On the site of the Diocese of Madison’s paper, The Catholic Herald (not to be confused with The Catholic Herald in the UK), His Excellency Most Rev. Robert Morlino has some observations about liturgy which are worth a look.
My emphases and comments.
The beauty of our worship in the liturgy
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011
Clearly there has been much dialogue recently about our continuing liturgical renewal in the Diocese of Madison [E.g., his leadership on the issue of Communion under both kinds. HERE.] — this awareness has even risen to the international level. [Gosh! How did that happen?!?] There was, in fact, a recent blog in Spain about our local matter. It is very difficult for me to believe that the tale of a bishop, leading his diocese in fine-tuning the implementation of the correct interpretation of Vatican II, would rise to the level of an international news item. But that says, indeed, a lot about the world in which we live, favoring as it does anarchic displays rather than a reasonable exercise of lawful authority. [OOH-RAH!]
Be that all as it may, I myself have yet to mention in a very public way the consideration which essentially accompanies our realization of Christ’s true presence and our natural and supernatural response of reverence. The liturgy, as the worship which the Holy Spirit has given His Church, always requires beauty in its celebrations.
Since the frequently mistaken implementation of Vatican II (almost 50 years ago), [So many people getting so many things wrong for so many years.. its a miracle so many people still go to Mass…. but I digress…] many liturgies have taken place which are, at least, less than beautiful. To this statement, our country and our culture would respond immediately, “but beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” or, “everything is beautiful, in its own way.” Just as our culture has sought to relativize everything important to human nobility, asserting that it is human nature not to have a nature, so too is this the case with beauty itself.
Beauty: not simply in the ‘eye of the beholder’ [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
Beauty is not, in fact, simply in the eye of the beholder, from the viewpoint of reason. For reason tells us that beautiful, good, true, and one are interchangeable; therefore, whatever is beautiful is also good and true, and expresses unity and harmony.
Beautiful can never be mistaken as an indicator of what pleases some majority of people somewhere. The fact that our parish likes to sing a particular song at the liturgy cannot, of itself, make that song beautiful. To be beautiful, indeed, is to be good and is to be true. As much as some people may enjoy the musical antics of Lady Gaga, these cannot honestly be described as beautiful. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
Beautiful means, in the first place, embodying the truth. Some of the songs that we sing at liturgy contain lyrics which clearly are not true — for example, the song “All Are Welcome.” As a matter of fact, the liturgy takes place mystically in the heavenly sanctuary. All are welcome at the liturgy who truly seek salvation in and through Jesus Christ, by following God’s Will, as spelled out through His Son’s very Body, the Church. People who have little interest in doing God’s Will don’t fit at the liturgy. [OOH-RAH!] And certainly, by their own choosing, the poor souls who suffer in Hell for all eternity are not welcome. [Do my eyes deceive me? Must I pinch myself? Did a Catholic bishop just suggest that hell exists and that there may be souls in hell? Surely the Lord is about to return.] Those are simple, but true facts. Thus the song, “All Are Welcome,” gives an impression that the choice for the Will of Jesus Christ, as it comes to us through the Church, makes no difference; and nothing could be further from the truth. It could therefore be concluded that the song, “All are Welcome,” is not beautiful so as to be appropriate-for-liturgical-use. Being true is necessary before anything can be beautiful.
Ennobling the human person
But, it is equally important for something to be good so that it also might be judged beautiful. The truth, which is clothed by beauty, must be such as to ennoble the human person in terms of bringing out his or her very best, both of intellect and of will. The beautiful must embody that which is true, but also ennobling to our human nature as made in the image and likeness of God. Whatever is beautiful must fix our minds and our hearts on the things above, according to St. Paul (Phil 4).
When one realizes that to be authentically beautiful, something must be both true and ennobling of our human nature, that tells us a great deal about what exactly is appropriate at the liturgy. Because it is the source and the summit of our lives as followers of Christ, the liturgy must never be anything less than beautiful, beautiful in such wise as to evoke the correct sacramental attitude of reverence, beautiful as befitting our communion at the liturgy with all the angels and saints. [In rhetorical terms the aptum and pulchrum. This is about decorum.]
Thus, everything that we will be doing in the days, months, and years ahead, since it will be aimed at reverent Christ-centeredness in liturgical celebrations, must be nothing less than beautiful, reflecting the perfect beauty, unity, truth, and goodness of the object of our worship and adoration Themselves, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for reading this. God Bless each one of you! Praised be Jesus Christ!
I suspect a few parish music “ministers” are going to get their knickers in a twist about this one.
WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Morlino. He is right about all this, of course.
When writing about music appropriate for liturgical worship I have all these years gone back to what the late, great Church musician (a real one) Msgr. Richard Schuler correctly asserted. Since sacred liturgical music is NOT an add-on in worship, since it is actually an integrating part (pars integrans) of liturgical worship, since it is prayer, liturgical music must be both sacred and also art. The texts must be sacred texts. The idiom must be a sacred idiom, or at least not opposed to the sacred. The music must be good, well-composed, of high artistic value. It must be performed well. It must be sacred and it must be art. If the music chosen does not fulfill those criteria, it does not belong in the Mass. The music itself becomes prayer within the liturgical setting. People pray by listening to sacred liturgical music which is truly art and sacred.
We cannot ever go wrong when we stick to the texts actually assigned by the Church for each Mass or office. We cannot ever go wrong when we use Gregorian chant and polyphony and the pipe organ, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council established as having the first place among all genres of music for sacred worship.