A Blessing in Disguise, Sacred Music, Fall 2010
  • Leon
    Posts: 6
    Amy Danielle Waddle's excellent article in the current Fall 2010 issue of Sacred Music on the history of Gregorian Chant was very informative, but I was a little concern with individualist talk of the freedom to explore, freedom to choose, most appealing to their taste, etc. It reminds me of the modernist talk after Vatican II, ignoring the documents and picking only the most apparent loopholes to advance their do it my way agenda. I understand that Musicians as a whole are an innovative group and like to push the envelope to new heights, but as a Schola member I would hope that we could keep liturgical Gregorian chant as it is without so much of the individualist advanced interpretations.

    Leon Keller
  • No need to worry, Leon. Mahrt, Turkington, Poterak, Ostrowski, OostZinner, Brouwers, Donelson and Carr-Wilson are ON THE JOB. And if you were fortunate to be at last summer's colloquium with Ostrowski, you got both sides of the coin: you do the homework, in the end you follow the director. Period.
  • I'm with Charles on this - Leon, I walked away from the Col with the understanding that it is worthwhile to examine the chants you are singing in different versions, understanding that none of them are "the source" but rather reflect the way that they have been sung and then notated.

    It's liberating not to be tied to the interpretation of the notes but rather to understand that the notes are a map and your director is the guy who warns you where the speed traps are, as well as bridges that freeze before the road surface does and places where fog can shut down the road.

    It's like the mora dot...it's there most often to tell singers to do what they always should do, soften at the end of a line. It's a modern direction to remind the singers to do something that they should already be doing - but in reality it is there to remind the director to do what he or she is supposed to do, mold the chant into a living thing that has fluctuations and not to forget the basics. It's someone saying, "I know that you are going to forget to do this, but this is the way it is done."

    You'll find that this group is unlike the modernist talk, rather this group is determined to take us back to what chant was and still should be.

    We know that every time something is touched, it ends up with a transfer of material. I'm certain that sound can mold things just as water can. Is it possible that at some point technology will be able to permit us to walk into a room and have a device that let us hear what the sounds were in a room a few minutes ago from a comparison of the environment and minuscule changes that the sound made? If so, could that not eventually be able to go back in time, just as they have been able to determine the age of violins through the science growth rings over the years? So, maybe someday we will be able to hear how chant was sung back then.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    FNJ:
    A device that lets you hear the past.... have you read Godel, Escher, Bach?
  • No....but now I will!
  • Adam, I'm sure that the Wenger Corporation is testing just such a digital device. Just like Rogers and Allen, dial up one of the four choirs at San Marco, Venice in your cubicle, mic/speaker enhanced room, or St. John the Divine, NYC, Rheims, or the LDS Temple in SLC, or Brooklyn Tabernacle or Hillsong, Australia,and boom, you dere.
    Now if we could find a mosquito in resin that sucked some blood out of Palestrina or Lassus, and go all Jurassic......shivers.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    GEB, while a bit dated, is a must read for people interested in the intersection of music, technology, and mathematics. The math and the computer science get a little tricky (much of it continues to be above my head), but the layman's terms explanations make it bearable, and the philosophical vision of the book is incredible.
    In one of the chapters, one of the characters has built a device that analyzes the molecular content of the universe and reconstructs sounds from the past. Good stuff.
  • This is an ages old post, I realize, but I am the author of "A Blessing in Disguise," and I find that this is an interesting point to raise--and one I'd love to follow up with someday.

    My published thesis, the work of over a year of research and a grant from my secular state university, in Sacred Music was in fact concluded thus:
    "There is no single answer to how to perform Gregorian chant: it has a rich and diverse tradition and always has had. Scholas such as the Cor Immaculatae Schola Cantorum and the Schola of the Pittsburgh Oratory may choose to practice the Solesmes method because of aesthetic choice or availability of its editions, but all those who practice chant should be made aware of the range of performance styles being explored today.

    Final decisions regarding rhythm, melody, stress, vocal technique, and pronunciation lie with the individual schola director. Advocates and followers of Solesmes must not ignore the "blessing in disguise" of the post-Vatican II re-exploration of chant. Solesmes does present a practical and applicable rhythmic method for chant that is aesthetically pleasing today. When one steps back to look at chant throughout the ups and downs of its history, one finds that it never died. Chant is still a living form of music, growing and changing with great diversity just as it did over a thousand years ago. The practice of Gregorian chant gives musicians the freedom to choose a style or mixture of performance styles most appealing to their taste from the numerous methods that have been developed. The riches of the Gregorian tradition continue into the new millennium."

    Read more: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201010/2291656681....
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,174
    Because there are different ways to interpret chant notation, that is a further challenge to modern day schola directors--it is our duty and responsibility to try to determine the most accurate way to sing, the most accurate style, the most accurate notation. That's the very "blessing in disguise": the history and divergence of chant through the centuries, the task before us as scholars and as musicians to determine what chant should be!


    This kind of thinking puzzles me. More power to ya if you think you can 'figure out the most accurate way' to sing the chant. I think there are as many 'accurate ways as there are scholas' that attempt to sing the chant in an artistic style. It's akin to how many ways can you play The Art of Fugue... the possibilities are endless, and they all are unique, (and if done with true artistic integrity), I wouldn't want to put it in a box. Just my thoughts.

    I guess what I am saying is that when you determine how the chant should be, don't you think it will be on the level of how anyone else determines how the chant should be?
  • While agreeing basically with Francis, I would suggest some nuance of an historical nature. Yes, there are as many ways correctly to perform chant as there are scholas and choirmasters. (And, as we all know, The Choirmaster, whoever or wherever he may be, is the final authority on what is correct... except those who readily admit their scholarly shortcomings.) Going beyond this, however, I would suggest that while we may allow that chanting according to a method claiming (falsely!) to be that of Solesmes, or in the style of the XVIIIth, XIVth, or XIIth centuries, or as the choirmaster in a village in rural South Dakota understands it, all have a certain validity relevant to the genuine artistry and musicianship which is in evidence, we might, nevertheless, consider a thoughtfully informed approach which adheres more or less accurately to current scholarship's understanding of the very earliest notation which we have (which is Carolingian) to be of a category considerably preferred and with greater claim to probable 'authenticity' (however understood) than those representative of later eras. It was, Fr Columba reminded me during his recent visit to Houston, Hucbald, after all, who said that one needed the square notation to know what pitches to sing, but the Carolingian neumes to know HOW to sing them. One is hopelessly subjective, it seems to me, whenever and to whatever degree, he fails to avail himself of the true wisdom had in an approach informed by semiological scholarship. Such a one is not, ontologically, performing chant The Correct Way, but My Way, or the Mid-XXth Century Way, the This or That Method, or the Medicean Way, or What Have You. Absent of semiology all interpretations are equal in their lack of claim to any but a self-referential validity.

    And, I would add that chant is fundamentally in the capacity of an ancilla verbae. This would seem elementary. But, I have suffered through inumerable performances, offerings of chant (or witnessed numerous rehearsals) in which the greatest concern, time, and effort was put into the notes and how 'correctly' to perform that salicus or whatever according to this or that method, with scant if any discussion of the text. Chant begins and ends with the WORDS that it exists to communicate. The words are due to be studied BEFORE one even tries to sing the notes of the chant. They are the first and last objects of interest, their meaning the most important aspect to bring to life. Before singing, study the grammar! The grammar, after all, was all that the early cantors had in their cantatoria to sing chants which they had spent years commiting to memory.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    There's an analog (or parallelism? or something?) between this notion of authenticity in music performance and the nature of anamnesis in the Liturgy.

    Moderns, beginning with Renaissance attempts to restore some perfect past version of Latin and Classical thought, have a tendency to fetishize historical accuracy. In the 20th century liturgical movements we can see first the liberal resourcement that wanted to strip away 18 centuries of development in favor of some imagined "Early Christian Community Meal," and then later the naive traditionalists who seem to imagine that everything was wonderful before the Council and that history ended sometime in the Baroque era.

    Any particular performance of a chant - or, really, any piece of music - is a unique event on its own AND ALSO is part of the tradition of that piece's history. The first performance is not a 'Platonic' standard, with subsequent performances being merely re-enactments or instantiations of that single ideal.

    Similarly, the sacrifice of Calvary and the self-giving nourishment of the Last Supper are not simply remembered or re-enacted in the Mass, with the historical events standing behind us as Platonic ideals or as dramatic inspiration. Rather, the sacrifice is made entirely present and new in each Mass throughout history - even as it is the same sacrifice, offered once for all.

    Just as in liturgical studies - and any form of study, really - historical scholarship is important. It is good to know what people have done in the past. It is worthwhile preserve and work within the tradition, and worthwhile to revive traditions which have fallen out of practice. We should never approach music in a haphazard, "do whatever I like" approach, but humble ourselves and recognize our place within a tradition that has gone before us for a thousand years and will most likely survive us for another thousand.

    But, we shouldn't let the virtues of historical and musicological scholarship become idols, and we should guard our theoretical frameworks, lest we let our academic pursuits become a gateway for a false understanding of liturgy.
  • Thank you. I think that your responses agree more with my original article which did not intend at all to be "individualistic," etc.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    I've expanded my thoughts above into an essay on the Cafe.
    http://www.chantcafe.com/2014/03/historical-scholarship-and-liturgical.html

    p_m: I used your quote above a bit out of context to the rest of your writing and what you think as a real person - but I tried to make clear that I was doing so, and simply using the words as a stand-in for an opinion which you probably don't hold.

    My apologies if this causes anyone to think you think thinks you don't think you're thinking.
  • Ah. Glad it was food for thought/refutation... I think the original poster of this thread misread my article in Sacred Music. It was the farthest thing from being individualistic--and it seems like the people who commented on the thread following that weren't aware of what my article really said. In fact, I was talking about Mahrt, Donelson, Justine Ward, Mary Berry, and Solesmes in my extensive research of modern and historical interpretations--everyone doing their best to be true to the purpose of chant.

    In fact, see if this link works (that issue isn't up on the archives for some reason):
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/51552124/Fall-2010-Issue-of-Sacred-Music
  • Ah, in fact your chant cafe post ties in with why I wrote the original article for Sacred Music--my musicology professed saw the study of chant in one light while the actual directors and church musicians saw chant as much more of a living thing, not a dead and buried historical artifact. I wanted to compare and contrast the two ideas and see if scholar and schola were really on such different pages as my professor seemed to think. Of course, I discovered that they are not! Many scholars have also been on the path as church musicians seeking how to perform chant today as a living part of church and liturgy.

    (Basically one person started this thread who, I don't think was a schola director, probably never had to face performance decisions and was unaware of the history of chant practice and notation dating back to Charlemagne and before--even then, once the Romans left, it evolved into something sort of Franco-Roman.)

    Ah, the danger of posting thoughts on a forum late at night and then being quoted... ;)
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    Yes, yes.

    And your original article does not (to me) suggest either of the two "heresies" of free-for-all individualism and fundamentalist Platonism. (As I said in the article, and above - I didn't think you thought either of those things.)

    But: your hasty late-night quotable, and the responses that followed, was a blessing in disguise for me. The essay at the Cafe is essentially one that's been floating around in the Platonic perfection of my brain-space, yet imperfect in its lack of instantiation. Like sugar hyper-dissolved in water (WHY CAN'T I STOP WITH THE ANALOGIES AND METAPHORS?!), it needed some thread on which crystallize. So thanks for that.
  • Glad I could be of assistance. ;)
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    Not sure why there is any contention,
    our duty and responsibility to try to determine the most accurate way to sing, the most accurate style, the most accurate notation.

    No one said there was a "duty and responsibility" to, for want of a better verb, enforce this accuracy, merely to be aware of it.
    "Pastoral" realities apply.
    And note that she said nothing about "ideal."
    Don't all of us kinda work on a sliding scale of doing the best we can, with what we can know, given our situations? wouldn't accuracy be part of that?
    Aren't all of us, hopefully, growing in our knowledge?

    (Save the Liturgy, save the World)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,174
    The first performance is not a 'Platonic' standard, with subsequent performances being merely re-enactments or instantiations of that single ideal.


    This in many ways is very true, not just of the chant, but the entire Faith. This trying to find the 'authentic and original liturgy' and fabricating it as a 'new edifice' by a few in a short amount of time is utter foolishness.

    It is also why the TLM is the authentic.

    The 'art of chant' develops with time and expertise and OTHER artists with new genius and inspiration are able to contribute to its growth (Solemnes, for example, is another step (or facet) to a genius or genre), and it is time tested along the way (very important part of tradition!). This is what ultimately makes it a work of the Holy Spirit.

    This is also why TRADITION is SOoooooo important. Tradition is the fabric upon which the embroidery of the flowering arts, practices and unfolding revelation of truth (i.e., The Immaculate Conception) is stitched together, layer after layer to form the completed tapestry of the Church. The Church is not a snapshot of time from the past, but a living, breathing organism, Always Old and Always New, but carrying forward all that has gone before. That is why the hermeneutic of continuity is critical to the liturgy and why the NO is a 'fabrication' that I do not believe will ever bind itself to the permanent fabric of the Faith.

    Truth is unchanging, fixed, timeless and pure. We, however, see it dimly, and we continue to struggle to define and perfect the understanding of such in our 'material' world, and the world fights to hold it at bay and even hopes in some ways to destroy it, but that is not possible. The gates of hell will not.

    Glory be to God for such a wonderful and beautiful Church, who is a direct reflection of the Blessed Virgin Mary always ready and willing to dispense new graces for the present moment in time, and lives to reveal the things never seen or heard before for those who love God.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    Actually, everyone has missed the boat on chant. Chant was developed by Guido the Gimpy before records were kept of such things. Guido discovered that the second beat of every two-note pattern received the accent, just like he walked with his wooden leg. So every 2nd note accent goes ka-THUNK with the accent on thunk.

    Guido also had his first organum at the age of twelve. He found it so pleasurable, he highly recommended that all musicians should have frequent organums.


    On a more serious note - F## which is always serious - archaeologism, which Pius XII referred to as "exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism," came to my attention during the 1960s. I was a teenager at the time, and saw it developing in organ performance, instruments and in liturgy. Suddenly, there was this "right way" to do things based on the practices of the ancients in that pure time when God was in his heaven and all was surely right with the world.

    I agree that God was, is, and will ever be in his heaven, but rarely has everything been right with the world. Archaeologism ignores the fact that organic development happens for good reasons. Things change over time, and they always will. That is not automatically a bad thing.




  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    Suddenly, there was this "right way" to do things based on the practices of the ancients in that pure time when God was in his heaven and all was surely right with the world.


    And, though this whole enterprise is often philosophically dubious and theologically problematic, no one can deny that beautiful NEW ways of performing and experiencing music are created in this process.

    The "new" way of doing (for example) Renaissance vocal music (think Tallis Scholars) has become a norm, to the delight of many (and, I'm sure, the sadness of those who prefer caterwauling nepotism with frustrated operatic ambitions peeling the paint off the walls of the Sistine Chapel the aesthetics of the previously dominant practice)

    I think it is best to understand this phenomenon as a way for people and society to respond to their own needs and desires in a way that psychologically connects them with their past. Also - there's a certain amount of healthy rebellion: my parents rebelled against their parents. I can rebel against them by siding with my grandparents. You see a similar trend in the cycle of baby names.

    Really, when people talk about the past, they are talking about what they hope for in their own present and immediate future. It's the same process whether you are an old lady at church complaining about wanting "traditional hymns" or a musicologist appalled at the slovenly decadence of current performance practice.

    I coined a term for this, which I really hope takes off in academic circles:
    Aspirational historiography.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    Or apparitional hysteriography, perhaps?. Do we really know if current performance practice is authentic, or just the way current scholars enjoy having their ears tickled?

    If we were able, by some miraculous means, to go back and hear music performed in the 10th century, could we stand listening to it? No one knows, but we do have several hundred years worth of written music where we can see the organic development over time. Those documented changes have been significant.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    Do we really know if current performance practice is authentic, or just the way current scholars enjoy having their ears tickled?

    Exactly.

    If we were able, by some miraculous means, to go back and hear music performed in the 10th century, could we stand listening to it?

    My assumption is that, on average, it would be about like a decent, but not amazing, church choir or community orchestra.

    we do have several hundred years worth of written music where we can see the organic development over time

    And, of course, periodic explosions of antiquarianism are part of that natural progression and development.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    All this is hard to describe, but a former organ prof said, "When you play, make it musical and beautiful." I knew what she meant.
  • So, um, does this mean that now, really to be on the cusp of musicological evolution, we have to incorporate Aspirationl Historiography into our chant interpretation? And, if so, how, according to this system, would one perform correctly (i.e., authentically or 'authentically') the salicus?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    So, um, does this mean that now, really to be on the cusp of musicological evolution, we have to incorporate Aspirationl Historiography into our chant interpretation?

    Well- the whole idea is this is a way of understanding what other people are doing as a cultural phenomenon.

    A: Have you read Adam Wood's argument that the Middle Ages represent a period of unparalleled academic freedom and economic activity, within the context of a society ordered around a fundamentally liturgical understanding of the universe?

    B: Yeah. I liked some of what he said, but I think he's engaging in a bit of aspirational historiography.

    how, according to this system, would one perform correctly (authentically or 'authentically') the salicus?

    In the manner that best expresses your deepest longings and unspoken hopes for the culture.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • ChoirpartsChoirparts
    Posts: 143
    Whoever said "Guido the Gimpy" ??? Very good call, but...

    start at 4:00 to refresh the memory...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u2T4boK2FE
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    This 1,000 year old tradition, may have been altered numerous times before it was first written down. This guy's take is as speculative as anyone else's. Even after writing it on paper, it has been open to wildly differing interpretations ever since.
  • ChoirpartsChoirparts
    Posts: 143
    Ah yes.... YMMV
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,174
    "exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism,"


    Charles. Another slant on your slant.

    I always steer clear of bumpy pronouncements like this, even if they carry some truth or are declared by a prelate. It's a loaded phrase that modernists love to wield to bolster the argument in dismissal of tradition. I think the word "Archaeologism" (very similar in slant) was invented in the last century, (by modernists) and may likely become known as a heresy of the 20th Century in the future.
  • ...

    Thanked by 1Arthur Connick
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    Francis, it seems to me that much of the liturgical disruption we have both witnessed, stems from discontent with what we had. It is an attempt to recreate what once was, or at least what some think once was. Unfortunately, it destroys centuries of genuine organic development. The problem I see with such archaeologism is that current recreations of past practices are now completely out of context and are divorced from the philosophies and cultures in which they developed and made sense. It also seems to me that there is a listlessness in the modern world similar in some ways to what the ancient monks called acedia or accidie. Have you noticed that the revisionists are really never happy with anything related to tradition? There is this restless and pointless search and striving for something that even if found, might not be understood.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    When Jackson writes "..." I wonder if he radically disagrees with something, or if someone sneaked in at night and tuned all his mixtures in unison. LOL
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,174
    Charles... Yes there are 'the poles' of the liturgy wars, or as one of my good priest friends call it, the pew wars. But for the most part, the TLM was celebrated right up until VII with all the trappings. It wasn't an 'antiquated' event by any stretch of the imagination. I celebrated it when I was first an altar boy, in all it's pristine and perfect form. It wasn't staged or fake or anything that 'harkened back' to an ideal time. It WAS the MASS. I remember the sudden change. And even then at the age of 7, my world was rocked as I did not understand what was happening or why, but the loss and sense of something going very wrong was very much present to me even then as I remember that era very distinctly.

    As for MJO, perhaps he can give us some insight into his retraction. I haven't ever posted something I wanted to take back (yet) because I always hit the SAVE AS DRAFT if I have the slightest inkling I am speaking from my stomach instead of my brain. With MJO the greatest fear he would realize would be someone gutting his console and putting in a simulacrum. I think he would just expire at that point.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    Hah! LOL. You have now given Jackson material for nightmares.

    You understand that when I refer to archaeologism, I am not referring to the TLM. I am thinking much earlier in the early centuries of the church. Some of our post-VII innovators were trying to recapture what they believed to be practices in the very early church. Whether or not our documentation is complete or accurate enough to do that, even if we could recreate those practices they would be out of context and culture now. I suspect that some of those innovators were out to destroy rather than purify the liturgy.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,174
    ah... thanks for the clarification.
    Thanked by 1Arthur Connick
  • Archeo-logism. Neo-logism. Antiquarianism. Or, how about Paleo-logism.
    Is the tendency on the part of some to label that and those which they don't prefer, don't respect, disagree with, or just plain don't like, an _____ism, or an _____ist not, usually, mere antipathetic rhetoric or venal pique? Does it reflect a respectful caste of mind for that or those who simply have different, or even opposing, tastes, opinions, or even convictions? A purist, for example, does not think of himself as a purist, but as sensible, consistent, and appreciative of a given class of things or thoughts. I seem, to myself, to be a relatively tolerant person, but, to some I am a purist who insists on calling a spade, um, I mean an organ an organ, and an organ simulacrum just that. Or is it merely a convenient signifer for an esteemed colleague's pecadilleos? While not necessarily always the former, it is, I think, not often the latter.

    Whilst driving in the vicinity of Rice University the other evening I chanced to pass a man who was driving, of all imaginable things, what must have been a Ford pick-up truck of the nineteen-teens or earlier vintage that looked as though it had just rolled off the assembly line. What a brave delight! Witnessing it was a far more satisfying experience for me than noticing all the BMWs and Infinities, and New Accords that put my Old Accord in its place. Was the driver an antiquarian? He was, to my mind, doing the world a favour and service by driving his old treasure in broad daylight for all to see. There was nothing antiquarian about it. Intelligence? Integrity? Character? Exemplarity? Respectfulness? Even bravery, elan! These seem more apt. There was certainly much 'more mileage' and value than most would have deemed possible in his treasure. And the array of lessons which one could draw from his example should be evident to any thoughtful person.

    How is this different from what some would call 'antiquarianism' or 'archeologism' in liturgy? I don't think that it is, ultimately. We should appreciate those who are not caught up in trendiness or modernity (modernism!) but are satisfied and fulfilled to cherish some things or some ways that some (rather cheaply) would say are Relics Of The Past. They aren't! They are the present because people of the present (that is, people who are alive now!) cherish them and find them at least as, if not more, meaningful than what is merely contemporary but, lacking qualities of timelessness may not, really, be very modern.

    Most of us on this forum love music that some would label as merely antiquarian. I certainly don't think of Tallis as 'antique music', and I doubt that many of you do. We cherish that which forms our patrimony, that which belongs to all time, past and future. We don't perceive of it as belonging to the buried past, but as today's heritage. -Isms and -ists are too prone to be pejoratives. We should be careful, for each of our own's intellectual honesty, that we don't use these signifers as put downs or value dismissals. BYMWD

    Meanwhile: ...
    Thanked by 2francis CHGiffen
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    If I ever reach a point where people referred to me as antiquarian, I think I would have to take it as a compliment.

    People who label and insult others are nothing but idiotic fussbudgets.

    My opinion (to restate, since no one seems to know what I mean) is this:

    Some old things are good. Some good things are old. Some old good things have been abandoned, and it would be good to start doing them again - and blessed are they who do the work to discover them, uncover them, and revive them.

    At the same time, its good to recognize that our knowledge of the past is often sketchy, reconstructed, and incomplete. This is helpful, so that one doesn't become dogmatic about things which not only might not matter, but might not even be factual. But, other than being wrong (which usually doesn't matter) and being occasionally annoying, this isn't that big of a problem.

    The only danger (and there is a similar danger in pretty much every area of passion and interest) is turning some aspect of human culture or imagination into an idol.

    But avoiding passion for human culture and imagination is not a solution either, because that also become an idol.


    An goldsmith who has an encounter with the Real Presence in the Eucharist may respond to that experience by crafting a beautiful monstrance for use in Adoration. This, in turn, may help others in the their devotions, through its beauty and craftsmanship. An art historian in a later age may take up a fascination with monstrances, seeing in them the embodiment of the spiritual character of a particular era and admiring the devotion and care taken by the individual artists.

    But another person may become envious or prideful about such things. He may believe that his wealthy parish is more holy than than poor one in the next town because they have a tall golden monstrance while the other place cannot afford such things. Some other person, a shallow and distraught priest perhaps at that poor parish, might feel like their lack of a monstrance is an impediment to holding Eucharistic Adoration, and so allows his materialism to curtail devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

    And so, we can then imagine some caring and pastoral leader - the local Bishop perhaps - seeing all this and trying to help people remember that it isn't at all about the monstrance. That's just a tool, and aide, and assist. Forget about it. Focus on Christ. He's a bishop, so he sends a letter suggesting that all parishes hold Eucharistic Adoration with a less ornate receptacle to hold the consecrated hosts. Perhaps a plain ciborium, or a simple plate.

    The prideful materialist with the tall monstrance gets offended now. He stops coming to Adoration because he was really only there to see the tall gold thing. But, one has to wonder - even though he was clearly there for all the wrong things, isn't it still better that he be there? Isn't this just the sort of person who ought to be at Adoration? Isn't this a person in need of an encounter with the True Presence?

    And the art historian, what about her? She was fascinated by culture and history, learning a lot and sharing her insights with others. Now, suddenly, the object of her interest becomes not a living part of the history she studies, but a dead relic in a museum. That she is interested in it at all makes some people suspicious of her faithfulness and sincerity.

    And over in the Western reaches of the Diocese there's this one lonely Catholic parish with priest who seems a little goofy and unpredictable. He keeps using their monstrance, which is a ridiculously huge and ornate piece of the gaudiest litugibling you have ever seen in your life. The story is that he found it in an attic in Barcelona when he was visiting his brother's wife's family. People who go to Adoration there get judged by the good people at the other parishes - clearly they are disobedient traddies.....






  • And yes, Adam, I've seen more than once, very old (as in sublimely beautiful and intricate) monstrances in various musea. In fact, we have one (it just Happens to be mediaeval) at our museum here in Houston. I must admit that I am in awe at the God-given talent that crafted it in honour of 'the Giver of every good and perfect gift', and have nothing but loathing for the persons who sold it. One can just imagine the cheap (though not necessarily inexpensive), mass produced bauble that replaced it in its original home. Most of the tasteless & artless stuff on sale from Catholic church goods stores and catalogues is not worthy to be used in the house of God. And, you are right: notwithstanding my remarks above, there are times when to be called a this or that -ist or -ism is a badge of honour (even if it was not intended as such).
    Thanked by 2francis CHGiffen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,174
    And hence, we who have given all our life to perfect and hone the craft of sacred music are now looked upon as 'antiquarian' in our approach, philosophy, practice, devotion, and whatever other label you want to put on giving everything to be what one is called to be.

    We certainly don't want the cathedral to upstage the poor parish on the other side of town, so we better level everything. That way, there won't be a "noticeable difference" from one part of the body of Christ to the other.

    And this can all be applied to ANY of the differences of one congregation to the other. The vernacular of this person may not be the same as the vernacular of that person, so let's include it all, so that all feel welcome, all feel at home, all feel 'part of the body of Christ'.

    How far will we carry this thinking?
    Thanked by 1Jenny
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    All are welcome, or something like that. After years in teaching, I can say that what Francis mentions is the norm - appeal to the lowest common denominator. That LCD has taken over society, the church, and education. But don't talk about it since offense is so easily taken by those who live to be offended.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,174
    hmmm... All Are Welcome In This Place... except... me.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,955
    Understand that, Francis! I get a condescending reaction locally when some find out the conservative parish where I work and that I am not the OCP poster child. Fortunately, I have six-inch fangs when provoked and am good at defending myself.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,700
    The term "false antiquinarianism" was used by Pius XII in one of his docs on liturgy (IIRC). He referred to scholar/practitioners who were attempting to denude the Roman liturgy of any practices added since the Year 50 or so. (I exaggerate only slightly.)

    As Charles and Francis would agree, this deserves condemnation, right?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,174
    It is all coming to light very soon.