36 They advocate for the cultivation of a “sacred” style of music that is categorically separate from the “secular” music that had become common in churches throughout the Romantic era. Neither of these documents, the careful reader observes, demonstrates consciousness of sacred music as constituting a vast historical repertoire of itself.37 Yet, in the very first words of the chapter on sacred music in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the “musical tradition of the universal Church” is described as “a treasure of inestimable value.”38 This newly developed understanding of sacred music as a treasury (thesaurus) of great worth is, itself, an argument that the Second Vatican Council favored the preservation and promotion of that selfsame treasury, which includes the Proprium Missae. Further evidence that the Council’s intention was to preserve and promote the Church’s treasury of music comes from the action of Pope Paul VI, who sent a small collection of chants to all the bishops of the world in 1974. The booklet, entitled Jubilate Deo, was intended as a minimum repertoire of basic Gregorian chants.39 It contains a basic set of chants for the
Ordinarium Missae, along with some of the traditional Marian antiphons and chant hymns for Eucharistic devotion. Jubilate Deo was crafted as a companion to the revised chant books (the Graduale Romanum, Graduale Simplex, etc.). The revision of these books, moreover, continued to make the distinction between the Ordinarium and the Proprium, even amidst the mild confusion introduced by the language of Musicam Sacram (which also retains use of both
36. Anthony Ruff, OSB, Sacred Music and Liturgical Reform: Treasures and Transformations (Mundelein, IL: Hillenbrand Books, 2007), 276, 286-287. 37. Ruff, 291. 38. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112. 39. Jubilate Deo (Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc., 1974).
Friel 13 terms).40 Still, there was no indication that the role of the propers was defunct in the new order of Mass. From the standpoint of the third position, which strives to interpret the documents of the Church with straightforward integrity, the vision of the Council is found in the values highlighted in the documents treated above. If this position is taken, it must be concluded that the intention of the Second Vatican Council, regarding sacred music, was to embrace and preserve the musical heritage of the Church and to enliven and promote that heritage at the popular (i.e., parish) level.
Exposition of the Present Situation Even a brief history of the Proprium Missae would be incomplete without an exposition of how the conciliar vision has been implemented or ignored in the last nearly fifty years. The account given here, although parts of it may have a more general or universal application, is directed specifically at the present situation of Catholic sacred music within the United States. One of the most excellent overviews of liturgical music following the Second Vatican Council is given in “The Snowbird Statement.” Published in November 1995, it is the work of a group of eminent liturgists and musicians from the English-speaking world (including Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States). In addition to its praise for many of the positive developments of this time period, it offers a charitable critique of some developments that its authors “view as problematic, imperfect, or unworthy of the Church’s mission.”41
40. For further discussion of this confusion, see Ruff, 475-479. 41. The Snowbird Statement on Catholic Liturgical Music. Salt Lake City: The Madeleine Institute, 1995, 2.
Friel 14 It first admits concern over the use of music that lacks aesthetic beauty and so inadequately celebrates the beauty of God’s self-revelation.42 It also praises the creation of “the concept of ritual music,” but warns against its potential devolution into “utilitarian functionalism.”43 The statement also addresses the issue of enculturation. While a certain communication must exist between liturgy and culture, the authors confess, the liturgy should never take on an ethos that is merely therapeutic or entertaining. They specifically recognize the dangers of the tendency toward “sentimentality, consumerism, individualism, introversion, and passivity” in some contemporary sacred music.44 Among its other concerns, the Snowbird Statement suggests that improved vocal technique is needed among cantors proclaiming psalm verses.45 It describes the liturgicalmusical formation of seminarians as “seriously inadequate”46 and calls upon the music programs in college, seminary, and cathedral settings to “provide visionary example for the entire Church.”47 The authors regret that much of the music that has become common repertoire among Catholics has been “established by default rather than by informed design,”48 and they lament the collapse of the choir that has recently occurred in many places.49 One very significant observation made in the statement regards another document published in the time following the Council. Speaking of Music in Catholic Worship, the 1972 document promulgated by the United States bishops, the Snowbird authors contend that “it has given rise to a particular, rather standardized, model of music in liturgy [that] needs to be
42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49.
Snowbird, 3. Snowbird, 5. Snowbird, 7. Snowbird, 10. Snowbird, 12. Snowbird, 4, 12, 14. Snowbird, 17. Snowbird, 20.
Friel 15 enhanced.”50 This text, together with its 1982 companion, Liturgical Music Today, has
unquestionably had tremendous impact on the state of Catholic music. Whether the impact of these texts has been consonant with the ideals set forth by Sacrosanctum Concilium, however, is an open question. In contrast to the conciliar documents, which assign Gregorian chant “pride of place”51 and the role of primary model for new compositions,52 Music in Catholic Worship claims that “the musical settings of the past [i.e., Gregorian chant] are usually not helpful models for composing truly liturgical contemporary pieces.”53 Similarly, Liturgical Music Today
acknowledges that Sacrosanctum Concilium reveres the Catholic heritage of music as “a treasure of inestimable value,”54 but it immediately refers to the same treasure as “the music of the past” four times in as many paragraphs.55 Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today present a fundamentally different perspective than all the previous papal legislation and conciliar writings on sacred music; instead of envisioning an ideal and presenting the challenge to meet that ideal, as had been done in the past, these new publications looked at the trends of the time and built a framework around those trends. Furthermore, there is an implicit preference in both documents from the bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy for freely chosen hymns in place of the Gregorian propers (whether in Latin or the vernacular).56 Both texts speak with the assumption that the entrance, offertory, and communion processions will be accompanied with songs and not with the propers. Additionally,
50. Snowbird, 18. 51. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116; Musicam Sacram, Sacred Congregation of Rites, 5 March 1967, 50a. 52. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 23, 121; Musicam Sacram, 59-61. 53. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Music in Catholic Worship (Washington, D.C.: National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1972), 51. 54. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112. 55. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Liturgical Music Today (Washington, D.C.: National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1982), 49-52. 56. Ruff, 479.
Friel 16 Music in Catholic Worship makes the surprising claim that “the former distinction between the ordinary and proper parts of the Mass with regard to musical settings and distribution of roles is no longer retained,”57 and Liturgical Music Today gives no revision or further treatment to the propers. That this claim is erroneous cannot be substantiated by Sacrosanctum Concilium alone (because it does not directly address the distinction of ordinary and proper parts), but the ongoing presence of this distinction is evident throughout Musicam Sacram.58 On the basis of the foregoing analysis, these two publications appear to have innovated the vision of a postGregorian chant (or at least post-Gregorian proper) liturgy. This relegation of the propers to prayers rarely prayed or practiced has been furthered, also, by the Missal of 1970. The revised missal, even in Latin, was published with entrance and communion antiphons that usually, though not always, correspond to the antiphon from the Graduale Romanum for that day. The proper gradual and alleluia (or tract), although they would more likely pertain to the revised Lectionary than the Sacramentary, are missing, as are the proper offertory chants. This omission has likely contributed to the sense that the chant propers are “music of the past.”59 The importance of Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today in our study is that their vision of sacred music has, in practice, largely become normative in the United States, such that “the average Catholic parish offers a liturgical experience that no Catholic in the history of the faith would recognize as aesthetically familiar.”60 Where there appear to be tensions between these documents and those of the Second Vatican Council, one’s common experience in America indicates that greater allegiance has been given to those of the bishops’
57. 58. 59. 60.
Music in Catholic Worship, 51. C.f., Musicam Sacram 16c, 32, 33, 34, 36, and 47. Liturgical Music Today, 49-52. Jeffrey A. Tucker, “The Year of English Chant Propers,” Sacred Music 136, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 59.
Friel 17 committee, even though they command less authority. As a result, the propers of the Mass unfortunately constitute a category unknown to many Catholics, and even many Catholic musicians.61
II. Virtues of the Propers Having presented some of the history of the Roman propers and their treatment in recent Church documents, the foundation is set to make an argument for their special status among the options for liturgical song. By virtue of their unique origin, marriage of melody with text, universality, and Roman character, we shall assert that the Gregorian propers are the singular ideal for which every Catholic musician ought to strive.
Our Blessed Lord Sang An analysis of the value of the propers might well begin with a consideration of their origin. Our earlier discussion addressed some of the historical background and development of these chants, beginning in the early Christian centuries. Is it reasonable, however, to suggest that the Mass propers have their ultimate origin at the proto-Eucharist offered by Jesus on the night He was betrayed? Between the Last Supper and Gethsemane accounts in the Gospel of Matthew, we read, “And a hymn being said, they went out unto mount Olivet”62 (Mt 26:30).63 This verse serves, simultaneously, as a conclusion to the preceding Last Supper pericope (Mt 26:26-29) and as an
61. The propers are even sometimes ignored by scholars in the field of sacred music. For instance, there is no section devoted to the Proprium Missae in Karl Gustav Fellerer, The History of Catholic Church Music, trans. Francis A. Brunner, C.Ss.R. (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1961). 62. The Catholic Comparative ew Testament, Rheims New Testament translation (New York: Oxford UP, 2005), 198. 63. An almost verbatim Markan parallel is found in Mk 14:26.
Friel 18 introduction to Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial (Mt 26:31-35) and the agony in the garden (Mt 26:36-46), which follow.64 Especially when taken as part of the Lord’s Supper pericope, verse 30 takes on special significance as part of the Jewish Paschal feast, which was a reliving of the great Exodus. The significance of this interpretation, however, cannot be understood apart from the Sitz im Leben of ancient Jewish society. The story of the Passion—indeed, the entire Gospel—is deeply rooted in Jewish life and history. Because the “hymn” sung by Jesus and His disciples may have been a stock component of the Passover ritual, the format of these meals is germane to the present study. The Passover (Pesah) feast, even in ancient times, was celebrated rather uniformly among Jewish households. It began with the blessing of a cup of wine, to be shared by all present. Then, herbs were dipped in salt and eaten. After the head of the family had broken one unleavened bread cake and set another aside, certain psalms would be sung (likely Pss 112-114) and a second cup would be received. Thereafter, hands were washed, grace was offered, and bitter herbs were eaten. The highlight of the feast was the consumption of a roast lamb, after which the third “cup of blessing” was passed. Finally, the ritual closed with the remaining Hallel (i.e., Hallelujah) psalms (Pss 115-118) and the final cup of wine.65 It is the contention of many scholars that Jesus either replaced or followed the climactic roasted lamb with the institution of the Lord’s Supper, using the unleavened bread that had been set aside and the third blessing cup.66 Moreover, many scholars contend that the Hallel Psalter used to close the feast may have been the “hymn” mentioned in Mt 26:30.67 If this is true, then much further exploration is
64. W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew (Edinburgh: T&T Clark Ltd., 1997), 483. 65. I. Howard Marshall, Last Supper and Lord’s Supper (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1980), 179. 66. Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible, ed. David Alexander & Pat Alexander (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 492-493. 67. John J. Pilch, “‘After they had sung a hymn...’,” Bible Today 44, no. 3 (May 2006): 186.
Friel 19 possible. The term Hallel actually applies to three groups of psalms: the Daily Hallel, the Egyptian Hallel, and the Great Hallel. The Daily Hallel, simply, are Psalms 145-50, recited every morning. The Egyptian set includes Psalms 112-114, mentioned above, and the Great Hallel describes Psalm 136 by itself. These last two categories of psalms are incorporated in the Pesah seder, or Passover meal.68 One scholar, Helga Rusche, suggests that the hymn in Mt 26:30 was the Great Hallel.69 This text is a psalm by genre, but a litany by form; every half-verse repeats a refrain (“for his mercy endures forever”), which was probably chanted in response to the strophes sung by a cantor.70 The suggestion of Psalm 136, however, is unsubstantiated according to other scholars, who argue that no historical grounds for it can be established. Rusche further contends that Psalm 136’s recollection of God’s mighty deeds and responsorial acclamation of love are appropriate sentiments to be expressed in the interim between the Lord’s Supper and the garden of Gethsemane,71 but her opponents claim that the Great Hallel seems no more apt for the occasion than many other psalms.72 It is worthy of note that psalms are not the only material to have been proposed as the referent of this “hymn” mentioned by Matthew and Mark. Historically, certain sects have claimed to possess the true text of the hymn in various apocryphal writings. St. Augustine addresses this issue in a letter to the Spanish bishop Ceretius concerning the heresy of
68. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, ed. R.J. Zwi Werblowsky & Geoffrey Wigoder (New York: Oxford UP, 1997), 296. 69. Helga Rusche, “Das letzte gemeinsame Gebet Jesu mit seinen Jüngern: Der Psalm 136,” Wissenschaft und Weisheit 51, no. 2 (1988): 210-212. 70. Pilch, 186. 71. Rusche, 210. 72. J. du Preez, “The Missionary Significance of Psalm 117 in the Book of Psalms and in the New Testament,” Missionalia 27, no. 3 (1999): 372.
Friel 20 Priscillianism.73 Having explained why apocryphal texts do not merit the same reverence as the canonical Sacred Scriptures, Augustine cites parts of the apocryphal hymn. Pieced together, these quotations might take this form: I want to be born, I want to sing; all of you, dance. I want to grieve; all of you, beat your breasts. I want to adorn, and I want to be adorned. I am a lamp for you, O you who see me. Whichever of you knocks at me, I am a door for you. You who see what I do, be silent about my works.74
This conglomerated text is theologically true, or at least innocuous, but its authenticity is uncertain. There are other lines, however, attributed to the same hymn of unknown authorship that clearly break with the deposit of Divine Revelation. One such line states: I have always deceived by word, and I was not deceived at all.75
Augustine dismisses the claim that this hymn is the one mentioned in Matthew 26:30, declaring it the forgery of Priscillianists, who embraced poor philosophy and theology. Origen suggests that the “hymn” mentioned by Matthew and Mark represents a thanksgiving for the bread and cup received at the meal in Jerusalem. It was, in fact, common practice for Jews of Biblical times to sing together at festival gatherings and meals.76 This practice has continued into modern Judaism,77 and also in Christian liturgy. The continued, widespread use of ancient hymns and psalms testifies to the importance and antiquity of sacred music. It is considered likely that the singing of the Hallel psalms of praise and thanksgiving at the end of the Passover meal are directly related not only to modern liturgical music, but also to
73. Augustine of Hippo, “Letter 237,” in The Works of Saint Augustine, ed. Boniface Ramsey, trans. Roland Teske (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2005), 136-141. 74. Augustine, 140. 75. Augustine, 141. 76. Pilch, 186. 77. W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971), 326.
Friel 21 the closing collect, or “prayer after communion,” in the current Roman Rite.78 Saint John Chrysostom goes so far as to interpret this passage as an encouragement for all Christians not to depart from Mass until after the thanksgivings have been offered.79 With this understanding, a strong connection arises between the first Christian Eucharist and the Catholic liturgy of modern times. The thought of Jesus and the Twelve singing is, itself, noteworthy. Nowhere else in Sacred Scripture, save these parallel verses in Matthew and Mark, is it written that Christ sang. Interpreted in light of the action in subsequent pericopes, this moment of song is a preparation for the Passion. Saint Augustine writes that “only he who loves can sing,”80 and the hymn on the way to Olivet is a sign of Christ’s profound love for mankind. The song is an expression of perfect love, rising beyond even altruism, such that the Son of the Creator would willingly submit to death for love of the created. In one simple verse, the evangelist links the Lord’s Supper to the agony in the garden, recalls the psalms and writings of the Hebrew Scriptures, and conveys the sentiments of the Lord in the midst of the Paschal Mystery. If the Lord, Himself, may have incorporated the chanting of psalms into the first Eucharistic celebration, perhaps a wider usage of the psalm-based propers in modern liturgy has a very firm basis.
Marriage of Melody and Text Text and melody form a marriage in the Gregorian propers that is not replicated in other musical forms. Each proper “is not just a text that happens to be set to a melody, but rather, it is
78. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, ed. Saint Thomas Aquinas (Albany, NY: Preserving Christian Publications, 1993), 192-193. 79. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, 192. 80. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 336, 1 (PL 38, 1472). Cf., Josef Pieper, Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1990), 11.
Friel 22 an integral piece comprised of both melody and text together.”81 This integrity is a hallmark of all Gregorian chant, but especially of the Proprium Missae, and it is one of the major qualities that make the propers so ideal. The increasing popularity of Gregorian chant is, to some extent, the result of its intrinsic spirituality. It has found acceptance among believers and non-believers alike because it offers an ethos of peace and serenity in the midst of societal and personal confusion, and it helps to focus the mind and quiet the passions. This movement toward spiritualization is actually a cosmic motion that affects the entire natural order. As a motion, it has been described as “bringing creation into the mode of being of the Holy Spirit and its consequent transformation, exemplified in the crucified and resurrected Christ.”82 All of creation is destined to be so transformed, in the pattern of the Paschal mystery. For this reason, “the taking up of music into the liturgy must be its taking up into the Spirit, a transformation which implies both death and resurrection.”83 Gregorian chant, because of the inherent mystery of its melodies, is the paradigm of this movement toward spiritualization. Of the melodies sung and played in prehistoric and ancient times, very little can be said authoritatively. Music that predates the advent of even a rudimentary system of notation is more the subject of speculation than of scholarship. Yet, the ancient music that presents possibly the most data for modern study is the Book of Psalms. Many of the psalms (e.g., Pss 8, 9, 44, 68, 56-8, and numerous others) include superscriptions that appear to give musical directions for their execution. According to many twentieth-century interpretations, it is likely that these
81. William Mahrt, “Pride of Place,” Sacred Music 135, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 3. 82. Joseph Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, trans. G. Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 118. 83. Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, 118.
Friel 23 textual notations are indicative of certain melodies or tones associated with lyrical psalmody.84 The growing evidence for this association of particular melodies with particular psalm texts argues for the value of the Church’s heritage of chants preserved in the Mass propers. Furthermore, like many of the propers (especially the graduals and tracts), a large group of the reconstructed ancient psalm tones bear the marks of centonization and fixed melodic formulae. Musically, each sub-genre within the propers is specially suited to its task. “An introit is different from a communion, a gradual from an offertory, even if they both might use the same text, because through differences in musical style each characterizes and differentiates the liturgical action it accompanies.”85 No other form, ranging from strophic hymnody to the choral anthem, is so deliberately tailored to the liturgical moment. Therefore, the express suitability of each proper for its place in the liturgy contributes to the propers’ status as the ideal chants of the Roman liturgy. Chant melodies are distinctive because they lack the regular beat found in all other musical styles. Plainsong does demand rhythm, but in a much freer way than other forms. For this reason, while it maintains rhythmic order, chant does not bind itself to time, so it is immensely fitting for use in the sacred liturgy, which exists to connect its participants with eternity. The unique relationship between plainsong and rhythm helps to raise the senses to that which lies beyond the simply sensorial, unbound by the rigidity of regular beat.86 Gregorian chant is the pinnacle of “music that draws senses into spirit and so brings man to wholeness. It does not abolish the senses, but inserts them into the unity of this creature that is man. It elevates the spirit precisely by wedding it to the senses, and it elevates the senses by uniting
84. Robert A. Skeris, “On the Problem of Religious Hymn Contrafacta: Reflections Theological and Hymnological,” in Divini Cultus Studium: Studies in the Theology of Worship and of its Music, ed. Robert A. Skeris (Altötting: Verlag Alfred Coppenrath, 1990), 115-116. 85. Mahrt, 3. 86. Tucker, Sing Like a Catholic, 78.
Friel 24 them with the spirit.”87 Unlike some profane music, which drags people into an “intoxication of the senses,” chant engenders a “sober inebriation” that harmonizes the interiority of the listener.88 Another distinctive attribute of plainsong is its humility. Whereas some musical forms tend naturally to focus attention on the person who is performing, chant accomplishes the opposite. By its nature, “it does not seek to put the talent of the singer on exhibit.”89 It directs the community, rather, to a shared experience of prayer that buries the ego and allows the encounter with the Lord to “increase” (c.f., Jn 3:30). Chant, by its humility, requires its
practitioners to embrace submission to one another and to the Lord—the One to Whom it is ultimately directed. In addition to their melodies, the texts of the Gregorian propers also contribute to their ideal suitability. Deriving almost exclusively from the Bible, the orthodoxy of the texts is beyond question. Their appropriateness is similarly clear, on the basis of their careful selection and the refining of that selection over time. There is no hymnal or set of chants for the Mass that offers such a rich Scriptural basis and pertinence to Christian life as is found in the Graduale Romanum. Moreover, the preference of the proper chants toward invoking the psalms, which display an intrinsic “musical character,”90 lends to their practicality in liturgical use. A close analysis of the selection of psalm verses for each of the propers shows that no clear effort was made to direct all the texts of a particular Mass toward the same theme; instead, it appears that passages were chosen from the psalms and applied to the propers so as to be
87. Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, trans. John Saward (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 150. 88. Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 150-151. 89. Tucker, Sing Like a Catholic, 78. 90. Jungmann, vol. 1, 422.
Friel 25 representative of the complete psalter.91 Thus, while the chosen texts are not always closely aligned with the celebration of the day (although sometimes they are), they collectively incorporate an immense range of the psalms over the course of the liturgical year. This has the benefit, like the revised Lectionary, of presenting a wide amount of Sacred Scripture to the faithful through the liturgy. The Gregorian propers have been called “liturgical lectio divina by means of high art.”92 This description highlights the importance of the texts used in the chant. By recognizing the propers as an opportunity for lectio divina, their performance is rarefied into a sacred reading of the text that encourages meditation. Of particular note is that this meditation occurs not just individually, but in common (i.e., liturgically). The use of the propers at Mass, then, helps to stimulate the interiority of the assembly both as individual persons and as a community. Herein, the task is not to make the text most comprehensible in terms of audibility and enunciation (although these are indispensable factors in quality chanting); the essential task, rather, is to make the text most comprehensible with respect to understanding and spiritual insight. A long melismatic passage may not be the ideal way to communicate words clearly, but, more importantly, it does apply the highest artfulness of man to the work of worship and contemplation. In the ideal situation, the texts would be so familiar to those present that the words would be easily distinguished, but the most significant aspect always remains their intelligibility for prayer.93 In this treatment of the texts of the propers, some attention should be given to the language they use to communicate the Word of God. In its second paragraph regarding sacred
91. See table in Jungmann, vol. 1, 331. 92. Ruff, 495. 93. Ruff, 495-496.
Friel 26 music,94 Sacrosanctum Concilium refers back to an article from its section on general principles, where it is written that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”95 Speaking specifically of the Mass, the document also upholds that “a suitable place may be allotted to [the] mother tongue.”96 It mentions the readings, intercessions, and other parts pertaining to the people as particularly suited for employing the vernacular. The propers,
however, traditionally belong to the schola cantorum, and they are originally composed in Latin. Furthermore, the difficulties posed by translation and the application of translations to traditional chant melodies make a strong case for the retention of the propers in their original form. With these arguments for Latin propers in mind, the proprium chants may nevertheless be the most sensible place to introduce vernacular languages into the liturgy.97 Precisely because they change with each liturgical celebration, they will necessarily be less familiar to the common congregation. Today’s apparent “monopoly of the vernacular” may indeed be a “childhood sickness,”98 but the liturgical vernacular does have a role in the vision of Second Vatican Council. The purpose of the propers’ texts is to focus the thoughts of those present on the mysteries being celebrated, and, in current practice, this might best be accomplished through the use of the vernacular. Still, it is of “primary importance,” whenever the vernacular is introduced, “to use a worthy translation which renders the meaning quite precisely whilst preserving the traditional biblical-liturgical style of the particular native tongue.”99 While no translation can
94. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 113. 95. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36 §1. 96. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 54. 97. Dom Jean Prou, OSB, “Gregorian Chant and the Sanctification of the Faithful,” in Divini Cultus Studium: Studies in the Theology of Worship and of its Music, ed. Robert A. Skeris (Altötting: Verlag Alfred Coppenrath, 1990), 205. This position is also taken by László Dobszay. 98. Johannes Overath, “Sancta Sancte (St. Pius X),” in Crux et Cithara, ed. Robert A Skeris (Altötting: Verlag Alfred Coppenrath, 1983), 271. 99. László Dobszay, “Proprium Missae: Unity, Variety, and Rupture in the Roman Rite,” Sacred Music 134, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 26-27.
Friel 27 ever achieve perfection, any translation that grossly skews, diminishes, or ignores the meaning of the original text is unfit for liturgical service. The melodies and texts of the Proprium Missae, as might be expected, are eminently sacred and never profane. For this reason, they possess native liturgical propriety. The marriage of text and melody in Gregorian chant creates a certain “two-part counterpoint,” the first voice of which is the text and the second of which is the melody.100 This marriage is one of the greatest virtues of the proprium chants.
Universality In his 1903 motu proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini, Pope Saint Pius X proposes three qualities that, as a general principle, ought to characterize all sacred music: holiness, artistry, and universality. Sacred music, he writes, should be holy, excluding any profane dimension. It must also be “true art,”101 in order that it might be efficacious in engaging the minds and hearts of the Christian faithful. These two traits conspire to produce the third, universality, as an effect. “Sacred music should consequently possess, in the highest degree, the qualities proper to the liturgy, and in particular sanctity and goodness of form, which will spontaneously produce the final quality of universality.”102 For Pius X, the notion of universality is a broad idea that applies to many aspects of the liturgy, not only its music. In its application to music, however, it requires that the native cultural characteristics of compositions be subordinated to the general qualities that typify sacred
100. Prou, 201. 101. Tra le Sollecitudini, 2. 102. Tra le Sollecitudini, 2.
Friel 28 music. In the estimation of Pius X, “these qualities are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is, consequently, the Chant proper to the Roman Church.”103 One manner in which chant shows itself to be universal is its univocal structure. The value of singing in unison is, unfortunately, often not appreciated in our contemporary society. Speaking of the jubilus appended to the alleluia, Jungmann writes, “No doubt, in the ages before people were spoiled by the charms of harmony, the untiring reiteration of the melismatic melodies with their endless rise and fall must have been a wonderful experience for the devout congregation.”104 Assiduously engaging chant helps us to reclaim some of that wonder to which our modern ears have grown calloused. Learning to love the subtlety of Gregorian chant is a process of entering into the beauty of the moment in which the three young men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—sang “with one voice” (Dan 3:51). Parish choristers of the twenty-first century may feel “vocally naked”105 at the suggestion of singing monophony, but teaching them to appreciate its unitive force is a worthy endeavor. “From Dante’s Purgatorio to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, the unison voice extinguishes wrath and is the audible expression of Christian unity.”106 The splendor of unison singing is its invitation to value and become one with the voice of another. Indeed, chant cultivates
community. Those who practice monophony join, in fact, not only the voices of the choristers around them, but also the larger voice of the universal Church. “To be well in tune,” Pope Benedict XVI teaches, we must “enter with our mens into the vox of the Church . . . and thus not only speak to God as individuals, but enter into the ‘we’ of the Church, which is praying.”107
103. Tra le Sollecitudini, 2. 104. Jungmann, vol. 1, 430. 105. Mary Jane Ballou, “Singing in Unison? Selling Chant to the Reluctant Choir,” Sacred Music 136, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 55. 106. Ballou, 54. 107. Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting of His Holiness Benedict XVI with the Priest of the Diocese of Albano, 31 August 2006, available from
Friel 29 This transformation of our “I” into the “we” of the Church attains the tandem benefits of enlargement and enrichment. According to Pius X, an essential attribute of truly universal music is that, on hearing it, “nobody of any nation may receive an impression other than good.”108 This sentiment speaks to the core of authentic multiculturalism. A musical heritage common to all Catholics throughout the world should be a desirable thing, and, in the wisdom of the Church, that heritage has been provided in her patrimony of chant. Gregorian chant, were it practiced more prevalently, could be a tremendous force in favor of global unity. It sadly happens frequently that so-called “multiculturalism” becomes patronizing, “a disguised form of elitist imperialism in which we conjure up what we imagine what the foreign peoples of the world—aggregating in their class interests—might desire.”109 Contrariwise, the ability of all people to sing chant unaccompanied, using the voice given to them, avoids any pretense of elitism. Chant thus draws people of diverse heritage, age, and status into real communion; rather than patronizing the foreigner, chant presents a musical form that is both sufficiently foreign from and mysteriously connected to every culture, time, and place. An increased usage of the Proprium Missae, specifically, would foster another aspect of chant’s universality. Parishes and other congregations throughout the world utilizing the propers would hear the same words proclaimed at the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Rather than devolving into a programmatic rigorism, this commonality could serve as a remarkable blessing, moving the whole Body of Christ at once to contemplate the same mysteries of faith in accord with one another spiritually. The prospect of singing the same texts at Masses throughout the
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/august/documents/hf_benxvi_spe_20060831_sacerd oti-albano_en.html; Internet; accessed 13 December 2010. 108. Tra le Sollecitudini, 2. 109. Tucker, Sing Like a Catholic, 5.
Friel 30 world on a given day, while certainly not essential, could encourage greater Church unity and catholicity—that is, universality. The universal character of chant is exemplified in its monophonic texture and in its encouragement of unison among its practitioners. Chant further demonstrates universality as an authentic expression of multiculturalism and a normative factor in the worldwide work of liturgy.
Roman Character A final consideration regarding the virtues of the propers concerns their distinctly Roman quality. The Roman Rite, as a whole, possesses a number of peculiarities demonstrative of its separation from the Eastern liturgies; among these are included the absence of litanies of intercession, the late position of the kiss of peace, and the “comparative eclipse” of the role of the deacon.110 Another uniqueness is the Roman distinction between the Ordinarium Missae and the Proprium Missae. In none of the Eastern Churches is a similar system found to be so foundational and so integral to the structure of the Divine Liturgy as it is to the Holy Sacrifice in the West. Solicitude for the defense of the Roman contribution to Catholic liturgy therefore proposes a case for the increased usage of the Roman propers. As discussed above, the texts for the chants in Roman liturgies are almost exclusively drawn from Sacred Scripture. “Though to us this seems self-evident, the liturgical usage of the Eastern Church makes it clear that this is a special characteristic of the Church in the West and of Rome in particular.”111 The abundant use of Holy Scripture in the Roman Mass—and
110. Fortescue, The Mass, 110. 111. László Dobszay, “The Proprium Missae of the Roman Rite,” in The Genius of the Roman Rite: Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives on Catholic Liturgy, ed. Uwe Michael Lang (Mundelein, IL: Hillenbrand Books, 2010), 88.
Friel 31 especially the chants—contributes to the fulfillment of St. Paul’s command to let the Word of God dwell in us richly (c.f., Colossians 3:16). Moreover, it is a token of the rich reflection handed on by the Latin Church Fathers. The interpretatio Christiana that they gave, not only to the Gospels, but to the entire Bible—and especially the Psalms—allows the presence of Christ to be acknowledged and sung in every facet of the Roman liturgy. The mysteries of the faith are thereby conveyed through the Christological and Trinitarian dimensions of the proper texts. That the Roman propers constitute a venerable tradition of their own has been well exemplified in the work of László Dobszay. In a recent chapter, he establishes well the
tremendous continuity of the Roman chant tradition from the early Church up to the twentieth century.112 The propers included in the Missal of Pius V overwhelmingly correspond (either exactly or very nearly) with the propers included in such sources as the Antiphonary of the Old Lateran, the most ancient Gregorian Mass antiphoners (e.g., the Rheinau, Mont Blandin, and Senlis), as well as later such antiphoners (e.g., the Chartres 520, Benevento 34, and Strigonium/Esztergom). Like congruency is noticeably absent when these sources are compared with the 1970 Missale Paulinum and the 1972 Ordo Cantus Missae. Increased appreciation for the distinctly Roman tradition of propers could serve to bolster greater congruency between contemporary chant resources and those of former centuries.
III. The Authentic Role of Hymnody Hymnody possesses roles both within sacred liturgy and outside it. Distinguishing what are these appropriate roles is an important step toward establishing the independence of hymnody as a genre that contributes to the life of faith and culture.
112. See tables in Dobszay, “The Proprium Missae of the Roman Rite,” 104-111.
Friel 32 The Snowbird Statement (1995) calls for “a positive approach to hymnody in the Roman liturgy and the development of criteria for the appropriate use of hymnody in all liturgical rites.”113 It further posits, “We acknowledge that the hymn form poses certain challenges in relating well to the ritual and textual structure of the eucharist, but we reject the view that hymnody is intrinsically incompatible with the eucharistic liturgy.”114 We shall in what follows attempt to forge a positive argument for the intrinsic value of hymnody and its liturgical role, but we shall further propose that this role is not found primarily within the context of the Eucharistic liturgy.
Liturgical Roles of Hymnody It cannot fairly be said that hymn-singing has no part in Catholic liturgy or even the Catholic Mass. It can be shown, however, that the instances in which hymns are proper to the Mass are very few. The hymns proper to the Eucharistic liturgy include: 1. Gloria in excelis Deo, sung on solemnities, feasts, Sundays outside the strong seasons of Advent and Lent, and certain other solemn celebrations 2. Benedictus es, given as an option to replace the gradual on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity 3. Gloria, laus, et honor, as a processional for entering the Church on Palm Sunday 4. O Redemptor, an antiphonal offertory at the Chrism Mass 5. Crux fidelis, which accompanies the Adoration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday 6. Sequences on Easter Sunday (Victimae paschali laudes), Pentecost (Veni Sancte Spiritus), and Corpus Christi (Lauda Sion Salvatorem) 7. At an episcopal ordination, Veni Creator after the Gospel and Te Deum after the Prayer after Communion 8. Pange lingua gloriosi, during the Holy Thursday procession to the altar of repose
113. Snowbird, 19. 114. Snowbird, 19.
Friel 33 9. Pange lingua gloriosi, Sacris sollemniis, Verbum Supernum, Iesu nostra redemptio, Aeterne rex altissime, and Te Deum, during the Corpus Christi procession115
From the foregoing list, we see that hymnody does, in fact, have a historical presence in the Eucharistic liturgy. What is not found historically, however, is the persistent use of metrical hymnody to supplant proper liturgical texts, which has become commonplace in contemporary America. Scholarship in the field of Sacred Scripture has suggested that certain sections of the New Testament (e.g., Eph 5:14, 1 Tim 3:16, Rev 15:3-4, and other pericopes) may have originated as popular hymns sung among early Christians in their primitive liturgy. There are many
authorities within this discipline who maintain, though, that these passages are just as plausibly sections of rhetorical prose as they are fragments of liturgical hymnody.116 While it is
impossible to take up a full account of this scholarship here, it will not be necessary for our purposes. If we presume that some New Testament texts derive, in fact, from early hymns, a point can be made whether they were sung in the context of the Eucharistic celebration or not. In the first case, if these texts were originally hymns but were not sung at the “breaking of the bread,” their disuse would, itself, be clear evidence that the presence of hymns at Mass is not a historical reality of ancient tradition and present throughout the history of the Church. If, in the second case, they were originally hymns and were, in fact, sung at Eucharistic celebrations, the point is more complicated but still tenable. The earliest missals appear to have been created no earlier than the fourth century. When these books began to be published, with the help of the standardization begun under Constantine (A.D. 306-337), choices had to be made
115. Eric M. Andersen, “History, Reform, and Continuity in the Hymns of the Roman Breviary,” Sacred Music 136, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 7. 116. C.f., McKinnon, 32.
Friel 34 concerning what the official liturgical texts would be. Popular hymns would likely have been a viable option, especially since the Scriptural canon was only being fixed at roughly the same time.117 Yet, from what is found in the earliest missals, Scriptural texts won the favor of those who were crafting the liturgical books. When the liturgy began to become universalized and standardized—that is, when it began to be “Roman”—hymnody was not included. Thus,
whether popular hymns were sung in the Eucharistic celebration during the first centuries of development or not, the Roman liturgy forged by the fourth century was marked by reliance on Sacred Scripture to the exclusion of hymnody. The true, native home of liturgical hymnody is found not in the Eucharistic celebration, though, but in the Divine Office. In this role, hymns have traditionally served as the poetic response of man to the Word of God encountered and proclaimed in daily prayer. Additionally, and especially in recent decades, emphasis has been given to the role of the breviary hymn as a poem that “gives shape to the particular Hour in the way [it] identifies the time of the day, the liturgical season, or the liturgical observance.”118 A historical perspective on the breviary hymns shows that, through centuries of use, they have become proper to the various Hours. Introduced perhaps first by St. Hilary of Poitiers (310-366), breviary hymns spread rapidly during the fourth century under the advocacy of St. Ambrose (340-397).119 The Rule of Saint Benedict in the sixth century appointed hymns to be sung at each of the canonical Hours.120 These new liturgical hymns grew into wide usage throughout the patristic and Carolingian eras, such that, by the
117. The first complete listing of the canon is found in the “Easter Letter” of Saint Athanasius, dating to the year A.D. 367. 118. Gerard Dennis Gill, Music in Catholic Liturgy: A Pastoral and Theological Companion to Sing to the Lord (Mundelein, IL: Hillenbrand Books, 2009), 112. 119. Adrian Fortescue, “Concerning Hymns,” Sacred Music 134, no. 3 (Fall 2007): 35-36. 120. Randel, 385.
Friel 35 scholastic era, they were not a mere flourish, but, indeed, an integral component of the Divine Office.121 At the same time, hymns also maintained their extra-liturgical role. They enjoyed
tremendous popularity among the faithful, for whom they were composed by the Church Fathers as an accessible form of catechesis and training against heresy. The hymns of the earliest Christians, perhaps captured in the New Testament writings, and those of the Fathers and Doctors, passed down by tradition, form a collection of music both inspired by faith and designed to inspire faith. These hymns, indeed, form a deposit of distinctly Catholic culture. Our attention at this point turns to the sequences of the Roman Rite. Having given a detailed historical account of them above, the way has been prepared to show how the sequences function uniquely as a genre of hymn actually prescribed for use at Mass. In analyzing how the sequentiarium came to be used and continues to be used liturgically, just as with its historical development, one must look at various stages. It can first be said that, from the time of their invention, sequences always occurred within the liturgy, if the belief that they were originally built upon the alleluia is to be held. Although sequences are not an essential component of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacred liturgy is nevertheless their native home. Just as the tropes were textual interpolations into the liturgy, so the jubilus of the alleluia is thought to have been a musical interpolation. One interesting argument in support of this notion claims that the terminal vowel sound was extended as an ornament to accompany the procession of the deacon to the ambo.122 This is a reasonable claim, especially considering the common placement of the ambo in medieval times, which was high above the pews toward the middle of the nave. (The name “ambo,” itself, derives from the Greek infinitive anabainein,
121. Andersen, 7-16. 122. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 9.
Friel 36 meaning, “to mount to a high place.”)123 Others hypothesize that the jubilus was introduced from a Greek practice through an interface with the Byzantine rites. The most spiritual
interpretation of the melismatic ending—held by Rupert of Deutz, Durandus, and Dom J. Pothier, among many others—calls the jubilus “an inarticulate expression of joy, by which the mind is carried up to the unspeakable joy of the Saints.”124 Still other arguments are plausible, and current scholarship does not admit of a definitive resolution.125 From the time of Saint Notker to the sixteenth century, the number of sequences grew exponentially. Notker, himself, penned a sequence for each of the feasts of the Church year. Others did the same, and there grew an immense treasury of these liturgical poems. The largest number of them originated north of the Alps and Pyrenees, especially in modern-day Bavaria and France.126 The chief authors, in addition to the Stammerer and Adam of St. Victor, included Ekkehart of St. Gall (d. 973), Gottschalk of Limburg (d. 1098), and Thomas of Celano (d. 1250). Before the end of the medieval period, virtually every Sunday and feast day on the Church calendar had a proper sequence, penitential seasons excepted. There were Marian sequences and common sequences, used for feasts of saints that did not have a proper one. Some sequences were sung every day of the octave, while others were written for the Requiem Mass. The sequences were never obligatory, though, and so their actual practice varied greatly. Small country parishes with few musical resources may have utilized only very few sequences, whereas monasteries and cathedrals were likely to have a very rich practice of them.127
123. 124. 125. 126. 127. 1965): 14-15.
Steven J. Schloeder, Architecture in Communion (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 88-94. Fortescue, “The Mass,” 269. Messenger, 35-36. Fortescue, “The Mass,” 274. John F. Bullough, “Notker Balbulus and the Origin of the Sequence,” The Hymn 16, no. 1 (January
Friel 37 The liturgical reform of 1570, in conjunction with the counter-Reformation efforts of the Council of Trent, limited the number of sequences to just four. These included: Victimae paschali for the octave of Easter, Veni Sancte Spiritus for the octave of Whitsun (now called Pentecost), Lauda Sion for the octave of Corpus Christi, and Dies irae for All Souls’ Day and Requiem Masses that immediately follow a death. More than a century and a half later, in 1727, the Stabat mater was added for the new feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.128 It is important to note, however, that these were not the only permissible sequences. Certain French and German dioceses retained the right to use others, on account of their instrumental connection to the creation of the form. The same was true of many religious orders, including the
Augustinians, Benedictines, Franciscans, and others who had played a part in the development of the sequentiarium.129 Before looking at the subsequent reform, it will be worthwhile to examine in greater detail each of the five sequences retained in the missal as revised by Pope Pius V in 1570. Interestingly, the selection of these five was based not on the importance of their corresponding feasts. This can be seen from the fact that, although the sequences on Easter and Pentecost were retained, those for Christmas, Epiphany, and Ascension, which are feasts of equal rank, were abolished. The first sequence that was retained, the Victimae paschali, was probably kept on account of the grand festivities surrounding the feast of Easter.130 Both its text and tune are anonymous, but attributed to Wipo (d. 1048). Although its original purpose was as a sequence for Mass, it became quite popular as part of Resurrection mystery plays. Its meter varies, it rhymes occasionally, and it portrays a lovely image of Christ, the Paschal Lamb.131
128. 129. 130. 131.
Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 15. Bullough, 15. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 15. Fortescue, “The Mass,” 276-277.
Friel 38 Second, the Veni Sancte Spiritus may have been composed by Pope Innocent III at the turn of the thirteenth century or by King Robert the Pious of France at the turn of the eleventh century. It is sometimes called the “Golden Sequence”132 because of the august regard it has attained among the faithful. It should not be confused, though, with the Veni Creator Spiritus, another very worthy but separate hymn attributed to Charlemagne.133 This sequence was likely retained for the same reason as the Victimae paschali, insofar as there were many customs and traditions associated with the annual feast of Pentecost.134 numerous books and musical works.135 The sequence for Corpus Christi, Lauda Sion, seems to have been preserved out of respect for Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), its venerable author, and for its sublime theological content. Written in trochaic dimeter, it is composed rhythmically, but not with strict syllabic form. It is patterned perfectly upon the metrical structure of Laudes cruces attollamus, the famous sequence of Adam of St. Victor written to the Holy Cross that marked the major shift to the middle period of sequence composition.136 This composition, which appears to have been written by Aquinas on commission,137 is structured so as to highlight, through poetic extension, its concluding strophes. They are well known of themselves by their incipits, Ecce panis and Bone pastor.138 It has been the inspiration for
132. Messenger, 48. 133. The Seven Great Hymns of the Mediaeval Church, (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1868), 134. 134. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 15. 135. C.f., Nicholaus Gihr, The Veni Sancte Spiritus: An Explanation of the Pentecostal Sequence, trans. L. M. Dooley (Island Creek, MA: Miramar, 1947). 136. Joseph Connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1957), 125. 137. Bullough, 15. 138. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 16.
Friel 39 Generally considered the greatest of all sequences and often called the “Great Hymn,”139 the majestic Dies irae may have been preserved on account of sheer popularity. Written at the time of the Black Death by the Capuchin companion of St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas of Celano, OFM (d. 1250), it was not originally intended as a sequence. The very idea of a sequence written for the Requiem Mass is somewhat of a misfit, inasmuch as the Requiem has no alleluia and consequently no jubilus from which a sequence might flow.140 It was first a poem inspired by the prophet Zephaniah and used in private devotion around Advent,141 but it appeared in the missal as a sequence for Requiems by the thirteenth century. Its final six lines (beginning at Lacrimosa dies illa) are not original to the work, and they break the rhyme and thought of the poem. The rest of the poem features rhyming trochaic stanzas, and its manipulation of closed and open vowel sounds is considered extraordinary.142 Lastly, the Stabat mater, added to the missal in 1727, is perhaps second in fame and admiration to Dies irae. Its author, Jacopone da Todi, OFM, had lost his wife before entering the Franciscans, so he was well acquainted with the sorrow of which he wrote.143 Like Dies irae, his poem was not first intended for liturgical use. It has been widely imitated, which is evidence of the great affection is has won among the faithful of many generations. A Christmas imitation, titled Stabat mater speciosa, is memorable for its quality and mystical approach to Christmas joy through Lenten affliction. The liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council again reduced the number of sequences in the missal. In the current usage of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the sequence is prescribed only for two feasts (Easter and Pentecost) and recommended for one
139. 140. 141. 142. 143. Seven Great Hymns, 46, 96, 98. Fortescue, “The Mass,” 278. Messenger, 50. Nicholaus Gihr, Dies Irae, trans. Joseph J. Schmit (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1927), 3. Seven Great Hymns, 96-97.
Friel 40 (Corpus Christi). Still, the singing of other sequences is nowhere prohibited, so it is permissible to incorporate them into the sacred liturgy, especially as a means for adding solemnity to certain feasts.144 The Dies irae and Stabat mater were moved from the missal to the breviary, where they now appear as optional hymns for the Office of the Dead and in the days leading up to the penitential seasons. The placement of the sequence, from its inception, had remained constant because of its close affiliation with the alleluia. It followed immediately upon the alleluia (as its name, from the Latin sequere, suggests) and preceded the Gospel. The reading of the Gospel, in liturgical terms, is not simply a cognitive activity, but actually an encounter, or “apparition of Christ.”145 In this light, the role of the sequence can be seen not merely as filler; rather, it introduced the Gospel by the nature of its text, which often concluded with an eschatological couplet, directing our minds to the coming of Christ. The reform of the Second Vatican Council, however, places the chanting or recitation of the sequence before the alleluia. The modern rubric appears rather anomalous,146 since it separates the sequence from the component of the Mass from which it draws its existence and life. Even the name “sequence” becomes a misnomer with this new placement. From the foregoing analyses, it is clear that the blossoming of the sequence in Catholic liturgy reached an unwieldy point. The over-abundance was resolved by the selective reduction of the Catholic reformers, and the process continued with the reform of the twentieth century. This reduction can easily be viewed as the needed reform of “what had become an abuse and a threat to the integrity of the liturgy.”147 In the same light, the action of reformers would be
144. 145. 146. 147.
Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 19. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 18. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 18. Bullough, 13.
Friel 41 tantamount to the squelching of creativity that had legitimately found its home in the Roman liturgy. One could alternatively say, however, that the Council of Trent, in drastically reducing the sequentiarium, universalized such creativity and the singing of hymns within the Eucharistic liturgy. Prior to Quo primum (1570), the complete rite of Mass had never before been legislated so specifically and universally. The threat of Protestantism, however, demanded the
safeguarding of the liturgy, while still permitting a great deal of freedom, particularly in terms of ancient rites and usages. Indeed, by saving just the few most precious sequences for continued use, the Church implicitly embraced the art form that had previously been “merely tolerated” and “not obligatory.”148 It was the great “prudence of the Tridentine reformers”149 that they
eliminated the plethora of poorer sequences and so let the principle of the sequence be dignified and made official by the retention of its best examples. The revised missal promulgated in 1570 by Pope Pius V curiously included certain developments (e.g., the praying of Psalm 42 at the foot of the altar) and eliminated others (e.g., the majority of the sequences). All of the sequences, those eliminated and those retained, are of inestimable value to the Church’s liturgical, musical, and cultural patrimony because they represent a phenomenon completely unique to the Roman Rite.150 Just like the troparium, the sequentiarium “conceded a legitimate means for the creativity of man to find expression in the liturgy: a canticum novum appeared, which was, however, not intended to displace the canticum sacrum.”151 Herein, the Church’s affirmation given to sequences, which are a form of hymn, has helped to establish a legitimate role for hymnody within the Eucharistic liturgy. But their
148. 149. 150. 151.
Bullough, 15. Fortescue, “The Mass,” 275. Fortescue, “The Mass,” 279. Dobszay, “The Life and Meaning of the Sequence,” 8.
Friel 42 affirmation comes within limitations, so that the rest of the liturgical treasure of the Church ought not to be oppressed or threatened by the comparatively new acceptance of the sequence. It must remain very clear, however, that the sequence is fundamentally part of the Proprium Missae. Thus, sequences possess a role within the Mass because they are prescribed. The history of the sequence shows that hymnody, as a genre, is not essentially unbecoming of the worthy celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy; yet, at the same time, its history argues for a renewed appreciation for the particular worthiness of the prescribed texts of the Mass.
Popular Roles of Hymnody Most hymns, unlike the sequences, do not originate in the liturgy. Rather, most hymns historically derive from and find their place in popular life. An overview of some of the sources and roles of non-liturgical hymnody will help to show the vital need American culture has for a new blossoming of the genre. The later Middle Ages marked the highpoint of the practice of hymn contrafaction, whereby profane songs were re-texted with religious lyrics. This much is clear from the witness of the first printed hymnals, published in the sixteenth century. It is not so sure, however, that these contrafacta were published for use at worship. Many of these early printed hymnals, in fact, discriminate between hymns for use in church and those for use at home. A 1537 Catholic hymnal by Michael Vehe, for instance, includes a section subtitled, “Möchten in und ausser der Kirchen gesungen werden” (“to be sung in and outside the Churches”).152 Thus, there emerges
152. Robert A. Skeris, “On the Problem of Religious Hymn Contrafacta: Reflections Theological and Hymnological,” 119.
Friel 43 evidence of a historical role for hymnody outside the liturgy, since these contrafacta “were really intended for use outside of the church, in family circles.”153 The spiritually re-texted hymns, therefore, served to counteract the negative influence of profane lyrics while at the same time promoting faith among families. Both of these tasks are deserving of attention in the modern day. cultivation of familial singing. Of particular consequence would be a greater
The advent of amplified and recorded music in the early
twentieth century has established a near-monopoly of the entertainment paradigm: a soloist, representing the few, performs for an audience, representing the many.154 It is largely assumed in contemporary Western civilization that only the few have musical talent, while the many ought to remain passive listeners. This has obvious effects on the singing of both liturgical chant and popular hymnody. The singing of hymns around the family dinner table could at once counteract this cultural downtrend and inspire greater cultural religiosity among the faithful. At international gatherings, particularly among youth, it is not uncommon for one to hear various groups joining in folk songs, many of which contain religious references or possess an intrinsically faith-based character. They are often traditions kept alive by the ingrained
religiosity of the cultures from which they come. For example, the Polish can all sing Serdeczna Matko, the Italians can sing Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle, and every Spaniard can sing La Guadalupana. On the contrary, “‘Happy Birthday’ is the last vestige of communal singing in U.S. culture,”155 and it has no religious connection. Even in the case of The Star Spangled Banner, only the first verse, if any, is commonly known, so the religious content of the subsequent verses is lost. The same is true in large part of America the Beautiful, the latter
153. Robert A. Skeris, “On the Problem of Religious Hymn Contrafacta: Reflections Theological and Hymnological,” 118-119. 154. Quentin Faulkner, “Musical Illiteracy Revisited,” Sacred Music 135, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 86. 155. Faulkner, 87.
Friel 44 verses of which are religious but unknown. Furthermore, the National Anthem is more often than not relegated to a soloist, so it fails to be a true experience of communal singing. Fresh focus on the need for communal song in the home and community can only enhance one’s appreciation for the meaning and value of communal song in the liturgy. Throughout the history of hymnody, a frequent purpose of the form has been fundamental catechesis. The hymns of the early Fathers, for instance, very often served the function of teaching children and neophytes the basic truths of Christianity; in the days of the Renaissance, too, catechism hymns were circulated by men such as Georg Vogler and Johann Leisentritt.156 This non-liturgical function of hymns could be useful in the modern day, too, as part of the Church’s effort to re-evangelize those who have been poorly catechized. Teaching children a few basic, but solid hymns could offer real assistance in teaching the faith and forging a more vibrant Catholic cultural consciousness. In order to bolster the authentic role of hymnody outside the liturgy, American culture would do well to rediscover the tremendous value of cantus religiosus popularis, or the religious folk song. Some of the popular songs so commonly published in modern hymnals and sung widely at Mass could better serve as the beginning repertoire of a movement toward such a revival. As the hymns of early Christians were a weapon against the Greek and Latin lyrical poetry focused on worldly attractions and the medieval contrafacta were an antidote to profane hymn texts, so a revived (or, perhaps, newfound) practice of religious, non-liturgical song in America could help to wage the necessary fight against the din of secular music today.157 Laboring toward that end would be a concrete manner of “addressing one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in [our] hearts” (Eph 5:19).
156. Fellerer, 131. 157. Fortescue, “Concerning Hymns,” 30.
IV. Pastoral Implementation The virtues of the Gregorian propers and the appropriate role of popular hymnody have been presented theoretically above. Any effort in actual ecclesial life to foster authentic use of both genres will, of course, demand a well-conceived plan for pastoral implementation. There are currently numerous resources available that will help to make the propers, or similar substitutes, accessible at the parish level. There are also many projects still underway to provide even more such resources. The ubiquity of the Internet has made possible the wide distribution of invaluable materials, and it has, further, inspired many contemporary artists to place their work freely in the public domain. These newfound realities are very encouraging for the future of sacred music in the Church in the United States of America. At this point, we shall present a basic review of several resources that may assist in the movement toward the independence of liturgical chant from popular hymnody and outline a call to action that would facilitate the same movement.
Review of Organizations as Resources The first resource that merits recognition is not a book or collection, but an organization. The Church Music Association of America (CMAA) is unquestionably leading the way toward the renewal of sacred music in the aptly named “reform of the reform.”158 The Association’s quarterly journal, Sacred Music, to which much of the present research is indebted, is a prominent vehicle promoting Gregorian chant, quality scholarship, and critical, but charitable, consideration of contemporary parochial experience. All the efforts of the CMAA—including their journal, website, colloquia, workshops, and other programs—aim at encouraging the
158. C.f., Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 7-9.
Friel 46 gradual improvement of Catholic musical-liturgical experience in America toward the ideal envisioned in the documents of the Church on music. Another organization is worthy of similar praise for its work in advocating chant-based music and making it available electronically at no cost. The Corpus Christi Watershed, under the leadership of its new President, Jeffrey Ostrowski, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that “exists to assist artists in their service to the Church.”159 A pioneering effort in the world of public domain and creative commons music, their website offers free resources in several different categories: responsorial psalms, Gospel acclamations, Mass ordinaries, polyphonic motets, and rare Gregorian publications. A section on hymn resources is also under
construction, and the group has begun to publish select new compositions. One of the most unique aspects of their work is a calendar-based chart that provides hyperlinks to the appropriate Roman propers for the Sundays and major feasts of the Church year. This chart, moreover, is given in two forms—one for the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, and one for the extraordinary form. The Corpus Christi Watershed, in a very short time, has attracted the attention and contributions of an impressive group of Catholic musicians. Their role in the promotion of propers-based liturgy has the potential to be extraordinary.
Review of Latin Resources It must be stated at the outset that the singular resource for Catholic musicians is the Graduale Romanum. As the missal belongs to the priest, the Book of Gospels belongs to the deacon, and the lectionary belongs to the lector, so is the Roman Gradual proper to the schola, or
159. Corpus Christ Watershed: About Page, available from http://www.ccwatershed.org/about; Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.
Friel 47 choir. This official liturgical book is a compendium of the Church’s chants that represent the ideal music for service at the Eucharistic liturgy. In many, if not most, American parishes, though, jumping headlong into the Graduale Romanum would be impossible. An option that would help to build basic chanting skills is the Graduale Simplex, which could serve as a fine preparation for the later acceptance of the actual Graduale Romanum. One of the great strengths of the Graduale Simplex is that it serves as a step toward the ideal. Insofar as it is leading to that eventual goal, it is a help, and to the extent that it becomes disconnected from the goal, it will be unhelpful. It employs the unaltered traditional text and respects the traditional introit form, which are additional positive attributes. Its chief limitation is that it does not employ the traditional Gregorian melodies. This may be a necessary concession, however, as part of the training of a schola that takes the Roman propers as their ultimate goal. A similar resource is found in the famous “Rossini Propers,” the handiwork of Carlo Rossini, the great priest-musician of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The collection can be difficult to navigate for those involved in choir direction today, since it is arranged according to the calendar that now pertains to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite; with sufficient background, however, one can align the propers with their corresponding days in the ordinary form calendar. The Rossini propers, like the Graduale Simplex, do not convey the same beauty and richness contained in the actual Gregorian propers. Their evident accessibility, sufficiency, and
expediency can unfortunately lead choirs into the conundrum of liturgical functionalism. It is noteworthy, however, that Father Rossini’s purpose in creating this edition was to ensure that
Friel 48 there “be no excuse . . . for omitting the Proper at High Mass,”160 as he states in his preface to the work. In the words of Musicam Sacram: “To have a more ornate form of singing and a more magnificent ceremonial is at times desirable when there are the resources available to carry them out properly; on the other hand, it would be contrary to the true solemnity of the Liturgy if this were to lead to a part of the action being omitted, changed, or improperly performed.”161 Thus, although the Rossini propers are not ideal on account of their divergence from the authentic chant melodies, their original goal of bolstering the importance of the propers must be recognized as very noble.
Review of English Resources Thus far, the options discussed have represented only Latin language resources. In many places, though, the language, itself, presents an obstacle to liturgical usage. This is sometimes the result of a choir’s lack of confidence in pronouncing Latin texts, and at other times it is a prevailing attitude of suspicion among members of the clergy or congregation that presents the obstacle. While recognizing the original Roman propers as the ideal, it seems unnecessary to obviate the potential value of vernacular propers; as was argued above, if there is any component of the Holy Mass that would sensibly take on the vernacular, it is likely the Proprium Missae, not the Ordinarium Missae. To this end, there is great hope to be found in the numerous projects that are providing English-language options for service at the liturgy, in the absence of an official vernacular gradual. One of the first comprehensive efforts in this regard was the 1999 work by Paul Ford, Ph.D., By Flowing Waters. A collection using the official English translation of the Graduale
160. Carlo Rossini, ‘Proper’ of the Mass for the Entire Ecclesiastical Year (Pittsburgh, PA: 1933), ii. 161. Musicam Sacram, 11.
Friel 49 Simplex (entitled The Simple Gradual), its melodies are based on authentic Gregorian chants. It is a fine example of the singable marriage between English text and Gregorian melody. The chants appear in modern notation, with stemless round notes on five-line staves, so they are eminently accessible to choirs lacking familiarity with Gregorian notation. It is further
praiseworthy for its inclusion of the contents of Jubilate Deo. By Flowing Waters “is clearly not a simple retrieval of the past,”162 but rather a pastoral effort to bring plainsong alive in typical parish experience. Perhaps the volume’s greatest weakness is its employment of the ew
Revised Standard Version (NRSV) for the English translations of Latin texts. This translation of the Bible, supposedly “inclusive” and “ecumenical” in its language, has been refused approval for liturgical use by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and therefore causes some question regarding its fittingness for use even in an official volume of liturgical chant. Another major vernacular contribution is the Simple Choral Gradual of Richard Rice, which was originally composed some fifteen years ago but has recently received new attention.163 Available both online for download at a nominal fee and in print from the CMAA, this gradual provides propers (arranged SATB) for every Sunday and solemnity of the Church year. The propers include the entrance and communion antiphons from the Roman Missal together with their accompanying psalms from the Ordo Cantus Missae. Also included are offertory antiphons from the Graduale Romanum with their accompanying psalms from the Offertoriale Triplex. These propers have the benefit of being easily learned, and they serve the double blessing of helping to train and strengthen the part-singing abilities of a choir. They
162. Judith M. Kubicki, C.S.S.F., review of By Flowing Waters: Chant for the Liturgy, by Paul Ford, available from http://www.pford.stjohnsem.edu/ford/by-flowing-waters/docs/reviews-andpraises/Kubicki%20Worship.pdf; Internet; accessed 23 March 2011. 163. For example, Tucker, “The Year of English Chant Propers,” 72.
Friel 50 could be learned on a week-to-week basis with little difficulty by most choirs. They may also be sung simply in unison, or even with congregational participation. A legitimate criticism of these antiphons, however, concerns their melodies, the overarching similarity of which can become routine. Additionally, the narrow melodic texture is harmonized characteristically by a small pool of root position chords. Nevertheless, this complete English gradual represents a significant achievement and is quite fit for liturgical use. Using these propers just once a month in a parish would avoid the musical repetition and still assist in leading the parish toward singing the propers of the Mass. The Simple Choral Gradual was released in printed form in June 2011 at the CMAA’s Colloquium XXI, along with the freshly completed Simple English Propers. The Simple English Propers, which will likely be a crowning achievement for composer Adam Bartlett, editor of the Sacred Music Project, provide a complete English edition of propers for all the Sundays and solemnities of the Church year. Included are all the entrance, offertory, and communion
antiphons with their corresponding psalm verses. The project demonstrates greater melodic variety than the Simple Choral Gradual of Richard Rice, yet they are no more difficult to perform. Each of these chants is set simply, but beautifully, in square notation on four-line staves and with pointed psalm texts. This method of engraving is both a virtue and a vice; the four-line staff lends itself to greater subtlety and ease of performance, but it will, at first, be unfamiliar to many Catholic musicians. Another significant advantage of this resource is that its melodies preserve the modes of the Gregorian originals. Amazingly, these propers have been published freely through “creative commons” on the CMAA website, and they are available in printed form for only a nominal fee.164 The completion of the Simple English Propers has filled
164. C.f., http://musicasacra.com/simple-propers-of-the-mass-ordinary-form.
Friel 51 a void that went largely unspoken in the decades since the promulgation of the ovus Ordo of the Roman Rite. Closely related to the Simple English Propers is a similar project being undertaken by Father Samuel Weber, OSB. Fr. Weber is Director of the Institute of Sacred Music, founded in 2008 by then-Archbishop Raymond Burke in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He is, at present, working towards the completion of a gradual that will include, like the Gregorian Missal, all the Sundays and feast days of the year. The portions that have been published already on the Institute’s website165 utilize square notes and four-line staves and are well laid out. Something that distinguishes the work in St. Louis from any other project is that it includes an emphasis on Spanish-language propers, as well. Since the Spanish language has an ever-growing presence in the United States of America, this facet of Fr. Weber’s work signifies a tremendously pastoral effort to bring propers-based liturgy to all the members of the Church in this country. Also available freely on the CMAA website is Communio, another project of composer Richard Rice.166 A collection of all the communion chants for Sundays and feast days, the contribution of this volume is the practical format in which it pairs the communion antiphon with its psalm verses, thus making the relatively short antiphon more liturgically fit for the communion procession. Originally published in 2007 with Latin antiphons and Latin psalm verses, the engraver released an alternative edition in 2009 with Latin antiphons and English psalm tones. This second version gives evidence of the growing realization that resources must be provided as stepping-stones if the ideal is ever to be achieved. There are many other similar resources available, of course, in both Latin and English. It is not the task of the present study to name or to analyze them all. But those that have been
165. C.f., http://archstl.org/worship/page/institute-sacred-music. 166. C.f., http://musicasacra.com/communio. Also, Communio: Communion Antiphons with Psalm Verses for Sundays and Solemnities, ed. Richard Rice (Richmond, VA: CMAA, 2007).
Friel 52 presented above are representative of what is available and what is becoming available, and they make the point that the goal of a propers-based liturgy is not beyond reach.
A Call to Action The quality of sacred music cannot possibly be everywhere equal, on account of the varying abilities and resources present in each community of faith. In every situation, however, goals can be set, new ideas can be tried, and ideals can become the benchmark for which musicians strive. Indeed, “music for worship should be the best that is possible in any given milieu.”167 Placing this foundational belief in the context of contemporary America, the action first proposed by Professor László Dobszay seems relevant at this juncture: “the formula alius cantus congruus as a substitution for the Roman Gradual or the Simple Gradual must be removed from the normative text of the General Introduction to the Roman Missal.”168 First issued in 1969, the General Introduction to the Roman Missal (GIRM) ratified the permission given in Musicam Sacram (1967), which referred to “substituting other songs for the songs given in the Graduale for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion” as a “custom legitimately in use.”169 According to the GIRM, “there are four options for the Entrance Chant” in the dioceses of the United States of America: the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the psalm from the Roman Gradual, the seasonal antiphon from the Simple Gradual, a song from an approved collection of psalms and antiphons, or “a suitable liturgical song [alius cantus congruus or aptus] similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.”170
167. Francis P. Schmitt, “Leaning Right?” in Crisis in Church Music? ed. The Liturgical Conference (Washington, D.C.: The Liturgical Conference, 1967), 53. 168. Dobszay, “The Proprium Missae of the Roman Rite,” 100. 169. Musicam Sacram, 32. 170. General Instruction of the Roman Missal (Washington, D.C.: USCCB, 2003), 48. Hereafter, abbreviated GIRM.
Friel 53 The same four options are understood of the offertory chant and clearly stated of the communion chant.171 No norm is given to regulate the meaning of congruus or aptus, and, judging from the typical experience of Holy Mass in modern America, this fourth option has eclipsed the first three options on a grand scale. Perhaps great good would be accomplished, as Dobszay
suggests, by the wholesale elimination of the option for “another appropriate song.” This action, were it to be taken, would still admit of variety and the necessary inequality of the musical-liturgical experience in different setting. The propers could be sung by a cantor, a choir, or the whole congregation; they could be sung accompanied or unaccompanied; they could be sung in English, Latin, or Spanish. This action would not necessarily eliminate the possibility of singing something in addition to the propers, either, but it would certainly help “to restore the musical ordering that has always been a feature of the Roman Rite.”172 Thanks to the dedication of many selfless Church musicians, a lack of sufficient resources (in Latin or in the vernacular) is finally no longer a legitimate excuse for the replacement of propers with hymnody (or anything else). Choices among Latin and vernacular propers are now widely available, and many of them are available at no cost. This is not an impossible goal. It is the onus of our present generation to see that the Second Vatican Council’s “original vision of a musical renaissance consistent with tradition is achieved.”173 Professor Dobszay has, himself, testified to the real viability of this call to action, speaking of the current liturgical life of his native Hungary. There, “despite very adverse conditions,” the chanting of the propers “has in fact been achieved.”174 In both urban and rural
171. 172. 173. 174.
C.f., GIRM, 74 and 87. Tucker, Sing Like a Catholic, 118. Tucker, Sing Like a Catholic, 20. Dobszay, “The Proprium Missae of the Roman Rite,” 103.
Friel 54 parishes, the voice of the Church is heard through the sung propers of the Mass as presented in the 2007 volume, Graduale Hungaricum.175 Similar success is possible in the American milieu. Whether or not the repeal of the permissive phrase legitimizing “another suitable song” is effected officially within the Church, Catholic musicians of the current generation have the freedom to make the option extraneous. Choices can be made in favor of the propers even now, and the fruits of such action could be extraordinary for the Church and for the faithful.
V. Conclusion We have argued that the Roman propers are the unparalleled ideal of Catholic liturgical chant. Their preeminence having been challenged by the contemporary practice of supplanting proper texts with popular hymnody, it has been shown that the propers possess particular virtues that make them uniquely apt for service at the liturgy. Popular hymnody also has a vital role for Catholics, but this role is expressed most authentically as part of the culture and not the Eucharistic liturgy. With an abundance of propers-based resources now available, the movement toward the independence of liturgical chant from popular hymnody has become possible. It is the charge of the present generation of Catholic musicians in America to initiate this movement, participate in it, and bring it to a happy completion.
175. Graduale Hungaricum (Gödöllö: A Premonterei rend Gödöllöi Kanóniája, 2007).
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