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The Musical Transition to the New Missal

Jeffrey Tucker at New Liturgical Movement provided an excellent exposition on the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal and its relationship to music on September 15, 2011. Let’s hear your thoughts.

The Musical Transition to the New Missal

by Jeffrey Tucker

Some three months from implementation, the transition to the Third Edition of the Roman Missal has very obviously avoided the gloom and doom scenarios widely predicted among partisans of the 1970 translation. The dissidents have calmed down, the publishers are printing the Missals, the workshops are proceeding apace, the initial liturgical presentations have been beautiful, and we can all look forward to a vastly enriched liturgical experience beginning in Advent.

But there is another issue that is hugely important to the overall presentation of the Roman Rite, and that issue is music. Commentators tend to underestimate the significance of this factor, but if you talk to average Catholics, this issue turns out to be decisive. The music provides the aesthetic framework that is communicated to the faithful, and it is one they readily understand as a sign of the well being and confidence of the Church herself.

More than any other issue, the music issue was the one that most traumatized Catholics when the first Mass of Paul VI was promulgated. In the same way that this new Missal corrections that serious translations of that edition, so too does this Missal offer a chance for getting matters back on the right track so that the music is fully integrated as part of the liturgy.

The issue of the text has been settled from on high with the promulgation of the new Missal itself. It has simply been a matter of making a new translation and implementing it, and this has been done. The music issue is not so simply solved. It relies on parish-by-parish cooperation in the spirit of the change. Legislation can suggest, the Church can publish, influential voices can explain and guide. But, in the end, it is all about the parish, the pastor, and the directors of music at all levels.

Pastors, however, have come to fear the music question because it continues to divide people like few other questions. Uncountable numbers of people simple refuse to go to Mass because they do not like what has happened to music at Mass, particularly the emphasis on pop music. Those who do attend regularly continue to be as divided as any group that fights over song selections. As for the musicians themselves, no matter what they are playing or singing, they tend to take offense at the slightest suggestion that they have made less than stellar choices and need to change.

All this wrangling is completely understandable given the neglect of the music that is native to the ritual, namely the chant. Chant is music specifically crafted beautifully elucidate the text of the Mass in a stylistic manner than transcends social divisions. It does not draw from contemporary cultural archetypes so that it does not go out of fashion; it is timeless in the sense that it is appropriate at all times. It worked in the first century and it works today to accomplish what liturgical music is supposed to do.

This tradition has been neglected because of a series of missteps following the close of the Second Vatican Council. The Council made a strong call for chant. The Vatican published two books of chant, one before and one after the new Mass appeared. But the voice calling for chant was always an “uncertain trumpet.” The right to pick any music for the Mass, embedded in legislation, led to an untenable situation in which the Mass music, and therefore vast aspects of the liturgy itself, were effectively contracted out to third party publishers – and not just the composition and printing of the music but also every aspect of the text and style.

A few years ago, the tipping point arrived for many Church officials. They discerned that something had to be done about the loss of the chant tradition. The introduction of the new Missal seemed like the best vehicle for this: a more authentic translation should go along with more authentic musical experience of the Mass. This idea was to reduce in our liturgical environments the role of artificial, industrialized, commercial pop music and increase the role of simple chant that people can actually sing and grow to love.

This is why so much effort was put into composing chants for the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. Just enough of the words of the Order of the Mass are changed in the new Missal to make nearly all existing “Mass settings” unusable. The metrical elements of the old text that caused them to be said in a syllable-driven 6/8 meter (“Glory to God in the highest / and peace to his people on earth”) were changed (“Glory to God in the highest / and on earth peace to people of good will”) to be more accurate and eliminate meter and hence encourage plainsong.

Strategically, this amounted to a stroke of genius. With the slate clean, the next step was to formulate music that consistent with the Roman Rite tradition but is also easy enough for parish musicians to sing and implement in their parishes. Further, this music should be in English in order to overcome the great fear of our age of Latin, and doing this explores that largely neglected possibility opened up by the Council.

The chants were made integral to the Missal text itself. ICEL officials have said, time and again, that the Missal chants themselves should be thought of as a baseline music for all parishes. To this end, the USCCB has given approval for all of this music to be used in liturgy in the months before the Missal is scheduled to be implemented.This is why the music has been be given away free online far in advance, so that everyone could practice it. Publishers outside the Catholic Church, however, were not excluded but rather invited to offer settings consistent with the new text and the emerging ethos.

It was all very bold, and brilliantly done. It’s probably the plan that I would have crafted had anyone asked me. It strikes me that this overarching plan had a high probability for success in dealing with the problem, which is that the music in all but a few parishes bears any likeness to the historical experience of the Roman Rite or the hopes of the Second Vatican Council.

If the whole idea was a great one, is it working? For the well-educated musicians in parishes with savvy pastors, the answer is yes. My own private estimate is that perhaps 1000 parishes that were otherwise stuck in a pop-music rut are already making the shift. They are embracing the singing of the Missal chants without accompaniment. These same parishes are using the occasion to implement sung propers (see the Simple English Propers) and make some efforts to unify all the parishes Masses around this theme.

There is no question that this is progress, even amazing progress. It is tempting to look on the downside I will discuss below and forget that all of the above would have been unthinkably wonderful even two years ago.

There were, however, some missing pieces in the bold plan. A major factor has to do with the competence of the musicians in the parish that are to be the front line for implementation. I’m not sure that I’ve seen solid data how many of these people are trained to read music, receive a professional salary, and have knowledge of the structural demands of the Roman Rite. But I can say that in my own experience, most seem to be well intentioned volunteers who, if they are paid at all, receive just a small token for their services.

I’ve given speeches to large gatherings of diocesan musicians and ask for a show of hands of how many can name the minor propers of the Mass; only a few hands in a hundred go up. Fewer still can read basic notation; most follow along with the piano or affect singing based on what they have heard before. The prospect of hearing a note in their heads and breaking a silence to intone the Sanctus absolutely terrifies many of these people.

As just one example, at the largest gathering of Catholic musicians this year at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, a speaker began singing Ave Maria, and several separate reports suggest that perhaps only one quarter of those in attendance could pick up the singing. And this is with 3,000 people in attendance.

The bottom line is that despite growing pockets of expertise and obvious progress over the last ten years, the major swath of people who have been pressed into service in Catholic liturgy over the country are not prepared to manage what exists much less lead in a transition to a liturgy in which the human voice predominates in chanted settings of the ordinary and propers.

There is, in addition, a deep conservatism that has taken hold in all our parishes, and it takes the form of preferring the status quo to any change. This results from the depleted musical capital just discussed and also a leftover effect of the great upheaval of the 1960s that continues to leave many people in the pews completely shell shocked.

Even among those who eventually became used to the new rite of Mass did not look upon the revolutionary fervour of the period with affection. Forty years later, we are in a strange position of panicking about the slightest change to anything at all. And so it is with Catholic musicians today. The deep irony is that lasting legacy of the Council of change has been a profound fear of change.

The new Mass text changes about ten words in total for the full set of ordinary chants. But based on the level of panic on the part of musicians, one gains the impression that they are all being asked to sing in a long recitative in Swahili and an aria in Galician. My inbox certainly testifies to the level of hysteria. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t receive pleading notes of “save me, save me.” When the head of ICEL gave a talk in New York recently, he took time for questions and they were nearly all asked with a tone of fear and loathing underscore by deep confusions.

What happens to a large community of people who are barely getting by as it is and then are asked to change toward something that is arguably more difficult? They throw themselves at the mercy of the institutions promoting the familiar. This is pretty much what has happened in a large number of parishes, as the old-line publishers who have learned ways to flatter amateurs with settings that get them through the day are thriving once again.

It’s possibly true that ICEL, the USCCB, and Vox Clara all overestimated the capacity of average Catholic musicians to adapt and sing what strikes experience liturgical musicians are ridiculously easy chanted settings of the Mass text. Even so, it could be the case that even this material is too difficult for their current abilities – or, at least, this is what many singers believe.

What about sending teachers out to parishes to get them going? Many of us have done workshops and worked with singers. We’ve made youtubes that have received as many as 7,000 views. We’ve produced editions in four-line staves and modern notes. But all our efforts combined are dwarfed by the influence of the large publishers, who have lobbied hard at every Office of Worship in this country (“you should have one Mass setting for the entire diocese and it should be the one we sell”), done non-stop seminars all over the country, and promoted proprietary music at every stop.

Pastors are in a position to get the musical transition on track with simple interventions. But, again, they are in the habit of not intervening in their music programs and are not interested in starting now.

None of this is to say that there has not been and won’t continue to be progress. After all is said and done, hundreds of parishes will be singing Catholic ritual music whereas they might otherwise after sung something else forever. But all these efforts are too little to amount to a wholesale counterrevolution that many have long awaited.

Some years ago, Michael Joncas wrote a book on sacred music that concluded that if chant were to make a serious return to American Catholic parishes, it would require concerted, relentless educational efforts over the very long term. It would appear that he was precisely right. Is it worth every effort? It is worth as much effort as the faith itself requires.

Remember that this struggle isn’t about us vs. them. It is about creating space to let the voice of the liturgy itself speak and sing. There is every reason to be confident about the long-term future. The high hopes of the Council will eventually prevail.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

gothic cross pray faith pictures, backgrounds and imagesThe Exaltation of the Holy Cross is probably my second most favorite Feast in the liturgical calendar. Looking upon the cross is more than just a symbol of our redemption or the expression of Christ’s love for us. To me, it is the Throne of the Most High, the nuptial bed upon which Christ consummated His love with His bride the Church, terror of demons, and the strength of the martyrs.

The Golden Legend speaks of the Holy Cross in this was:

“It is said that the cross was made out of four kinds of wood, namely, palmwood, cedar, cypress and olive wood. Hence the verse: _Ligna crucis palma, cedrus, cypressus, oliva_. There are four wooden parts to the cross — the upright shaft, the crossbeam, the tablet above, and the block into which the cross was fixed, or, as Gregory of Tours says, the crosspiece that supported Christ’s feet. Hence each of these parts might be made of any of the kinds of wood enumerated above. The apostle seems to have this variety of woods in mind when he says: ‘You may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth.’ The eminent doctor [Augustine], at the place referred to, explains these words as follows: ‘The breadth of the Lord’s cross is the crossbeam upon which his hands were extended; the length means the shaft from the ground to the crossbeam, where the whole body hung from the hands; the height means from the crossbeam to the top, where the head touched; the depth is the part hidden by the earth in which the cross stood. By this sign of the cross all human and Christian action is described: to do good works in Christ and to cling to him perseveringly, to hope for heaven, and to avoid profaning the sacraments.'” (_The Golden Legend_, Bl. James of Voragine, v. 1, p. 278, tr. Wm. Granger Ryan)

Take some time to gaze upon the instrument that is the glory of Israel. Want to know more?

Thanks to the Women for Faith & Family site that provides the following explanation:

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) we honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts. The miraculous discovery of the cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is the origin of the tradition of celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on this date. Constantine later built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site of her discovery of the cross. On this same pilgrimage she ordered two other churches built: one in Bethlehem near the Grotto of the Nativity, the other on the Mount of the Ascension, near Jerusalem.

In the Western Church the feast came into prominence in the seventh century — after 629, when the Byzantine emperor Heraclitus restored the Holy Cross to Jerusalem, after defeating the Persians who had stolen it.

Christians “exalt” (raise on high) the Cross of Christ as the instrument of our salvation. Adoration of the Cross is, thus, adoration of Jesus Christ, the God Man, who suffered and died on this Roman instrument of torture for our redemption from sin and death. The cross represents the One Sacrifice by which Jesus, obedient even unto death, accomplished our salvation. The cross is a symbolic summary of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ — all in one image.

The Cross — because of what it represents — is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It has inspired both liturgical and private devotions: for example, the Sign of the Cross, which is an invocation of the Holy Trinity; the “little” Sign of the Cross on head, lips and heart at the reading of the Gospel; praying the Stations (or Way) of the Cross; and the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful on Good Friday by kissing the feet of the image of Our Savior crucified.

Placing a crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ’s body upon it) in churches and homes, in classrooms of Catholic schools and in other Catholic institutions, or wearing this image on our persons, is a constant reminder — and witness — of Christ’s ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross.

We remember Our Lord’s words, “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it” (Mt 10:38,39). Meditating on these words we unite ourselves — our souls and bodies — with His obedience and His sacrifice; and we rejoice in this inestimable gift through which we have the hope of salvation and the glory of everlasting life.


The Holy Name of Mary

The Church, since 1684, celebrates today the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. This feast commerates the victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 during which the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Holy League) liberated the besieged Vienna on the fields of Kahlenberg. For the history buffs, this battle is noted as the largest calvary charge in history (20,000 men).

The Roman Martyrology speaks about this feast in the following terms:

The Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a day on which the inexpressible love of the Mother of God for her Holy Child is recalled, and the eyes of the faithful are directed to the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer, for them to invoke with devotion.[1]

John III Sobieski, King of Poland prior to the battle placed his troops under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To commerate this victory,
Pope Innocent XI inserted the feast in the General Roman Calendar, assigning to it the Sunday within the octave of the Nativity of Mary (8-15 September).
The feast was taken off the General Roman Calendar after the Second Vatican Council but restored in the Second Typical Edition of the Roman Missal.
Mary is the mirror of the Church. There is nothing that we can say about the Mary that we cannot say about the Church, and visa-versa. Her name is also said to be the terror of demons. At the sound of the Immaculate they flee from the one who by her own free will chose not to voluntary sin during her life. She is the proof that grace overcomes all and that the human person is capable of living a life free of sin by cooperating with the grace(s) of redemption.
May her name always be on our lips!

[1] “Martyrologium Romanum” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)

In Defence of the New Missal

By Father Owen Gorman (Published: Wednesday, 20th April 2011)

Every once and a while an issue surfaces in the Church that challenges Catholics in their acceptance of her teaching authority. The year 1967 brought one such challenge, when Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, taught that the use of the contraceptive pill within marriage was morally wrong. Another challenge came during the pontificate of Venerable John Paul II, when in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he taught that the Church did not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood – a teaching that was to be held ‘definitively’, he said, by all the faithful. Now under the Pontificate of Benedict XVI a new issue has emerged; a decidedly liturgical one that is eliciting strong reactions both for and against from Catholic clergy and laity. The issue in question is the planned introduction on the first Sunday of Advent this year of the English translation of the third ‘typical edition’ of the Missale Romanum or Roman Missal. Already the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) here in Ireland has indicated that they find this new translation ‘unacceptable’ and have called on our Bishops to defer its introduction for at least five years. Their concerns about the new texts for the Mass have already received a broad and sympathetic hearing from a media who are only too happy to give air-time and column inches to those groups whose views put them at variance with the Vatican. And with one priest already indicating that he couldn’t ‘in conscience’ use the new translation, this looks set to be an issue that will run and run. But of course we shouldn’t expect otherwise – the path of authentic liturgical renewal never runs smooth.

Liturgical Respiration!

Much has been made by the ACP at their recent press conference about the language of the new translation. The more accurate rendering of the Mass prayers from the Latin into English is something that has clearly irked them. So too has the retention of words such as ‘mankind’ and ‘men’ which they regard as sexist and non-inclusive. Then there is the issue of the length of some of the sentences which apparently are a minefield of clauses and sub-clauses with not a full-stop in sight for seventy or eighty words! This prompts the question: should the laity be concerned about their priests dropping dead on the sanctuary due to the lack of the intake of oxygen during the recitation of these sentences? The possibility of this happening is causing me great anxiety. Much as I would love to be a martyr for the liturgy, I just would prefer not to ruin the Mass for my congregation by, like, dying on them in the middle of it. Imagine what a liturgical downer that would be for people, especially if it happened before Communion time and they didn’t get to receive.  I have already started a novena to St. Bernadine of Siena who is the patron saint of lungs. I recommend all priests to do likewise. May his heavenly assistance promote respiratory health and strength in all of the clergy (especially asthmatics) as we prepare for the (apparently) oxygen-draining, heart attack inducing, alveoli obliterating new translation of the Missal.

ICEL and the Linguistic Gaps.

The issue of language, and specifically, the liturgical translation of texts from Latin into the vernacular and the principles that should guide this endeavour, is always a process fraught with difficulties. No translation can ever capture the depth, richness, nuances and often layers of meaning to be found in the text of another language. There is always some falling short of what is expressed in the original; an uncomfortable discrepancy, a linguistic gap that we are forever trying to bridge. This awareness of the ‘falling short’ in the work of liturgical translation has been most keenly felt by many orthodox Catholics in this part of the English speaking world since 1975. This was the year when the first edition of the Roman Missal in English was introduced into parishes here in Ireland. The group responsible for producing this translation was the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), a body constituted by a number of Episcopal conferences in the English speaking world in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Its remit was to provide English translations of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite. In approaching this important work, ICEL favoured what is called a ‘dynamic equivalence’ approach to translation whereby instead of producing a literal and accurate translation from Latin to English, they sought instead to capture the overall meaning of the Latin, often through simply paraphrasing the source text. The result, needless to say, was a translation that was unfaithful to the original Latin and in the opinion of many commentators, quite simply banal.

Liturgicam authenticam

While many liturgists still favour the ‘dynamic equivalence’ theory of translation and are content to sacrifice fidelity to the Latin on the altar of ‘creative’ translations that favour inclusive language, this is not the approach advocated by Rome. The awareness there (and indeed shared by orthodox Catholics) is that the renewal of the liturgy in the English speaking world and elsewhere, has not been well served by the translations we have been given. It was with a view to improving matters in liturgical translation, that the Venerable Pope John Paul II promulgated the document Liturgicam authenticam on April 25, 2001. As the fifth Instruction on the implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical reform, this document established new guidelines for the use of vernacular languages in the books of the Roman Liturgy. It mandated that from now on liturgical translation is to be ‘exact in wording and free from all ideological influence’ and ‘creative innovation’. The fundamental purpose of translation, it said, is to render ‘the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language . . . without paraphrases or glosses’. In other words, ‘dynamic equivalence’ has had its day.

The Re-Sacralisation of the Liturgy.

The promulgation of Liturgicam authenticam was clearly a watershed moment and the norms of translation it mandated have guided the work on the new missal. Behind these norms is the desire to recover what has been lost in our liturgical celebrations over recent decades: solemnity in our worship; a sense of the sacred; awe and respect before God; a sacral vocabulary; beauty and richness in linguistic expression, and yes, greater formality of style, syntax and grammar. For far too long the liturgy has been subject to a programme of ‘de-sacralisation’ whereby under the misnomer of ‘renewal’, liturgical celebrations and places of worship were stripped of their sacral character. Even the focus of liturgy became distorted: from honouring and worshipping God, we were encouraged to honour and celebrate ourselves.

But this era is clearly drawing to a close. A ‘re-sacralisation’ of liturgical celebrations is already well under way and the new missal will certainly become a lynchpin underpinning and promoting this development. Many of the keenest implementers of this ‘programme of re-sacralisation’ are the younger clergy, whose love and respect for the liturgy and commitment to the liturgical vision of Pope Benedict XVI stands at the core of their priesthood. They value the liturgy highly because growing up they witnessed its ritual abuse. They do not regard themselves as its master but only as its servant. They are keen to celebrate the Mass according to the established norms and do not experience the freedom, as some do, in discarding these norms. As a result, some accuse them of narrow-mindedness and liturgical fundamentalism. They prefer to see it as fidelity.


There is a time when issues emerge within the Church for raising one’s concerns and enunciating objections. The ACP has used this recent time well in this regard. They have articulated their objections and spelt out their position on the new Missal. But a time also comes when nothing less than a response of fidelity and obedience will do. Many Catholic priests in 1973 had serious misgivings about the new missal they were given, but despite these misgivings, in a spirit of fidelity and obedience, they implemented that missal in their parishes. Let us hope that the ACP in the coming months will follow their example and do likewise.

Lord have Mercy…

For the first nine centuries of the Western Church, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Greek. Latin became the predominent liturgical language when the need arose in the 10 century to unify the various clans throughout Europe.

Once the transition was made to Latin as the liturgical language, certain phrases were retained in their original language. Some words and phrases have such a unique meaning or multiple layers of meaning that they cannot be adequetely expressed in one word. Among those words/phrases include: Alleluia (Praise the Lord), Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts, Lord of the powerful armies of heaven, Lord of great power, etc…) and Kýrie, eléison (Lord have mercy). 

During the Extraordinary Form or the Tridentine Form of the Divine liturgy, the Kýrie, eléison is sung or said three times followed by the Christe, eléison and then another triple set of the Kýrie, eléison. The Novus Ordo on the other hand, the invocation is said once with a single repetition. The reponse to the Universal Prayer or the Prayer of the Faithful may also be Kýrie, eléison.

Here is one of my favorite chanted versions:

You are an Obstinent, Bull-headed…Mumpsimus

Do you have a relative, friend or co-worker that regardless of all the evidence insists that they are correct? Well, we have a word for them.

That’s what a person is who knows he’s wrong but refuses to change, stubbornly adhering to error (which is also called a mumpsimus). This because of sumpsimus, a word in the Latin Mass meaning “we have recevied” (which is besides the point). Centuries ago, a certain aged priest would mumble “mumpsimus” for sumpsimus, and a certain young priest would correct him, without effect. Furthermore, in some kind of justice, what made the wrong one a mumpsimus made the right one a sumpsimus, or one who officiously insists on using a technically correct term or form instead of what’s popular but incorrect. (The Catholic Source Book, 517)

Holy Thursday: Anointed for Battle

Back by popular demand…

Chrism Liturgy

This morning the Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, religious and lay faithful will gather around their Bishop in their cathedral Church.  All will participate in a very ancient rite common to the universal Church since the fifth-sixth centuries.  During this liturgy, “the bishop consecrates the three oils needed for the administration of the sacraments: the holy chrism, the oil of the catechumens and the oil of the sick.”[1]

These oils will be used in the life of the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick.  The most detailed version, found in the Mystagogia (On the Mysteries), is recounted by St. Cyril of Jerusalem who details how the oils were “symbolically applied to thy forehead, and thy other organs of sense” and that the “ears, nostrils, and breast were each to be anointed.” He continues sharing that the “ointment is the seal of the covenants” of baptism and God’s promises to the Christian who is anointed. Cyril taught that being “anointed with the Holy anointing oil [Chrism] of God” was the sign of a Christian and a physical representation of having received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He says, “Having been counted worthy of this Holy Chrism, we are called Christians, verifying the name also by your new birth. For before you were deemed worthy of this grace, ye had properly no right to this title, but were advancing on your way towards being Christians.”(On the Mysteries 3.5)

We should also recall the connection between the Chrism Mass and the Mass of our Lord’s Supper.  Even for our Lord, He was anointed at Bethany before he journeyed to Jerusalem to share the Passover with His disciples.  It is no mistake that the Church connects the biblical events with today’s liturgical events of Holy Thursday. Who else is anointed? Those preparing for war…

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

They gather in the Cenacle having completed all the preparations that Master requested (Lk 22:12-13).  He had desired to share this Passover more than anything (Lk 22:15).  And then, His disciples notice that this commemoration is different.  They are reclining instead of standing (Ex 12:11). He has changed the words and instituting a new covenant (Mt 26:28). Then, mandating them to “Do this in memory of me.” (Lk 22:19)  they are quiet and lean upon His every word.  They wonder, maybe even ponder, the significance of His actions.  They have completed the third cup and then…wait, He is leaving.

We cannot help but think that some of these thoughts were running through the disciples of Jesus.  What was going on?  What is He doing?  From the outset, our Lord intended to offer Himself as the perpetual sacrifice in the mystery of the Most Blessed Sacrament. (1 Cor 10:16)  Do we realize that tonight the Lord is picking a fight and settling all the covenants debts since Adam?

It would not have escaped the notice of our Lord’s disciples that He left before the Passover was complete.  Scripture says that they finished their hymn (Mt 26:30) and traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane as was their custom (Lk 22:39).  As He walked out of Jerusalem, He would have walked through the Kidron Valley up to the Mount of Olives where the garden will become a battlefield.  Maybe as He passed through the valley he recalled Ps 23:4, “Though I walk through the dark valley, I shall fear no evil…” choosing to enter into a mortal battle.  Battle?  How do we know that?  Exodus 12:22 commands that on the night of the Passover all were to stay indoors lest they succumb to the angel of death.  Our Lord purposefully goes out into the night to confront that ancient serpent to secure what Adam lost.

The first battle in the original garden was an epic tragedy – the Garden of Eden.  In Eden, we find Adam failing to obey the command of the Father to shamar (protect) and adovah (work) the garden and all its inhabitants. (Gn 2:15)  In this garden, Adam should have contended with the nahash (dragon – usually translated as serpent) but instead said nothing.  The result was staggering.  He saved his physical life and lost eternal life; He allowed evil to enter into the garden, to dominate it and his bride; and He should have been working/praying but instead, stood doing nothing next to Eve.

Tonight, our Lord, the New Adam goes out singing into the darkness and we find Him in another garden.  Only the victorious sing!  Think of the Song of Roland, The Ballad of the White Horse, or the Lord of the Rings – only the victors know how to sing. Our Lord knew He had already won the battle but no soldier or commander underestimates his enemy.  For this reason, Sacred Song is so important to our liturgies.  The music reminds us of the victory our Lord will win for us through this Blessed Triduum. And the story continues…

He enters into the garden; cares for His future Bride, the Church (embodied by His Apostles); and obeys His Father’s perfect will. (Lk 22:42)  He desires them to tarry with Him so they will not be put to the test (Lk 22:40) but gives them their rest anyway.  He kneels to adovah (means both work and pray).  And the battle begins…

Over the next three days, we enter into the Paschal Mystery of our Lord.  He will fulfill the curses of all the covenants but tonight provokes another battle to win back Eden.  The curses of Eden for Adam are three-fold:

1) “Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life.” (Gn 3:17;

2) “Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field.” (Gn 3:18); and

3) “By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.” (Gn 2:19).

Jesus answers these curses by: 1) Toiling (remember prayer and work are the same word) on the ground and yielding the fruit of the vine that becomes the fruit of our salvation; 2) His work is so successful that He will be crowned with the work of His hands – thorns and thistles; and 3) His work/prayer is so intense that He sweats blood thus providing Himself as the Bread from Heaven and conquers death.

As we continue to reflect upon this mystery let us join the solemn Tradition of the Universal Church and keep watch in our Churches until the Captain of our Salvation is stolen away from us at midnight.  Every good soldier stays with their commander and every Bride with her Bridegroom.  Where will the world find you tonight?  Will it find you consoling your heart’s desire before His unjust arrest or out and about as if His life doesn’t hang in the balance – because it does!

The story continues but that will have to wait until we find out why Friday is so Good…

[1] Zenit interview with Father Juan Flores Arcas, 9 April 2006 (Rome) Grabbed on March 31, 2010:

Tell Me How You Really Feel…

I love timid opinions. Thought I would share this one concerning liturgical music.

London, England, Apr 14, 2011 / 05:46 am (CNA).- A Grammy winning music director has delivered a stinging attack upon modern Church music.  Joseph Cullen, choral director at the London Symphony Orchestra, says that since the 1960s there has been a “glaring lack of sympathy” for “worthy sacred music.”

Writing in the April 9 edition of the English weekly The Tablet, he praised the music used during last year’s papal visit to the United Kingdom. But he added: “Sadly such excellence is untypical of the vast majority of our Catholic churches. There is a glaring lack of sympathy for the heritage which should be the bedrock of worthy sacred music in today’s Church.”

In recent years Joseph Cullen has risen to prominence due to his close collaboration with some of the world’s leading conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev and Sir Colin Davies, with whom he won a Grammy Award in 2006 for their recording of Verdi’s “Falstaff.”

In his analysis, Cullen says the rush to find new musical settings for the Novus Ordo mass in the 1960s led to little artistic scrutiny being applied to the process. As a result, he says, most parish Masses now have poorly composed hymns being used inappropriately as mere “filler” throughout the sacred liturgy.

He writes, “Low-quality material in both inspiration and facility is commonplace. Hymns are set to popular music (for example, “My God Loves Me” to the tune of “Plaisir d’amour”) with little regard to the inappropriateness of the original and well-known words.”

He also criticized the practice of a lone cantor leading the singing in parishes. “The misuse of one booming voice behind a microphone, an ecclesiastical karaoke, seems to have killed off unified congregational singing.”

Perhaps his most stinging attack, though, is aimed at official diocesan musicians who both commission and promote their own music. “The elected church music committees of the bishops’ conferences cannot have vested interests in promoting their own music, or type of music. This would be regarded as corrupt in any other field.”

Cullen is now calling for a greater adherence to the Church’s documents on sacred music and increased training for parishes by those schooled in the choral traditions of the Church.

Inside the Holy Father’s Liturgical Mind

If you want to know what is really going on during a liturgy, you need to talk to the Master of Ceremonies. The Emcee assists the celebrant in orchestrating the liturgy in such a way that those who participate are drawn in to the mystery of the Feast of Divine Love. So, what if the celebrant is the Pope? The actions of the Emcee expresses the mind of the Church through the interpretation of the celebrant.

Some might say that liturgical interpretation is wrong. But let’s be honest, how something is said, gestured, and/or expressed must pass through a person who lives during a particular time that has formed his ars celebrandi. Check it out, some great answers in the interview and possibly a view into the Holy Father’s liturgical mind. Thanks New Liturgical Movement.

Beauty in the Liturgy: Interview with Msgr. Guido Marini

by Shawn Tribe

The following interview with Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies, appeared the Polish Sunday Catholic Weekly online.

Wlodzimierz Redzioch: – What does the collaboration between Benedict XVI and his Master of Ceremonies look like? Does the Pope decide about everything?

Msgr. Guido Marini: – At first, I would like to stress that the celebrations the Holy Father presides over are to be the points of reference for the whole Church. The Pope is the highest priest, the one who offers the sacrifice of the Church, the one who shows the liturgical teaching through celebrations – the point of reference for all. Considering this explanation it is easier to understand what the style of collaboration between the Papal Master of Ceremonies and the Holy Father should be. One should act in the way to make the papal liturgies the expressions of his authentic liturgical orientation. Therefore, the Papal Master of Ceremonies must be a humble and faithful servant of the liturgy of the Church. I have understood my work in the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations in this way since the very beginning.

– We all can see the changes introduced to the liturgical celebrations by Benedict XVI. How can we synthesize these changes?

– I think that these changes can be synthesized in the following way: first of all, these are changes made in accordance with the logic of development of continuity with the past. So we do not deal with breaking with the past and juxtaposing with the former pontificates. Secondly, the introduced changes serve to evoke the true spirit of liturgy like the Second Vatican Council wanted, ‘The “subject” of the liturgy’s intrinsic beauty is Christ himself, risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who includes the Church in his work.’

– Celebrations directed towards the cross, Holy Communion received directly by mouth and while keeling, longer moments of silence and meditation – these are the most visible liturgical changes introduced by Benedict XVI. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the theological and historical meanings of these changes and what is worse, they can see them as ‘return to the past.’ Can you briefly explain the meanings of these changes?

– To tell you the truth our office has received many testimonies of the faithful who have favourably received the changes introduced by the Pope because they see them as the authentic renewal of the liturgy. As for the significance of some changes I will say a few synthetic reflections. Celebrating towards the cross stresses the correct direction of liturgical prayer, i.e. towards God; during prayers the faithful are not to look at themselves but should direct their eyes towards the Saviour. Giving hosts to people kneeling aims to giving value to the aspect of adoration both as the fundamental element of celebration and the necessary attitude while facing the mystery of God’s real presence in the Eucharist. During the liturgical celebration prayer assumes various forms: words, songs, music, gestures and silence. Furthermore, moments of silence let us participate truly in the act of worship, and what’s more, from the inside evoke every other form of prayer.

– The Pope attaches importance to the liturgical vestments. Is it a matter of pure aestheticism?

– In order to understand better the Pope’s ideas concerning the meaning of the beauty as an important element of liturgical celebrations I would like to quote the apostolic exhortation ‘Sacramentum caritatis, ’This relationship between creed and worship is evidenced in a particular way by the rich theological and liturgical category of beauty. Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor. […] This is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God’s love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love. The truest beauty is the love of God, who definitively revealed himself to us in the paschal mystery. […] The beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery; it is a sublime expression of God’s glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth. Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation.’

– Benedict XVI has changed his pastoral staff – currently he is using the cross-shaped staff. Why?

– I would like to remind you that till the pontificate of Pope Paul VI popes did not use crosiers at all; on special occasions they carried a ferula (cross-shaped staff). Pope Montini, Paul VI, introduced a cross-shaped crosier. And so did Benedict XVI till the Pentecost Sunday of 2008. Since then he has been using ferula because he thinks that it is more suitable for the papal liturgy.

– Why is it so important that the Church preserves using Latin in the liturgy?

– Although the Second Vatican Council introduced national languages it recommended using Latin in the liturgy. I think it is for two reasons that we should not give up Latin. Above all, we have a great liturgical legacy of Latin: from the Gregorian chant to polyphony as well as ‘testi venerandi’ (sacred texts) that Christians have used for ages. Besides, Latin allows us to show catholicity and universality of the Church. We can experience this universality in a unique way in St Peter’s Basilica and during other international gatherings when men and women from all continents, nationalities, languages, sing and pray in the same language. Who will not feel at home when being at church abroad can join his/her brothers in the faith at least in some parts by using Latin?

– Do you agree that the faith of priest is expressed in the liturgy in a special way?

– I have no doubts about it. Since the liturgy is the celebration of Christ’s mystery here and now the priest is called to express his faith in a twofold way. Firstly, he should celebrate with eyes of the one that looks beyond the visible reality to ‘touch’ what is invisible, i.e. God’s presence and work. It is ‘ars celebrandi’ (art of celebration) that lets the faithful check whether the liturgy is only a performance, spectacle for the priest or whether it is a vivid and attractive relation with Christ’s mystery. Secondly, after the celebration the priest is renewed and ready to follow what he has experienced, i.e. make his life a celebration of Christ’s mystery.

“Niedziela” 14/2011

Your Wednesday Liturgical Humor

So, Father Z continues to give us material to laugh about (The only other option is crying). Now, there is a tradition of liturgical dancing within Catholicism- just not in our rite. The funny thing is that people in our Rite, complain when we try to celebrate the Rite right (Yes, I did that on purpose). Anyway, we are half-way through the week and you should have a liturgical laugh (Remember to laugh). Here are two lessons:

  1. That which should never take place during the liturgy (Source:  Fides et Forma):

2. That which should never happen during a Life in the Spirit Seminar (Source:  Fides et Forma):