Will interest in English propers endure?
  • Our talented young music director recently told me that I had done the work of adapting Gregorian proper chants to English words quite well, but that the work struck him as "unnecessary." Since I have devoted decades to this work, I found his comment discouraging--all the more because his view is gaining currency in the Episcopal Church. The propers have always been sung to their proper melodies in only a few Episcopal churches. Until recently they were sung in English, but in most of the churches where they are sung, they are now being sung in Latin.

    Aesthetic criteria justify the decision to sing the propers in Latin, inasmuch as the pure vowel sounds of Latin contribute to a beautiful vocal sound. So does concern about "authenticity." The liturgical function of the proper chants, however, is to aid meditation upon scriptural texts. When the chants are sung in Latin, they can serve this function for only a few: those who either are able to comprehend liturgical Latin aurally or are very familiar with the Latin texts. If others are given printed translations, they can see what texts are being sung; but the music can "illuminate" the texts for them only by conveying its general mood--which chant does not always do. Latin chant can facilitate their prayer, just as instrumental music can; but the chant cannot fulfill its original function. I believe, therefore, that in parochial milieux vernacular propers deserve a permanent place.

    I enjoy Latin liturgy, and I think that in particular places at particular times it has a place. I am not opposed to all use of Latin in vernacular liturgies. The texture of many polyphonic works makes their words aurally unintelligible in any case. Furthermore, the individual words of a text such as Gloria in excelsis are unimportant. The Gloria is basically an outburst of praise. The individual words of the proper chants, on the other hand, are significant. and if the chant is sung in the vernacular, the people CAN understand the words, and the chant can make these words--in the words of Winfred Douglas-- "more intensely vital, more sincere, truer."

    In the past Roman Catholics generally dismissed vernacular chant out of hand. Only within the past few years have they entertained the possibility that the principles of chant composition can be applied to English texts. I wonder, however, whether their interest will endure.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    the individual words of a text such as Gloria in excelsis are unimportant.


    ...really?!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    Maybe the Episcopalians have adopted Latin because we are not using it? Stranger things have happened.

    I agree with you on the need for English texts that are understood by the congregation. Your work speaks for itself, and you have served well, for some time.

    If you want to sample reality, ask the congregation, not another musician. Musicians can be prone to extremes. At one time, during the years when I did not want to spend my time playing and conducting at liturgies, I actually thought like the congregation. Many times I would listen to church musicians following prevailing trends, and think, "Have they lost their minds?"
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Our talented young music director recently told me that I had done the work of adapting Gregorian proper chants to English words quite well, but that the work struck him as "unnecessary." Since I have devoted decades to this work, I found his comment discouraging--all the more because his view is gaining currency in the Episcopal Church.


    I am confused... isn't it the Episcopal Church that values the English?

    The propers have always been sung to their proper melodies in only a few Episcopal churches. Until recently they were sung in English, but in most of the churches where they are sung, they are now being sung in Latin.


    In the Episcopal Church?

    Aesthetic criteria justify the decision to sing the propers in Latin, inasmuch as the pure vowel sounds of Latin contribute to a beautiful vocal sound. So does concern about "authenticity."


    I totally agree on both points.


    The liturgical function of the proper chants, however, is to aid meditation upon scriptural texts. When the chants are sung in Latin, they can serve this function for only a few: those who either are able to comprehend liturgical Latin aurally or are very familiar with the Latin texts. If others are given printed translations, they can see what texts are being sung; but the music can "illuminate" the texts for them only by conveying its general mood--which chant does not always do. Latin chant can facilitate their prayer, just as instrumental music can; but the chant cannot fulfill its original function. I believe, therefore, that in parochial milieux vernacular propers deserve a permanent place.


    I partly agree.

    The vernacular chants do aid in intellectual comprehension, but I strongly feel that intellectual comprehension is only part, and not necessarily the more important part, of how we connect to God. I feel that the aesthetic of beauty is just as important if not more important. You could sing to me the most elevated intellectual aspects of The Faith but if you did it on a guitar singing the Blues, it would loose all of its innate ability to lift my soul to God. The delivery in the performance, the music, and the composition are all just as important. For example, one instrumental work by Bach or Barber 'speaks' much more to me about God than all of the performances of all the works that I have ever heard in my entire life of textually composed music that has been composed and distributed through the Big Three.

    When it comes to Latin, it is the NATIVE language of the Church and her rites because it grew naturally from the practice of the faith and it most fully captures the essence of God this side of heaven. Latin mystically embodies the great qualities of infinite "Truth, Beauty and Goodness" of which the Church often speaks. This is also true with the melodies that have NATIVELY grown alongside those texts in the Gregorian Chant. Along with the actions of the rites, they can be compared to the perfection of a flower. Now this is a crude comparison, but you will get my thinking:

    Root=(truth)
    Stem=(goodness)
    Bloom=(beauty)

    Similarly we have the Latin, the Chant and the Rite itself. To try to dissect or change the nature of any one part is like trying to bio-engineer a better child. You can't improve on the beauty of a flower. It just cannot be done.

    I recently wrote this on another thread.

    "The liturgy is really not a catechetical effort in terms of presenting information. It promotes the faith through a mystagogical experience of signs and symbols of which the chant in Latin is a significant part. It rises far above the merely earthly, human elements that we comprehend with our limited intellect. It presents the deepest mystery of time and eternity through the mysterious drama of the Holy Sacrifice, and the chant is the perfect music of that experience."

    I enjoy Latin liturgy, and I think that in particular places at particular times it has a place. I am not opposed to all use of Latin in vernacular liturgies. The texture of many polyphonic works makes their words aurally unintelligible in any case.


    Bruce, perhaps it is not what we 'enjoy' in the liturgy that is important. Perhaps it is not what we comprehend. Perhaps it is not that we are 'one' or that we 'share a meal', or that we celebrate 'together'. Perhaps it is that we are raised, our whole entire being, to God and that we benefit in the work of salvation that is carried out in the apex of time and eternity which occurs right before our very eyes in the Most Holy Sacrifice. It is that we join with the Church eternal (those who came before us, and those who will come after) in giving life and voice to truth, goodness and beauty for our mere fleeting moment while we are here on this earth.

    Furthermore, the individual words of a text such as Gloria in excelsis are unimportant. The Gloria is basically an outburst of praise.


    Aren't these words the most important words of all? What else have WE to add? And isn't this the one thing that God demands from us? A heart of praise?

    The individual words of the proper chants, on the other hand, are significant. and if the chant is sung in the vernacular, the people CAN understand the words, and the chant can make these words--in the words of Winfred Douglas-- "more intensely vital, more sincere, truer."


    I think Winfred somewhat misses the mark. Speaking for myself, the proper chants are no more important than all the other parts of the liturgy. My words do not become "more sincere, more vital or truer" for me just because I speak them in my own vernacular language. God does not love a little child less because he cannot speak or think or reason about Him (God). In fact, he loves the child all the more because the child loves him back unconditionally and without reserve.

    In the past Roman Catholics generally dismissed vernacular chant out of hand. Only within the past few years have they entertained the possibility that the principles of chant composition can be applied to English texts. I wonder, however, whether their interest will endure.


    I think the importance of the vernacular and the need to express our culture is a passing fad at best. I believe the church will, in general, return to its roots; the best of truth, goodness and beauty. God grew the flower and it is perfect. All we have to do is nurture it and enjoy and participate in its wonder. In fact, I think we are already witnessing the return.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Bruce, having said all that, I am still caught in the 'fad' of trying to present the beauty of chant to the church as it is today. We are awash in a great confusion, in an eclipse of the Church. I am also setting chant to Engish as you are well aware, but I only do this as a temporary bridge back to the full and rightful place of the GC.

    (PS. Do you still want that Magnificat in English by the way? I am still working on it! lol)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    Francis said,
    "I believe the church will, in general, return to its roots; the best of truth, goodness and beauty."
    "When it comes to Latin, it is the NATIVE language of the Church and her rites because it grew naturally from the practice of the faith and it most fully captures the essence of God this side of heaven."

    I totally agree. I will so glad when the church returns to its native language, Greek!
  • marajoy, of course, Bruce is right. It is an outburst of joy. And in comparison, the Propers are specific and if the reason for going to the vernacular is to make the people able to understand at their level of comprehension, then it is much more important for the people to understand the words of the propers which are just as important as the readings for the Mass of that Day.

    So, on a level of importance of understanding by the people, if one were to sing the propers and the Gloria at a Mass the propers would be the most important ones to be sung in the vernacular rather than the Gloria, for example. Bruce is absolutely correct.

    The ordinary of the Mass, since it is repeated day after day, is more important to be learned and sung in Latin by the congregation than the Propers. That's why Jubilate Deo contains no....propers.

    I have restricted my postings recently due to an increasing amount of uncharitable personal rage against the non-Roman Catholics who continue to bash the Roman liturgy of today and yesterday. The moderators, in their great wisdom and charity, have quickly erased some postings that I made that were not made with charity of spirit and I thank them and apologize again. BUT, I have tremendous respect for non-Roman Catholics, such as Bruce Ford whose name in enshrined in the 1982 hymnal for his work there, who love the Roman Liturgy and participate in this forum and add so much to it.

    The Roman Church is using Latin. There is a wonderful engraving of the Holy Ghost dictating chant to Pope Gregory. Jubilate Deo is the work of a Pope who said Latin and the Chant must be preserved. Benedict has asked for chant and polyphony to be part of the like of every church again.

    No parish priest is saying this, no Bishop is saying this, no Cardinal is saying this. The Pope, the leader of the church selected by the Holy Ghost has said this.

    So...it is our job to do so. Those who are against it really do not have a place in a forum with the goals of CMAA. While I do not think they should be banned, I would suggest that they, themselves, moderate their comments against the instructions of the Pope.

    The little school musicians forum I have created is only for people doing it...as I am not interested in being told what we should be doing by those who are not doing it themselves.
  • To answer Bruce, your MD is wrong.

    The Mac ads on TV are funny because it is a real apples oranges situation: Bill Gates sells software, Apple sells computers with software.

    Trying to reform the church by singing latin gregorian chant is one approach. But chanting english is another approach.

    People really do not hate chant. People do hate guitars. So singing english chant opens the doors eventually to singing the ordinary in Latin.

    It is that simple.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    No, it's not that simple. Unfortunately, the people I encounter who hate Latin chant, also hate English chant. They hate chant, period! The guitar lovers actually love those instruments, the music played on them, and sung to them. It's not a matter of education, but rather of two conflicting camps with no common ground.
  • There is a world of difference between chant in English and chant in Latin. There are tremendous differences in chants as well.

    Anyone that you encounter who hates chant hates something that is the heart of the church and they may well be advised to do as you have, and absent themselves from the Roman church to some other place where they may be...happy.

    They may wish to limit themselves to churches who feature smiley faces on their bumper stickers.

    And they may wish to also purchase bumperstickers that say: "I LEFT THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH BECAUSE I HATE THAT THEY HAVE CHOSEN CHANT AS THEIR MUSIC WITH PRIDE OF PLACE"

    And you see, that's the problem. They think that what they prefer is of more importance than what the church teaches.

    Is that the right frame of mind for a Catholic?

    And you are absolutely wrong, there is common ground between people who sing chant and guitarists who play at Mass. We are all at Mass, we can find ways to live and work together. It can be done and is being done.

    But beware. If you choose to be a peacemaker and create bridges between two groups that some think have no common ground, you can be fired for it, when people who fear this happening and taking away their own little fiefdoms assail the pastor.
  • Let us all take a moment and pray for our pastors.
  • Jesus did not, to the best of my knowledge....though the Byzantines on this list may disagree...speak, read or write Greek.
  • Speaking for the future of my particular situation, I'm thinking very intently about assigning Latin propers to Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Paschaltide, and holy days, with English propers (The American Gradual [PDF], and possibly offertories from RIchard Rice's Simple Choral Gradual [PDF]) for Ordinary Time. Lectionary options for the major propers, as per standard practice.

    CharlesW's point is well-taken, and you'll always have people having certain connotations about plainsong. I tend to think that vernacular propers would take the edge off the foreignness of the chant, and the Latin can be used to heighten the sense of sacramental numinousness.

    Still, the ultimate language of the Church is truth in charity at all times.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    charles

    Greek is definitely in our roots, but from that the rest of the flower bloomed in Latin! (Obvious from the ordinary of the Mass as it begins with the Kyrie!)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Aristotle:

    I utilize English propers from Adam, Bruce, the AUG and my own adaptations. They work quite well. It is my RITE to do so!

    And by the way, we absolutely LOVE your setting of Responsorial Psalms. I was composing them before I got yours, and they are very close to the manner in which I was setting them. So be encouraged that they work very well AND they are beautiful.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Bruce:

    I didn't know you were Episcopalian! Then again, I tend to assume that most everyone on this board is a Catholic or at least interested in Catholicism unless they make it known otherwise.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    For the topic, I share Bruce's fears. There are many blessings from the intelligibility and accessibility of English propers, and if the Gregorian melody and characteristics can be preserved, it is all the better. Yet any mention of English propers is usually as a "stepping stone" to get to Latin propers. Latin IS the language of the Roman Rite, and as such MUST have pride of place... but surely for the average parish is it not enough to have a Latin ordinary and use Latin propers for festal Masses? Mind you, there is NO reason that a Roman Rite cathedral shouldn't have a principle mass with all Latin... but why must the average parish go full tilt to Latin when there are high quality English propers available?
  • There is no difference between songs that are sung with a guitar and chanted songs.

    There is a difference between music that is secular in style and sacred in style.

    People that love secular music at Mass....
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Bruce,

    We are in diferent but overlapping circumstances, in which we can learn much from each other about the value of good liturgical English and its close relationship to good liturgical music, and the inverse of that phenomenon. Perhaps we also have something to share when it comes to the liturgical use of the Western Church's older sacral languages, not least because sacral English has historically had a strong relationship to Latin.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Gavin said:

    For the topic, I share Bruce's fears. There are many blessings from the intelligibility and accessibility of English propers, and if the Gregorian melody and characteristics can be preserved, it is all the better.


    English has also driven many away into heretical and schismatic sects, including the ugliness of the music that has accompanied it.

    Yet any mention of English propers is usually as a "stepping stone" to get to Latin propers.


    Well, you can drink SuperEconoCola or CocaCola. Which one tastes like and is the real thing?

    Latin IS the language of the Roman Rite, and as such MUST have pride of place...


    Latin Rite... Latin Language... seems like a natural.

    but surely for the average parish is it not enough to have a Latin ordinary and use Latin propers for festal Masses? Mind you, there is NO reason that a Roman Rite cathedral shouldn't have a principle mass with all Latin... but why must the average parish go full tilt to Latin when there are high quality English propers available?


    Hmmm... Let's think about this. "We are average and therefore should not have a Latin Mass." That is absurd. It used to be the other way around until the bio-engineers of liturgy emerged a few years ago.

    Cathedrals are the "special places" that can offer both. Us average parishes should offer the Latin Rite in the Latin. Let's keep it simple.
  • I am in full agreement that every parish should have the Latin Rite in Latin each Sunday.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    I am not absent from the Roman Church. I work there every Sunday for approximately 8 hours. I don't belong to it, I work for it. I am fully Catholic, just not Roman. The Catholic Church is not exclusively Roman or Latin.

    I probably hear and sing more chant in a year, both English and Latin, than most of the Catholics in the U.S. hear in a lifetime. But I am telling you there are people in the western Catholic church who despise chant. I know, I have met them, and they can be priests, laity, and musicians. The position that Latin chant is the music of the church is not accepted in some quarters, religious and secular. That might be an ideal, but it is not a reality in many or most places. I would say that if you took a job in such a parish, it might be in your best interests to leave for a more welcoming congregation. You would, at least, lower the stress level in your life.

    Jesus never spoke Latin, either. Since the church started in the east, the language spoken by the early Christians would likely have been either Greek, or one of the local languages that existed along with Greek.
  • Jesus spoke Aramaic. Good enough for Him, good enough for me.

    As I said I tire of people who are not part of the Roman Church criticizing it ad nauseam on this list. People who work at a Roman church, be they custodians or organist choir directors are absent from the body of the Roman church.
    I do not recall any word by anyone on this list that is critical of the music of the Byzantine Church, yet others rail on and on about the Roman Church.

    If you appreciate and respect it as Bruce does, for example, you are a valued part of this list. But continual complaining by people who have already left or never been part of the Roman church is detrimental.

    It's not a position. This is not R vs. W, it is what the Pope said. And that Pope said. And that earlier Pope said.

    People who do not follow the Pope can hardly be considered faithful Roman Catholics. No?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    Then convince the rest of the Romans and start with the U.S. bishops. Next move on to NPM. It's your own people in your own rite of the Church who keep shooting you in the foot. I am speaking of how things are at a practical level, of course, not the ideal. Outsiders didn't sneak into the Roman Rite and create the current mess. It was an inside job with many willing accomplices. The wounds are self-inflicted.
  • If Bruce's assessment of the current relative status of English vs. Latin chant is correct I share his fears and think this a lamentable trend. His work is an invaluable contribution to our liturgical life and practice. As for the bond between the Latin tongue and chant, it is, in fact, a tenuous one. We all know that a number of chants started out in Greek, and we all also know that a respectable number of chants have historically been adapted if not borrowed 'verbatim' to a variety of Latin texts without harm either to the chant or the text. The truth is that a real musician can very well sing chant to a variety of languages, can do so artfully and with quite satisying musical and spiritual results. The shiboleth that chant and Latin are mutually dependent needs to be laid to rest by genuinely thoughtful musicians. Nor is it true that Latin, because of its particular vowels, is somehow more musical than English with its particular vowels (wronglfully inferred to be ugly). English is, in fact, a very beautiful language and can be chanted very well by musicians who earnestly intend to make it spiritually rewarding. Also, a word about the language of a given liturgy. If a mass is being celebrated in Latin, then it should be completely in Latin (who would think otherwise!). If it is celebrated in English, then it should be completely in English - propers, ordinary, all of it. Those who think that they have really accomplished something by singing Latin ordinaries and propers at English masses have only made of their liturgy an artless pastiche - an inconsistent little bit of this and little bit of that which does not at all add up to an aesthetic whole. Both languages are equally beautiful and have their own distinctive aesthetic as a vehicle to Divine Worship. The more we learn to respect this and utilise music at English masses that is truly liturgical the richer we will be. I suspect that Bruce's talented young choirmaster feels that he has arrived at some mythical pinnacle or gained status by singing this or that part of the mass 'in Latin!'. This is both illogical and sad. I will repeat that Bruce's work is an invaluable contribution, and one which we make regular use of at St Basil's School of Gregorian Chant, where some of our masses are Latin and some English - but not both at the same time. We have noticed what a spell English chant casts over the congregation (yes, the very air is different!) and how they really love it.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Charles

    We (do you mean Roman Catholics) don't have to convince anyone including naive, uncatechized or confused Catholics. We will simply move toward what the Church wants, asks and expects in educating the Masses (pun intended). Eventually they will wonder why they did anything askew from what is the norm.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    M

    You surprise me at times. Do you mean to tell us you don't use Latin unless it is entirely a Latin Mass?
  • M.

    Vatican II did not intend an all-vernacular Mass. The documents are clear. Only in the Mission Field is an all-vernacular Mass permitted.

    The US Bishops attempted to do what you feel is correct...no bi-language Masses, all Masses in the US to be in English.

    Rome said no then.

    And Charles... if "they" are shooting us in the foot, which body part are you continually aiming for?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    I am not shooting at you at all. I just think you can be a bit of a dreamer. I appreciate the purity of your ideal church. It would truly be a wonderful place. But it doesn't exist, not even in Rome. In every country, in every age, something would deviate from that ideal. Although I must admit, the deviations accelerated after Vatican II. The Council never intended multiple canons, and the rest of the re-write of the Latin Rite liturgy that occured very late in the 1960s. But it is the reality that we live with. Of course, this goes with saying that all the folks who don't like what you do, voted with their feet and are across town whooping it up with Fr. Friendly and his jug band.

    BTW, Jackson, I am in agreement with you. I don't like the mixing of languages and other elements that occurs routinely nearly everywhere. However, musicians are rarely in charge and work for pastors and bishops who call the shots. Where I work, we have multiple rites, just not at the same time.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Forty-something years after the Council is too soon to speak so dogmatically of the place of the vernacular in the Western Rite as to say it should never be mixed with Latin and Greek. We are still working this out. It seems to me that there is an argument from authority and practice for a Greek and Latin Ordinary within an othewise vernacular Mass, as a connection with the wider Church over space and time; but we've hardly begun to think about the Propers in this respect. Give it another 40 years and the issue might be clearer.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    I think the importance of the vernacular and the need to express our culture is a passing fad at best. I believe the church will, in general, return to its roots; the best of truth, goodness and beauty. God grew the flower and it is perfect. All we have to do is nurture it and enjoy and participate in its wonder. In fact, I think we are already witnessing the return.


    I think this is a misrepresentation. The only reason there's any Latin liturgy at all is because the vernacular has always been important to the church. Evangelists have always, first thing in a mission country, translated the liturgy and the Bible into the vernacular (Sts. Cyril and Methodius, for example, or the Orthodox St. Herman of Alaska with the Aleuts). All the early liturgies were in Greek, Aramaic, Coptic... Latin only came around later. And certainly while Latin was going on in the Roman Empire there were other languages going on as well; Latin is not the language of the Catholic Church, just the Latin Rite of that church. Just because it is the biggest doesn't mean it's the most important. even if the Latin Rite is "perfect," it is NOT perfect to the exclusion of the other rites. And I think Vatican II did not think that it was perfect; why else call for reform? (indeed, how could the entire, man-made rite be perfect? there will always be things in liturgy that could be better, and that goes for all of us)

    I wonder why there aren't English-speaking Rites in the Catholic church... no one speaks Latin anymore. But I can understand the desire for a liturgical language. There are definitely benefits to having a liturgical language, and I won't deny them. Certainly no one speaks Church Slavonic but it has greatly benefited the Slavic peoples of Europe to have that as a common liturgical language. However, you cannot deny either that it is perfectly acceptable to use the vernacular at liturgy (again, Latin was a vernacular once upon a time).

    I think translating the propers into English is wonderful and I hope that more people use propers instead of randomly selected hymns at Mass. when I go to Mass here at Franciscan University, allegedly a home of orthodox Catholic theology, and none of the liturgy people even know what propers are (unless they're helping with the once-a-month Latin Mass) it breaks my heart. But through the patient efforts like those of many of the people here on this board, I know things will get better, quickly, and not worse.

    I don't think mixing languages is wrong in liturgy either. Even in the Latin Mass you have the Greek Kyrie, so I think the idea of not mixing languages in liturgy is more pedantic than anything else. Personally I love going to my Serbian Orthodox parish and hearing half the service in English and half in Serbian/Church Slavonic. There's something wonderfully human about that. Yes, the liturgy is where heaven meets Earth, and where we mere mortals are allowed to touch eternity... but we are still human, beautifully human, created human, and the good parts of our humanity can definitely be a part of the liturgy.
  • Bruce - I greatly appreciate and appluad all of your hard work and efforts in chant! Keep up the great work.
  • I hesitate to break my abstinence regarding this forum, but the topic is utterly fascinating, and the discussion highlights the strong and conflicting characters who frequent these pages. But getting back to Bruce's original point:

    "The propers have always been sung to their proper melodies in only a few Episcopal churches. Until recently they were sung in English, but in most of the churches where they are sung, they are now being sung in Latin."

    This is indeed a curious trend. Surely, we are a long way from abandoning English Propers, chanted or otherwise. Episcopalians have had a century and a half at it. Catholics are just barely starting to consider the idea, and it's not clear whether the interest will significantly register, let alone endure. Which is why your work and others is so significant, if only to goad Catholics into remembering the Propers at all.

    But shouldn't you be asking your fellow proper-singing Episcopalians what's going on here? What is it about the Proper chants, once embraced, that seems to lead inevitably to Latin? Are you really prepared to dismiss this as some sort of aesthetic enticement? Perhaps you need to reexamine your premise:

    "The liturgical function of the proper chants, however, is to aid meditation upon scriptural texts."

    Is it? exclusively? even substantially? It seems to me your fellow Episcopalians are responding to an imperative beyond liturgical function -- an imperative long recognized and happily embraced by us Catholics fortunate enough to exercise our legitimate attachment to the traditional Latin Mass. You won't buy it from us. Maybe these enchanted Protestants can explain it to you, this appeal beyond function that is the true hostia laudis.
  • @Jam:

    I don't think mixing languages is wrong in liturgy either. Even in the Latin Mass you have the Greek Kyrie...


    And the Hebrew Alleluia, Hosanna and Amen.

    ...so I think the idea of not mixing languages in liturgy is more pedantic than anything else.


    The 'language' issue for me is one of appropriate musical language more than linguistics. While this puts me at odds with M. Jackson Osborn's statement above regarding language, I'm in agreement with his preceding statement:

    The truth is that a real musician can very well sing chant to a variety of languages, can do so artfully and with quite satisying musical and spiritual results. The shiboleth that chant and Latin are mutually dependent needs to be laid to rest by genuinely thoughtful musicians. Nor is it true that Latin, because of its particular vowels, is somehow more musical than English with its particular vowels (wronglfully inferred to be ugly). English is, in fact, a very beautiful language and can be chanted very well by musicians who earnestly intend to make it spiritually rewarding.
  • A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.
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    An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.
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    Be a dreamer. If you don't know how to dream, you're dead.
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    Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
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    Everybody's a dreamer.
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    He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.
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    I was always a dreamer, in childhood especially. People thought I was a little strange.
    Charley Pride
  • I'm personally wild for English chant and I see it as a very viable step - even an essential one. It is to me an amazing tragedy that the Roman rite went from a combination of Latian chant and vernacular hymnody straight to the pit in the 1960s - bypassing the English chant option altogether. I don't see English chant as an endpoint however. I can see where it is all pointing. I just don't see the need to get there in our lifetimes. However, there is an additional problem of the unstable texts themselves. You can't write music for texts that change constantly. It is demoralizing (Proulx is a good case in point).
  • I continue to aver that liturgies should make up their minds as to which language they are in and be consistent in the use of that language. This is not pedantic, but is borne of a desire for an aesthetic and prayerful continuum throughout a single liturgy. Of course, even in Latin masses one is required to have the readings in the vernacular. If I had my way they, too, would be in Latin. Cultivating the idea that doing parts of the mass in Latin at English masses is somehow more holy or more closely adheres to some mythical ideal is just too precious for words. It makes no more sense than singing (oh, perish the thought!) parts of the mass in English at Latin masses.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Since we (Latin Romans) are one of the oldest traditions and our heritage harkens back to the earliest centuries of Christianity, we do not have to argue anything for ourselves, come to our own defense, or make excuses. We do not have to craft a new way, or find a new fad. We simply look back and unburry the gold that we already own. It is a testimony of generations that carried the Light of the Faith before us.

    A good Catholic always asks, 'what is old?' not 'what is new?'. We utilize the new only to harken back to the basics, to what is absolute, to what is primary, to what is the foundation of our faith. That is only found in the earliest of our liturgical celebrations, in our writers, composers, and celebrators of our most prized liturgy. There is no greater testament, no greater proof and no greater mystery than what has already gone on before us. The book has already been written, the stories already told, and the blood of martyrs have signed the pages. We have only showed up to write the epilogue in our later time.

    Our proof is in our Palestrinas and our Popes, our Bishops and their Basilicas. You will find the proof in our earliest liturgical books; a few of which are the evangelarium, epistolarium, sacramentarium, liber, antiphonarius or gradualis, liber responsalis, the psalterium, later still the hymnarium, liber sequentialis, troponarius, and on, and on. There is no erasing or forgetting the greatness of God as He resides still in his One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    These are also the testimony to the greatest language of liturgy, and in fact what is known throughout history as "The Liturgical Language". Latin is not the invention of novelty, but the result of the longstanding test of time and practice that was forged into what the Roman rite is today.

    I leave you with the thoughts of one of our great writers about the liturgy.

    "Latin is naturally terse, austere, compared with the rhetorical abundance of Greek. It is a natural tendency of Latin to curtail redundant phrases. And this terseness and austere simplicity are a noticeable mark of the Roman Mass."

    "Since the Council of Trent the history of the Mass is hardly anything but that of the composition and approval of new Masses. The scheme and all the fundamental parts remain the same."

    "The liturgical student cannot but regret that we so seldom use the old offices which are the most characteristic, the most Roman in our rite, of which many go back to the Gelasian or even Leonine book. And merely from an aesthetic point of view there can be no doubt that the old propers are more beautiful than modern compositions. It is these old propers that show the austere dignity of our liturgy, that agree in feeling with the Ordinary and Canon..."

    "It is astonishing that the people should have so little sense of congruity, apparently never think of following the old tradition, or of harmony with the old ordinary. We obey the authority of the Church, of course, always. But it is not forbidden to hope for such a Pope again as Benedict XIV who will give us back more of our old Roman Calendar. (a prophetic statement for our day as we now have Benedict XVI)

    "Our Canon is untouched, and all the scheme of the Mass. Our Missal is still that of Pius V. We may be very thankful that his Commission was so scrupulous to keep or restore the old Roman tradition. Essentially the Missal of Pius V. is the Gregorian Sacramentary; that again is formed from the Gelasian book which depends on the Lenonine collection. We find the prayers of our Canon in the treatise de Sacramentis and allusions to it in the IVth century. So our Mass goes back, without essential change, to the age when it first developed out of the oldest liturgy of all. It is still redolent of that liturgy, of the days when Caesar ruled the world and thought he could stamp out the faith of Christ, when our fathers met together before dawn and sang a hymn to Christ as to a God. The result of our enquiry is that, in spite of unsolved problems, in spite of later changes, there is not in Christendom another rite so venerable as ours.

    The Mass, A Study of the Roman Liturgy, Adrien Fortescue, 1926
  • Chrism
    Posts: 694
    Bruce,

    Your work is a vital bridge between the Graduale Romanum and the Novus Ordo Missae. Although I've never ended up getting asked to program a Mass with English propers, your work has come up in conversation with priests a couple of times. Whether your work gets used at every parish in the English-speaking world, or only a few, I think it has been a necessary addition to the discussion -- if you hadn't done it, people would have bemoaned its absence, and others would have attempted it, with probably poorer results.

    Frankly, at this point in time, there is little Roman Catholic attention paid to the development of the vernacular liturgy at all--we are still exploring the wonderful ramifications of Summorum Pontificum, and will continue to do so for at least the next decade. Those who work in the OF are often asked to bring in "traditional" elements, meaning Latin chant, ad orientem, central crucifixes, altar rails, etc., all essentially straight from the EF.

    There will certainly be a renewed interest in the vernacular after the new translation is implemented in 2011. I expect the EF and the OF will then begin to react more strongly with each other, and English Propers may have an important role to play.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    I continue to aver that liturgies should make up their minds as to which language they are in and be consistent in the use of that language. This is not pedantic, but is borne of a desire for an aesthetic and prayerful continuum throughout a single liturgy. Of course, even in Latin masses one is required to have the readings in the vernacular. If I had my way they, too, would be in Latin.


    this just doesn't make sense to me, because according to your guidelines, the Greek Kyrie in the Latin Mass disrupts the "prayerful continuum"... Ancient practice testifies to the use of much Greek chant/hymnody in the early Roman church (in really old Vatican documents like what Ensemble Organum digs up). I think that the oldest traditions of the church have always involved a mixture of liturgical and vernacular languages, and it was rather a later Roman innovation to insist on Latin and Latin only. Of course, it is the right of the Latin rite to insist on a liturgical language... and, like I said, there are benefits to that. Personally I find Latin beautiful; I'm minoring in Latin here at university, and I go to Latin Masses once a month or so.

    If you would like the readings of a Latin Mass in Latin too, would you insist on the homily being in Latin as well? If not, is the homily somehow not a real "part" of the Mass? (Note my biases: I go to a Serbian parish whose liturgy is half Serbian, half English. Obviously I don't see a problem with it.)

    I don't think that Latin is more holy than any other language though. I always wondered why they didn't just translate the perfectly good Tridentine Mass into the vernacular at Vatican II instead of trying to write a new one. I would love to see a Tridentine Mass in English, but somehow I doubt that would happen, due to a lingering concept in Roman Catholicism that Latin is somehow sacrosanct... I think liturgical languages need to serve the people of God, rather than the other way around.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Mass does not serve the people of God. It is our doing as Christ has commanded and then He is sacrificed for us.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    I have no problem with the Latin church having a liturgical language, if it decides to do so. Now you just need to convince its leadership that it should have one. I also believe its fairly well established that Trent tinkered significantly with the mass, although elements of the liturgy do precede Trent. A number of rites were even supressed by Trent. Much of this sacrosanct EF mass doesn't go back any further than Trent. The eastern liturgies are hundreds of years older and less altered.

    This holy church Latin, as language scholars will testify, is nothing more than common street Latin which resulted from a whole-scale degradation of the language. After the fall of the western empire, Rome was a depopulated city and a cultural backwater. What was there lasted more from ossification than from any grand design.

    As I said, I have no problem with the Latin church having a liturgical language. Some of the eastern churches have one, as well. But much of what I am reading about the glories of the Latin language and liturgy going back to the time of the apostles is nothing more than romantic nonsense. If not that, at least nostalgia run amuck.

    Is the Latin chant gorgeous? Yes, definitely so. And it should be preserved. But plenty of good church music has also been written since chant. I tend to use Anglican chant, as well as, Latin. The Anglican chant is in no way inferior to the Latin, and is equally as well-written and inspiring. Some of our English language chant writers are doing a magnificent job today, as well.
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
    I prefer Latin, but if a Mass is said in English and retains all the other elements of sacred and liturgical beauty, i.e. grace, reverence, chant, no-talking, joke-telling from celebrant, ad orientem, kneeling for Communion, etc., it can be just as spiritual as a TLM. TLM is just my preference though, so I believe there will be a role for vernacular chant.
  • Kathy asks, well then, should the homily be in Latin too? I say (only half-tongue-in-cheek) why not? As for the Kyries: I put them in a special category - they are the only part of the mass which the ancient and undivided church has ever sung in the same language.

    CharlesW makes excellent observations. Trent assuredly can make no claim to great antiquity. I'll take Sarum any day I'm offered it. As for the retention of Latin: those who wish to argue Latin on the basis of antiquity should be arguing for Greek instead. Educated Romans were not a happy lot when change was made to vulgar Latin. Also, the retention of Latin in the West for so long was a very practical rather than spiritual matter; namely, owing to the fact that 'vernaculars' all over the West were in a state of development and were quite unstable for centuries; nor, for the most part, were they written until rather late. So Latin remained by default the only 'literate' tongue. Then came the 'Reformation', and Latin was retained on the grounds that a change to the vernacular would be 'Protestant'. How silly! There were, in fact, many bishops and priests of the time who were quite vocally in favour of vernaculars. Just imagine what a beautiful, and by now hallowed and hieratic translation we would be enjoying if these gentlemen had had their way!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    CharlesW 27 minutes ago edited said  
    I have no problem with the Latin church having a liturgical language, if it decides to do so.

    It decided to do so and it did a century and a half ago. Actually Charles, with due respect, may I ask you a question? Could it be that you do not have such a great problem with Latin, but perhaps more with our Mother Church Herself?

    Now you just need to convince its leadership that it should have one.


    Our leadership does not need convincing of anything. It fully understands its position on all things pertaining to its sancrosanct liturgy. It has the power and authority to change and arrange its accoutrements as it sees fit. This was granted by Christ himself and is handed down through its successors, and even the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It has added to its store of treasures the new things that have come about in addition to the treasures of its ancient and Latin rites. Nothing has been cancelled out, nothing has been lost. That is what occurred in the council of VII. It altered the orientation of the priest, it allowed the vernacular, it opened the way for a new breathe of the Holy Spirit. 

    I also believe its fairly well established that Trent tinkered significantly with the mass, although elements of the liturgy do precede Trent. A number of rites were even supressed by Trent. Much of this sacrosanct EF mass doesn't go back any further than Trent. The eastern liturgies are hundreds of years older and less altered.


    Holy Mother church does not tinker with her liturgies. She changes and alters what is in her power to do to protect and guard the very deposit of faith which was given to Her by Christ himself. She can bind any and all things on earth and heaven will honor her every request. She can loose the sins of men and hell must loose their souls in the exact same degree. Heaven will grant it's every wish.

    This holy church Latin, as language scholars will testify, is nothing more than common street Latin which resulted from a whole-scale degradation of the language. After the fall of the western empire, Rome was a depopulated city and a cultural backwater. What was there lasted more from ossification than from any grand design.


    From the ignomy of the crucified Jesus and the scourge of Roman men has risen the all powerful Christ, the very Son of God. Rome tried to wash it's hands of this crime of crimes and was cast into it's very ruin because of it's sin. But Christ has taken even that degradation and raised it up. All of humanity is the Rome that crucified Jesus. And now all of humanity is freed by that very same Roman Jesus which now is the seat of Peter. 
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
    Well I agree with you that if the clergy of the Reformation had done the translations we would be in a better state than we are now. But, I disagree with you slightly on the notion that protecting a unique tradition (like the preservation of Latin) that largely gives your religion part of its identity, on the grounds that a move to the vernacular could in some way obscure Catholicism's identity towards Protestantism, is not in any way silly. It is my opinion that this one of the most serious problems that Catholicism has had to endure over the last forty years: the loss of its identity. The subsequent (liberal) "Protestantization" of the Roman Rite in the wake of VII has severely damaged the Catholic identity.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    I am not so sure the Church has become Protestantized, as secularized. The Church, after Vatican II, went out into the world. But instead of transforming the world, it imitated it.

    Once again, Francis, you confuse "The Catholic Church" with the "Latin" Rite, which in this country is only marginally "Latin" anymore. They are not the same. Much of the the Church has never been Latin. As for Trent, it met to deal with Protestantism in the west - perhaps even over-reacting to it a bit. The east doesn't even consider it an ecumenical council because it's scope and purpose were of little consequence to the other rites of the Church. For what it's worth, many consider the word "rite" a misnomer because the Catholic Church contains 22 (some say 23) churches. I use the word because we all know what it means.

    As far as "tinkering" with the liturgy, nearly every pope did so to some degree from the time of Pius V through the pontificate of Paul VI. Even Pius XII dabbled with it. (I think he was a saint, BTW). The 1962 missal certainly differs from earlier missals. I still maintain some of our modern church music composers are every bit as competent and talented as some who have gone before.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Mass does not serve the people of God. It is our doing as Christ has commanded and then He is sacrificed for us.


    I did not say "Mass," I said "liturgical languages." That's a straw man right there. Christ gave us the sacraments--Christ did not give us Latin, nor did He command that we use Latin. Therefore, if we do use Latin, it has to serve the people of God, or maybe I should say serve the Mass and sacraments. The Mass and sacraments should not be subservient to the liturgical language. What I'm saying is, Latin is not an essential part of the sacraments--all Rites of the Catholic church, AND the Orthodox church, have the sacraments, and only ONE of those Rites uses Latin. I find that you have conflated Latin with the entire Catholic Church at many points on this board, and that is what I have a problem with.

    You seem to be saying at times that Eastern Rite Catholicism and Orthodoxy are somehow inferior to Latin Rite Catholicism, and I say that is abjectly false. I can understand your having a problem with Orthodoxy; but you are in communion with the Eastern Rites, aren't you?
  • "I use the word because we all know what it means."

    I bow out after this silliness.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    Jam

    Sorry. My misunderstanding. So you have said.