I have in the past mentioned Sr. Joan Roccasalvo, CJS, who has some intelligent things to say (about which I agree for the most part) about sacred music. She has another offering at CNA, to which I want to point you. The title of the entry is “‘Oriented toward gregorian chant’? What does this phrase mean?”
To begin with, music of the liturgy must sound different from street music, music of a rock concert, music sung in a discotheque, or music for the movies. It differs from the sounds typically associated with romantic music. It is prayer that is sung, prayer that bears the imprint of silence. Orientation toward Gregorian chant involves melody, rhythm, types of sound and harmonization.
Do I hear an “Amen!”?
There is a renewed emphasis in two main directions, both essential to the full participation of the faithful in the Mass. First, we are witnessing a renewal in singing the Mass. This means singing the Ordinary parts: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei. There are eighteen Mass settings of Gregorian chant Ordinaries in the Liber Usualis, the liturgical book containing the complete Latin settings of Gregorian chant for every Mass of the year. The easiest Mass settings are Mass XVI and Mass XVIII which can be sung during Lent and Advent.
Second, there is a renewed interest in singing the Proper (changeable) parts of the Mass in English because of the rich texts from the Old and New Testaments. Post-conciliar years saw many parishes drop the prescribed Proper parts of the Mass: the Entrance or Introit, the Gradual, the Communion.
There is a growing revulsion among pastors, clergy, and laity at the use of missalettes to which most parishes subscribe. [Another “Amen!”?] More and more, they see them as a bad investment, a waste of parish funds, already stretched to the limit. These flimsy, disposable paperbacks must be changed a few times a year for the entire parish community. The cost is prohibitive.
These shabby, unattractive throw-aways with God’s word printed between the covers would make a rabbi gasp in disbelief, for the Torah is encased in precious jewels. So too is the book of the Gospels in the Christian East. In the Roman Rite, the Sacramentary and Lectionary are reasonably attractive books. What image does a missalette project? Texts are printed on cheap paper, and most music is unsuitable for worship. “We are teaching ugliness to our Catholics,” writes Alice von Hildebrand, dismayed. Why shouldn’t the faithful hold in their hands a beautifully-bound book containing the word of God from which to sing?
I will take this a another step.
Let the sacred liturgy be mainly in Latin, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said, and let people have their own well-bound translation of their choice. The Council also said that pastors should make sure their flocks can both sing and speak the parts that pertain to them in Latin. True unity in true diversity, not the anti-Pentecost Tower of Babel we have going now! In some dioceses Holy Mass is celebrated in dozens of languages, little communities segregated from each other. In some parishes there are multiple languages. I applaud the choice of a parish priest about whom I recently wrote to switch the Spanish language Mass in his parish to a Traditional Latin Mass. That was a good choice not merely because we need more celebrations of the TLM, but because the Latin language can unify different communities within the community. They can pray together. Solutions can be found for the sermon. But they can all be on the same page when praying.