So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Face of God & The Cosmetic Mass

How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou! thy eyes are doves' eyes, besides what is hid within. 
Thy lips are as a scarlet lace: and thy speech sweet. Thy cheeks are as a piece of a pomegranate, besides that which lieth hid within.—Song of Solomon 4:1a,3.
A little make-up on a woman to provide accent, e.g., eyeliner or lipstick, is one thing. Covering up or obscuring natural beauty is a distraction that almost seems criminal.

The Mass, too, has a face—the face of God. The face of God is beautiful to behold. God reveals His beautiful (awesome, glorious, majestic, terrifying) face in every beautifully written icon, in the face of every newborn baby, in the face of a bride and groom united in Christ at the altar of Christ, in the face of one who knows a happy death. God's face is revealed in the faces of His saints, especially in the faces of His glorious martyrs. God's face is seen in the face of Christ. The burial shroud of Turin, the shroud upon which the face of Christ is imprinted, reveals the face of God. That face, bruised and beaten, bloodied and broken, is the face of God. God reveals His face in every Mass.
And they shall see his face: and his name shall be on their foreheads.—Revelation 22:4
Clothing matters. A dress that complements a woman's natural form and preserves a woman's dignity is like the veil on a tabernacle. Beneath her veil is a mystery of profound meaning that merits the utmost respect. The Mass, too, has a form—a supernatural form!—that should not be subjected to bizarre accoutrements which deny or demean the most profound mystery of mysteries.
Just as the altar is a sign for us of Christ the living stone, altar cloths are used "out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and the banquet that gives us his body and blood." By their beauty and form they add to the dignity of the altar in much the same way that vestments solemnly ornament the priests and sacred ministers.—Archdiocese of Boston.
Please, do not dress the Liturgy in tawdry clothes. Vestments, altar linens and the altar cloth itself should be made of fine material. The vestments of priests and servers, for example, point to the glory and beauty of God: Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints!

Clothed in the Liturgy

To be clothed in the Mass is to be immersed in the supernatural beauty of the rituals (Sign of the Cross, bows, kneeling, striking the breast at the Confiteor, the priest's hands extended over the offerings, etc.), words (Holy Scripture, prayers), smells (incense, beeswax candles), sounds (bells, music), tastes (the Holy Eucharist), touches (dipping one's finger in Holy Water), sights (vestments, statuary, crucifix, chalice) and light (candles, stained glass) of the Mass. In this instant, we'll focus briefly on one aspect of the "flesh" of the Mass—sacred music.

Mass Music

The Mass has its own music. Each Mass has its own music. Every Mass has a specific character affirmed in the texts of the various proper chants (Introit, Offertory, Communion), chants which change according to the day and which are meant to be sung on a particular day. Unfortunately, the understanding that each Mass has a distinct character that reflects the many "faces" of God, so-to-speak, is completely lost on most parish musicians who organize the music each week for Holy Mass.

Jeffrey Tucker opined in his article Catholic Music: It’s Time to Stop Making Stuff Up (Sept. 24, 2012):
The liturgy itself is being held hostage to a few people’s on-the-spot views of what the message should be and what should take place. A major aspect of the Mass, one that can make or break the entire point of the ritual, is being put in the hands of people who have little or no substantive guidance or basis for their decision-making. Moreover, their hymnals and magazines and liturgy publications encourage that very attitude.
What are the consequences of musicians imposing their individual misguided assumptions on the Liturgy?
  • The identity or character of a particular liturgy is obscured when compositions not related to a particular liturgy's theme are substituted for the intended chant text.
  • Musicians assume the authority to manipulate the content of the Mass. Rather than the Mass being something we receive, the Mass becomes something we take. Consequently, the Eucharist becomes something we take instead of something we are not worthy to receive but, by God's grace, we are invited to receive because God is merciful and desires communion with us.
Orientation

How many Ordinary Form Masses have you witnessed at which were presented songs that spoke around, about or past God but didn't allow you to speak to Him? If your parish is like any in our diocese, such occasions would be a weekly occurrence.

The sacred music of the Mass speaks to God, not at Him. Sacred music focusses on the Creator, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Most Holy Trinity. Sacred music speaks with the angels and saints of God in praise of God our loving and almighty Father.

What happens when mere devotional music replaces sacred music?
  • Mass becomes something where people talk about God but never enter into worship of God.
  • Mass frequently becomes a spiritual pep-rally that shifts the focus to feeling good about ourselves but avoids thanking God for His saving grace and for His many blessings given to us.
  • Mass becomes a time for fellowship between the guests, i.e., among the invited, while the Host, the Lord, is ignored.
Msgr. Richard Schuler, in an article entitled What is Sacred Music? (Sacred Music, Fall 1991) identified further consequences due to a loss of the authentic sense of music in the Liturgy.
It is a strange spirit (perhaps the "spirit of Vatican II"?) that has led to the dismissal of choirs, the abandoning of polyphonic music, especially in the Latin language. In order to justify such a position, some (Rev. Frederick McManus, for example) have announced that the treasury of church music is to be fostered "in concerts." Others (Fr. Joseph Gelineau, for example) have simply stated that polyphonic choral music is not intended for use in the liturgy, nor should church music even attempt to reach the perfection one might well expect in concert performances. (Lowered expectations leads to a loss of faith. A lowering of knowledge and a loss of wisdom has led to a loss of beauty in practice: prayer life is diminished; commitment to God and Church is weakened.)

Thus the hymn has replaced the settings of the Mass texts; the congregation has been substituted for the choir; the vernacular has superceded the Latin language; the guitar and piano have pushed aside the pipe organ and the orchestra. What is left of the treasury of sacred music for the parish liturgy? Four hymns! (The loss of liturgical identity has led to a tragic loss of Catholic identity.)

Sadly, this is the present state of church music, its study and its performance, not only in the parishes, but in the schools, especially those for the training of future priests. Again, a direct violation of the conciliar decrees on sacred music by seminary authorities, done knowingly and willingly, has deprived the Catholic people and their future priests of their rightful inheritance. (Loss of Tradition.)
Music, or something that purports to be music, that has us singing in God's voice (e.g., lyrics from Here I Am, Lord by Dan Schutte: I the Lord of see and sky...) fails to affirm the distinction between creature and Creator. With the line blurred, there is little need for prayer since the object of one's prayer becomes oneself. That confusion of identities is spiritually and psychologically dangerous, to say the least.

Far too many "liturgists", music directors and priests are woefully ignorant as to the obligation to celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms which ensure that the Mass is truly a worthy effort to offer praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God. Not with cold or indifferent hearts should we orient ourselves to the truth, but with hearts and minds joyfully obedient to the norms which help us decrease so that Christ may increase. After all, Christ is the principal actor in the Mass. Jesus' Sacrifice is that which we enter into and which we receive, not something we constantly remake in our own image. We are to be configured to the Holy Eucharist which is the source and summit of the Christian life.

A FEW RESOURCES FOR (RE-)FORMING THE LITURGICAL MUSICIAN

The Music Shape of The Liturgy

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