Modern Early Baroque Sacred Music - in Hebrew
  • Josh
    Posts: 64
    There is a very interesting article at NLM containing an interview with the early Baroque musician, expert and composer Elam Rotem: one aspect of it that struck me was that he has composed several works in the style of that period, setting Biblical texts in Hebrew, and the results are stunning.

    My question, which I have posted at NLM also, is: would it be licit to sing a motet with text in Greek or Hebrew at an EF Mass?

    Of course at every Mass the Kyrie is in Greek; on Good Friday the Trisagion is sung in both Greek and Latin; at solemn Papal Masses, past and present, the Epistle and Gospel are sung in Greek and Latin; and there is historical precedent for greater use of Greek - at Saint-Denis until the French Revolution, the Roman Mass was celebrated on the Octave Day of St Denys with all the Mass parts that are sung aloud, sung in Greek (as described in an article on the NLM some years ago); and Carolingian manuscripts contain other Mass chants in Greek, as do old Roman documents. I would therefore suggest that a motet with words partially or wholly in Greek would be licit for use at an EF Mass.

    But as to Hebrew - we still use four Hebrew words all the time at Mass: Amen, Alleluia (still spelled Hallelujah in the Ambrosian books), Sabaoth and Hosanna. Most proper names are rendered in a Greek form via the Septuagint (Maria not Miriam, for instance), but I would surmise that there is enough precedent to justify the use of Hebrew words, if not whole phrases, in motets at EF celebrations.

    Is there any pertinent ruling on this from the Sacred Congregation of Rites?
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,409
    My understanding, from priests and colleagues, is that only Latin, or a specified text in Greek (i.e., the Kyrie) are to be sung in a TLM. I could dig for that in the relevant documents, but then, so could you.

    I think there are assumptions here that are risky. One is that because something was done at one point in the Church, that it's OK to do it now. That's the kind of historicism that got us the Vatican II liturgy. There have been all kinds of things that were done that we don't do now...in the 19th c. it was fairly common to accompany almost anything that happened in the liturgy with organ. Local uses were abrograted at Trent, unless they had been long-established (200 years, was it?), and that's how St. Denys probably got in. Your argument seems to be, "I want to do this music, so let's look for loopholes" instead of "What does the Church want us to do, and why?"

    Then there is the issue of language. We use the vernacular because people understand it. We use Latin because it's the official language of the church, and ties us to our past. There's a subtle suggestion there that the PiPs could or should know Latin, that is not there with any other language. That's not true of Hebrew. Our congregants are more likely to know German, French or Spanish than Hebrew; should we allow those languages, when we aren't even allowing English?

    There's also the argument that a Hebrew psalm, by reason of its language, is a Jewish liturgical act. And Judaism and Christianity are separated by fundamental disagreements of the identity and nature of the Messiah, and the nature of God himself. To sing a psalm in Hebrew is to suggest a unity which is not there. It is not quite as fraught with theological problems as a church hosting a seder, but it's still not something I would do.

  • davido
    Posts: 111
    The church adopted Latin because it was a common language, not because Hebrew was bad. God understands Hebrew too.

    As for the way things are done now - is there harm in studying the decisions the church has made in the past, and evaluating why they were made? If it was a good decision, then there should be valid logic behind it that is still convincing today. However the church has made some pretty poor liturgical decisions (Novus Ordo, cough, cough). Maybe throwing out sequences and local uses were not such a good idea!
    We essentially have local uses now - go to any 2 cathedrals in the US and note how much is different - and having 1 world wide Missal given us by the pope has contributed to the ultramontanism that characterizes the Pope Francis problems of today.

    All that said, from a legal view, I have no idea if the EF rules permit Hebrew or not.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,409
    Here's the binding rubrics for the TLM.
    "14. a) In sung Masses only Latin is to be used. This applies not only to the celebrant, and his ministers, but also to the choir or congregation."
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,409
    God understands Hebrew. God understands all languages. God understands what we need even before we pray for it, so should we stop praying for it?
    Yes, we can study the past. We can even lobby for liturgical change. But at the end of the day, the rules are the rules.
    Thanked by 1eft94530