Monday, December 31, 2012

When the subject of liturgical music comes up, one can't help but think the Greeks are perpetually in the right.

Over at Chant Cafe`, there's some whimsical discussion on the restrictions over the vernacular for music in the old rite. You can read it here.

I have no desire to see English choral or some other variant of liturgical music utilized to a greater degree in the "Tridentine" liturgy. With all due respect to the author's taste, English, or any Anglo or Germanic tongue for that matter, invariably sounds like an assault to the ears when compared to Latin or a well composed piece in a Romance language.

The use of polyphony and choral pieces is another area that will, one day, require serious discussion. It exposes, even among so-called "Tridentine" celebrations of the Roman liturgy the lamentable discrepancy between the monastic liturgical ethos and that of even the most talented cathedral schola. The use of essentially "high church" musical pieces does little more, in my estimation, than reduce the liturgy to entertainment. Even the traditional liturgy can be subject to the same nominalist conception of liturgy that has positively defined the missal codified by Paul VI. The monasteries show us the way. Liturgy demands to be chanted, whether Old Latin, Gregorian, Byzantine or the polyphonic chant of Hildegard von Bingen. Chant, in my estimation, is what makes liturgical music intentional as opposed to aesthetic.

Today's crop of liturgical musicians, whether they utilize Bach or peddle drivel like "On Eagles Wings" will undoubtedly disagree with me. That's fine. I'll let the monasteries, both Latin and Byzantine be my response. Any one can easily search for a recording of Phos Hilaron and see where I'm coming from. Now more than ever, there is a palpable need to find some of that, as John Paul II termed it, light from the east to illumine the Roman liturgy.