Anyone know of a good critique of the "progressive solemnity" concept?
  • It seems to me that the concept of "progressive solemnity" is a bit fictitious, in that the norm for the Mass is simply to sing it. Granted, there are all kinds of extenuating circumstances that might require cutting back, but it's not as if you add layer after layer of song. The Mass is meant to be chanted, and if it can't, then recited is the fall-back option.

    Anyway, I was just wondering if anyone has a favorite critique of the concept that's available online or in a past issue of Sacred Music. It's going to be needed soon in a conversation I'll be having...
  • 'Fictitious' is the word. A non-completely-chanted mass is an abberation from the norm envisioned by the recent council fathers, a deparature from what was everywhere the norm until the mediaeval chantry 'low masses' became an widely imitated abuse. As I have said elsewhere, spoken liturgy or worship is, in the human history of almost any religion, unique to western Christendom, both Catholic and Protestant. It would have been strange to Jesus, it is strange to our Orthodox cousins, and it would have been strange in the west until well into the late mediaeval era in the west where the private masses of monk-priests set an unfortunately example followed by others.

    Add to that the strange notion of 'progressive solemnity' which seems to be a concept invented by many contemporary chic 'liturgists' and adopted by many liturgically lazy clerics.
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 270
    Nothing to recommend, sorry. But it's worth noting that "progressive solemnity" is not just about music. Even if one sings everything, one might decide to use the less splendid green set on a weekday versus a Sunday, when one would wear a more splendid set. Even the liturgy itself has a notion of progressive solemnity, reserving, for example, the Gloria for Sundays and Feasts outside of Lent.

    So am I guessing correctly that it is really the idea of singing/not signing as a mark of progressive solemnity that you want to critique, not the idea of progressive solemnity itself?
  • Sometimes, the Mass is recited not because it can't be chanted, but because the priest doesn't want to do it that way. Not saying that is good practice, but it happens. The best part is that there's absolutely no excuse to not chant the Mass. Think "the people" can't follow chant? WRONG! We had a guest priest (a GUEST PRIEST) who chanted for our 7:30AM Mass this last Sunday, and EVERYONE FOLLOWED AND RESPONDED PERFECTLY. Our regular Pastor won't chant anything to save his life, except "Through Him and with Him and in Him..." and the Exsultet at Easter Vigil, but I imagine that's because he has to. So you could say we "aren't used to" chanting the Mass, but it happened this Sunday, and worked very well. People can pick up on stuff, it's not like chant is some strange thing that only medieval scholars, trained musicians, and old people can do. You want a short critique? Here: We don't need any more "progressive solemnity," in regards to music, as chanting the Mass is easy to do, and easy to learn. What we need is priests actually chanting the Mass: it doesn't take long to learn and can even be done all recto tono if the priest can't (I mean, really, truly can't) change pitches to sing the chant. As DMs, it's our job to be available to help our priests learn this, especially if they aren't learning it in seminary (which might not be happening) and I also fear that in recent years (the last 50 or so), the guitar-toting hippy DMs and "cantors" haven't been up to the job, nor have they wanted to teach it.
  • FCB, yes I'm thinking of music in particular (chanting vs. not chanting but reciting).

    It occurs to me that the document that came out under Paul VI, Musicam Sacram, does introduce this notion of different degrees of solemnity...

    Has anyone seen an article that takes this up?
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    "Progressive Solemnity."
    "Progressive solemnity?"
    I'll choose the latter, please.
    As Fritz points out, the term itself means different things to different interested people. But if become attached to a Concept that has a defined, quantifiable structure as the criteria in Musicam Sacram, and then build their scaffold of praxis upon those immutable terms, they're likely going to end up disappointed, dissatisfied. CK's spot on characterization of it all hinges upon the celebrants' proclivities is perhaps the last option I would insist upon hinging my efforts as a DM. The number of priests who've made some meager, pro forma entreaty to me to "help me chant/sing" whatever I can no longer count on all hand and foot digits. Inevitably what they seem to want is either "please validate I have a nice voice, tho' I can't match pitch to save my life," or "please help me to sing the orations, but I don't want to chant," or "You can teach me all the notes in the Missal, yes please, but I'm going to continue to sing the rote "per ipsum" I done learnt at the seminary!"
    So, pray tell Charlie, what is your version of "progressive solemnity?" Anything sung that beyond any reproach clearly edifies the common notion among all therein, "Hey, we're really in a Roman Catholic Church."
    (And, sorry, "Lord I lift my hands on high" don't meet that criteria.)
    This forum, let's face it, is mostly about us DM's and thems tied to us as organists/accompanists and God-love-'em, PIPs who give a rip.
    How can a DM, without endangering his/her gig if what they do is done well and doesn't burn down some parishioner's psychological house?
    1. Stuff that Mass!
    a. It don't matter what form the processional Introit/Communio/Offertorio (that order was on purpose) takes
    b. Sing the Communio the moment the celebrant communicates. You can't be corrected on that, and if some cleric tries to lay you low, pull out your copy of the GIRM and look like you're prepared to tear the page out and ask him to eat that page.
    c. If you can't (I still after 7 years ain't there yet, but the idea of a circumambulated Introit is not off the table.) accomodate the Introit and an option four hymn, then sing the Introit as a ersatz "Call to worship." Forget for all times "Good morning, welcome, there's a second collection for, ah Margie, I can't remember, we have 'em every frickin' week...", chant or chorally deliver the Introit. First, if it's chanted, they'll shut the h*ll up. Two, it plants the seed of all the Propers in their minds if not souls before a mumblin' word is said.
    d. Insist/lobby/persuade that if all the Opening Rites cannot be cantillated, then, by God, the Kyrie and the Glory will be. Yep, every Mass, every Sunday outside of suppression seasons, feasts. And if those two for whatever reason cannot be chanted (and I don't care if it's a capella/in organum/accompanied/harmonized/isonized/martinezed) keep them alive, vital and moving every Mass. It virtually makes the church neon green CATHOLIC. If you must sing a choral version, then it darn well better be the best of the best. Jernberg's NERI is as Byzantine as it gets, but like Oecumenica (which didn't have a Glory) it virtually screams (sotto voce, of course) "We're in a real CHURCH!"
    But if you're singing a metered zippedy doo dah, my little pony ditty, either go to confession and get another horse afterwards, quit yer gig for the good of the universal church, or become the nice Presbyterian singer you've longed to be. If I lost my religion that bad, I'd check into Hillsongs stat, at least they're not whimps.
    e. Don't change the responsorial/Alleluia/GA format if the celebrant has a jones about FCAP there. Not worth dying on this hill.
    f. Even if you have the world's greatest lectors/deacons, change the way the people respond to the Universal Prayer. Let there be a recited intention, but the invocation of the prayer must be chanted like "let us all pray-ay...." (1-1-1--2-7/ Lord, hear our prayer. (7-6-7-1) You'll be amazed how full the PIPs will take that up. Priest assembly not required. (Hidden benefit- it aids/abets the three MS judgments, most notably the chanting of the Pater Noster, which irritates so unjustifiably most American priests. Pray to get a Filipino priest!)
    g. When you have the carpe diem moment, encourage your collars to always chant the entire preface. Some will demur and chant the institution instead, but there's no dialogue there. Sing the graces of the "sursum corda" to any and all who will listen.
    h. Ensure the quality of the settings for the EP acclamations and the Lamb of God. Even if the setting may appear to be initially esoteric, sell the melodies to the PIPs upon introduction before Mass. And don't do that very often at all. Rehearsing the PIPs has to be a severe exception to the normative rule.
    i. As stated, get the Communio started once the host is received by the mouth of the celebrant. If it's in the vernacular, make sure the elocution, emphasis and effect is superior. When this happens, all gathered including the celebrant, other clergy and "all" know "THIS MEANS SOMETHING!" Never, ever let this moment linger indefinitely without the Proper being sung. Not the piano tinkling of George Winston chord riffs, not some P&W refrain sung for Sunday after Sunday for decades (I love it, it makes me cry!)....do the Proper.
    j. Tailor the FCAP portion of the Communion hymn to fit the liturgical action. If your congregations are huge and the song tiny, then let your choir seque into a really finely prepared and performed motet. Make sure that will finish when the ciborium is placed into reserve. Observe purposeful silence, even if Father and the ushers totally mess up the Communion Collect/2nd collection protocols. That's their problem. Don't cover their derrieres with sweet nothing Unda Maris stuff.
    k. Got ORGANIST? Then let loose the postlude after "Thanks be to God" and maybe even as the altar is adored (kissed) at that precise moment. As soon as the Crucifix and celebrant pass by the plane of where you are, sit down reverently and quietly and listen to the postlude. Pray. We don't get those moments enough. It also is great witness to the PIPs.

    None of this requires a priestly fiat.

    Peter, maybe I just wrote your "article." ;-)
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,192
    I have oft maintained (and taught when anyone might be of docile spirit to receive it) that "progressive solemnity" is a confused and rather tortured interpretation of the far more carefully-crafted "progressive participation" or "three degrees of participation" model (which may or may not be my term; I was such a voracious reader for a while that I picked up these terms and adopted them as my own).

    The Instruction Musicam sacram we all know well, and I won't rehash it here. If you don't know it, please read it. Read the whole document, not just the few paragraphs that talk about what should be sung from column "A" before adding column "B".

    I assert that if the additive process of beginning with the dialogues and some of the Ordinary then progressing (hence the term "progressive participation") to the next group of chants (more of the orations, the remainder of the Ordinary, then finally crowning the effort with a schola and properly-trained clergy chanting those bits that belong to the "third degree" were followed for at least one weekly Sunday Mass were followed, any (and I mean ANY) parish with a willing (key word, there) priest and DM could have a principal Mass that was dignified, solemn, and SUNG.

    It's my considered opinion that the hang-up occurs in three places: 1) with entrenched clerics who are unwilling to do what the Church asks them to do and lead by example in singing the parts that properly belong to them (thus fulfilling not one but several mandates set forth by VC II in Sacrosanctum concilium), a horrifyingly deficient general training of DM's in the Church and 3) so-called "experts" who continually rail against the idea that Musicam sacram can in fact be, in about 20 minutes with or without a good bottle of wine, recontextualized to apply to the OF. (Recall, if you will, that several "experts of note and repute" actually said to a group of NPM breakout session attendees on the occasion of MS's 40th anniversary that, "MS is no longer relevant because it was conceived with the EF in mind, and in 1970 the whole structure of the Mass changes, so MS should be ignored."

    If the Church would do what is asked, we'd not be suffering with "Missa My Little Pony" and the "stuffed Mass."

    Here endeth the rant.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,135
    I'm surprised that the idea of progressive solemnity is so questioned on this forum. As I understood it, it's not a matter of singing more (the Mass as MJO has pointed the Mass is normally sung,) The concept of progressive solemnity is clearly promulgated in the liturgy itself:
    Weekdays: no Gloria, no second reading,
    Feasts: Add Gloria, add proper readings for Offices and Mass.
    Solemnity and Sundays Continue with the above and second reading etc.
    Easter, Christmas: One Liturgy is not enough to contain the additional texts, tunes and prayers, add more liturgies to contain those additions...
    Of course, we have lost subtly with the dissolving of the various degrees and subdivisions etc. But is not this an old concept rooted in the liturgy itself?
    However As Andrew has aptly pointed out, the 'progression' is not followed properly.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,862
    The confused concept often circulating under the name of progressive solemnity -- if I understand it right -- proposes that the implementation of sung liturgy and solemn ritual be proportioned to the rank of the liturgical day. But do priests who express this concept ever get around to presenting a fully sung liturgy, with sung creed and readings?

    The concept expressed in Musicam sacram (progressive solemnity or graduated implementation, or whatever one wishes to call it) starts with sung dialogues as the first, most foundational step. It calls upon priests to get used to singing all the time. Maybe that's why some priests prefer a different concept of progressive solemnity.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen BruceL
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    My brother David has focused and codified the real issue at hand, of which I should have contexualized with more precision knowing of Peter's well-documented conclusions.
    This is about the EF/OF axis.
    Whatever one's preferences, I have listened to Pr. Mahrt's prescriptions since CMAA Day One, and perhaps mistakenly interpreted them to be "retroactively" applied to the OF, even if one's most earnest desire was to facillitate the unveiling of the true TLM as articulated by S.PioX.
    If I've erred, it is honest.
    But, if WE have erred believing that this "progression" would lead the faithful remnant of true RC'dom to the Missa Solemnis/Cantata/Requiem, we have seriously miscalculated who they are as well-intentioned RC's, who our priests are both now and forever, and who we are as purveyors of music that is sacred, beautiful and universal.
    God bless B16.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Yes, I've been confused about this as well. Progressive solemnity as described in Musicam Sacram, or progressive solemnity as commonly understood regarding rank of celebration. The latter, though commonly used, comes from where? what document?
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 270
    I would note that while the entirely sung Mass (or at least a Mass where the audible parts ore sung) has almost vanished, there is certainly more singing at more Masses than there were before the council. One of the things that has become clearer to me in reading the archives from Collegeville that have been posted on PTB is that there was a desire to introduce some singing into the Low Mass--that is, singing of the Mass itself (Sanctus, Agnus, etc.) and not simply hymns added to the Mass. So what we have now in most parishes is really Low Mass with added signing. But the Missa Cantata (not to mention the Solemn Mass) has vanished.

    So maybe the question is: are five low Masses with some signing on a weekend a gain musically compared with four Low Masses with no singing plus a Missa Cantanta? For those who think the entire Mass should be sung on every occasion: do you think it is feasible to do this for five Masses on a weekend (I'm not a Church musician, so I really don't know)? Of so, does this mean a steady diet of Gloria XV, Sanctus XVIII, and psalm tone propers?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,093
    I wonder about those five or so masses. Is the building half empty during three of them? How well attended are the other two? I have seen multiple masses in parishes where the congregation could have filled the building at two masses. Is it possible to have fewer masses and do them well, instead of multiples done at the lowest common denominator?
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen hilluminar
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,147
    Is it possible to have fewer masses and do them well, instead of multiples done at the lowest common denominator?

    This!!!
  • I wonder about those five or so masses. Is the building half empty during three of them? How well attended are the other two? I have seen multiple masses in parishes where the congregation could have filled the building at two masses. Is it possible to have fewer masses and do them well, instead of multiples done at the lowest common denominator?


    Yes, IMO there comes a point when that is prudent. However, I don't find it to be a good blanket policy that the church needs to be filled in order to have more masses.

    If there is an early morning mass at 7 am, a mass at 11 am, and a 5:30 pm mass on Sunday, those are probably hitting very different constituencies. Some will argue about consumerism, etc. and say that convenience should not be a factor - but living in the year 2014, yeah, let me know how well that works for you.

    So if a given time is at least WELL attended (i.e. 150 people at 7 am, 250 at 11, and 125 at 5:30) why would you try to combine all of those into one mass just because all those people would fit in the church at the same time? I guarantee you that if you try, you WON'T have all of them at the same time. Try combining all of those into ONE, 10 am mass. The 7 am and 5:30 pm people will just leave. And you will have ONE mass, with 150 people left.

    I've seen exactly this happen. It wasn't pretty.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,006
    Deacon Fritz, I always appreciate your writing here and on PTB, especially your recent review of the Baltimore parish.

    Now...

    I would somewhat object to comparing five low Masses with singing (the best of one celebration situation) to one Missa Cantata and four low Masses without singing (the worst of one celebration situation).

    I wish we did our choir Mass completely sung, but that's unlikely at least in the next few years. We sing everything now except the opening/closing dialogues, Orate, Fratres, readings, and (surprisingly since we do a lot of Latin) the Credo. The other Masses are pretty low: often EP II and just sung collect/preface/p-c.

    I'm not at all complaining about that, but I do tend to be of the school that if you make one Mass a weekend the absolute ideal things are more cohesive. I never understand why we don't sing the dialogues at the choir Mass: when we have visiting Benedictines from the local abbey, they'll sing everything and we're fine. In some ways, it does speak to how random some seminary education in liturgy can be, and how (in the 90's) none of this was being taught at all.
  • Thanks, everyone, for a vigorous conversation. Meanwhile Jeffrey Tucker pointed me in the direction of William Mahrt's The Musical Shape of the Liturgy, which contains good discussions (actually, critiques) of the "progressive solemnity" notion on pp. 166-67 and 399-404.

    Yes, the problem is thinking that one should reduce the amount of singing at Mass to signify a "lesser rank." The reality is that singing can and should take place every day -- simple singing on ferias, more elaborate chant on feasts and solemnities.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • Prof. Mahrt has offered a very salient criticism of progressive solemnity in his critique of Sing to the Lord. After noting that "as a practical matter progressive solemnity may be useful; the gradual introduction of sung parts is a much more realistic strategy than the sudden imposition of a completely sung service upon an unsuspecting congregation," he writes:
    As a matter of principle, I would suggest that “progressive solemnity” does not properly serve the sung liturgy, since it omits the singing of certain parts of the Mass which should and could be sung and thus gives up on the achievement of a completely sung service. The result is what I have called the “middle Mass,” neither high nor low, in which the beautiful and purposeful differences between the musical parts of the Mass are overshadowed by the more obvious differences between the spoken and sung parts.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Meanwhile Jeffrey Tucker pointed me in the direction...
    Who? ;-)
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 270
    I wonder about those five or so masses. Is the building half empty during three of them? How well attended are the other two?


    In my experience, it varies from place to place. In the south, yes, those Masses are probably all full or close to full. Also, sociologists will tell you that if you eliminate a service time your total weekend attendance will go down, even if there are still empty pews at the other services. Maybe that is a price worth paying for higher quality celebrations, though in my experience the elimination of services is usually motivated by concerns over clergy wear and tear rather than the quality of celebration.

    FWIW, over at PTB Paul Inwood has promised in a comment to produce a post that argues that certain things should not be sung (the example he offers is the Prayer of the Faithful). I will have to see his actual arguments, but I suspect I am more inclined to think that more singing is better.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Oh, how I can't wait! I knew that one moment of consensus with Paul would need to be obliterated for both our sakes.
    Some at CMAA, speaking of obliteration, would and have dispensed with the Universal Prayer in the OF totally, and Paul wants it spoken.
    IMO, it only works well when chanted well. (Forget all of the other forms, even my friend Bob Hurd's "Oyemos mi Senor.")
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,807
    Pastors of neighboring parishes are loathe to make changes in Mass times that may cause parishioners to jump to adjoining parishes. Indeed, even a difference of a half-hour in start time can give pastors willies in this regard.
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    OT, I have read it argued that if a parish has more than one regular Sunday liturgy NONE of them should fill the church, because the building should be able to accomodate the entire parish for Holy Thursday, the Pashal vigil --liturgies of which there CAN be only one.
    Make any sense?
    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Make any sense?


    I suppose, in an academic sense. But what would they propose doing for those instances in real life?
  • Degrees of Celebration – Judith M. Kubicki, CSSF is found as the third article of this NPM series from 2007: Musicam Sacram Revisited - Essays in Honor of Robert W. Hovda (where Ed Schaefer is also inclued). She gives a working definition of "progressive solemnity" that is in line with the observance of liturgical seasons, memorials, and solemnities. Not exactly what Musicam Sacram had in mind...but there are far worse things that have happened.

    http://www.npm.org/assets/HovdaIV.pdf
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • vogelkwvogelkw
    Posts: 45
    I have had to explain to people why I sing so much at Mass. This is one way I can explain it:

    The Church's vision of the liturgy with regard to singing is based on "progressive solemnity" - the amount and type of music is determined by the level of celebration of that day (ferial, optional memorial, memorial, feast, solemnity). The Church's vision gives the standard of a Sung Mass for Sundays and solemnities (Musicam Sacram 27-31). For it to be a Sung Mass, the following parts are to be sung (first degree from Musicam Sacram):

    1. Greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people
    2. The prayer (collect)
    3. Acclamations at the Gospel
    4. Prayer over the offerings
    5. Preface with its dialogue
    6. Sanctus
    7. Final doxology of the Canon
    8. Lord’s Prayer with its introduction and embolism
    9. The Pax Domini (Sign of Peace)
    10. Prayer after Communion
    11. The formulas of dismissal

    Every Sunday Mass I celebrate I try to come as close as possible to a Sung Mass. (Currently I sing all except 9, 3 and 11 - the latter two may or may not be sung depending on our deacon.) A sung Mass may be made more solemn by adding more sung elements:

    (From the second degree)
    12. Kyrie
    13. Gloria
    14. Agnus Dei
    15. Creed
    16. Prayer of the faithful

    (From the third degree)
    17. The songs at the Entrance and Communion processions
    18. The songs after the Lesson or Epistle
    19. The Alleluia before the Gospel
    20. The song at the Offertory
    21. The readings of Sacred Scripture

    Most of our Sunday Masses also contain sung elements from these two degrees (12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, and 20). There is also the Read Mass, which is the basis of the weekday Mass. In the Read Mass there may be no singing or very little singing. Sung elements may also be added from any of the three degrees. For example, sometimes I will sing the prayers (2, 4, 10) or propers (17, 20) for feasts or memorials of saints.

    Unfortunately we have been more influenced by another philosophy rather than this vision of the Church. I call this underlying and perhaps unconscious philosophy “legalistic liturgical minimalism.” Legalistic liturgical minimalism is the idea that one needs to do only what are the minimal requirements by law. This is a philosophy, upheld nowhere in Church writings on the liturgy, that has unfortunately held strong influence over the way we celebrate the liturgy. Certainly a Sunday Mass that is not a Sung Mass is still valid and allowed by church law, but it really is an impoverishment of what the Church desires our experience of the Sunday liturgy to be. This kind of legalistic minimalism is a vice we must work against in many other aspects of our lives. Jesus himself called the Pharisees out for their legalistic minimalism of simply following the commandments and ritual laws but failing to strive for the greatest commandments of love. The same is true for us so often who try to get away with doing the least as possible for God and for others rather than striving for true holiness.

    Rather than legalistic minimalism, the Church gives us progressive solemnity and the degrees of musical participation to assist us in singing the Mass, rather than simply singing at Mass. Singing the Mass means the text of the prayers of the Mass itself are sung. According to the Second Vatican Council, solemn liturgy (like that on Sunday) is most properly sung:

    “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 112).


    If there is no singing, certainly liturgy is valid, but it is not solemn. Song “united to the words” of the liturgy is necessary to the solemn liturgy. (Of course, not all liturgies are solemn, for example the daily Mass in which little music is used.) Also, the amount of singing in the solemn liturgy will depend upon the capabilities of the sacred ministers. The priest must take the responsibility of singing the liturgy seriously within his abilities:

    “The importance of the priest’s participation in the Liturgy, especially by singing, cannot be overemphasized. … ‘If, however. . . the priest or minister does not possess a voice suitable for the proper execution of the singing, he can render without singing one or more of the more difficult parts which concern him, reciting them in a loud and distinct voice. However, this must not be done merely for the convenience of the priest or minister.’ … Those priests who are capable should be trained in the practice of chanting the Gospel on more solemn occasions when a deacon may not be present. At the very least, all priests should be comfortable singing those parts of the Eucharistic Prayer that are assigned to them for which musical notation is provided in the Roman Missal. … If they are capable, deacons should be trained in the practice of chanting the Gospel on more solemn occasions.” (Sing to the Lord, USCCB, 19, 20, 21, 23)


    Ultimately, the purpose of sacred music is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful (SC 112). Instead of doing the least, let us give to God the best, the first fruits. As St. Augustine said, “Singing is for the one who loves.”

    God bless,
    Fr. Vogel
  • Thank you for your insight, Fr. Vogel, it was a blessing to read them! What is your take on congregational hymn singing? Many of us here face issues in our parishes of the desire on someone's part (could be priest, PIP, 2% club, etc) for lots of congregational hymn singing: many times to the complete exclusion of other types of music. Even the Mass Ordinary is sung in a congregational hymn style. I agree that the words of the liturgy were meant to be sung! Are the words of congregational hymns (the kind you find in a GIA hymnal, or the OCP Music Issue) considered the words of the liturgy? I pose the question not to contradict anything you've said, because you're correct, but just to open the discussion on the idea. What are your thoughts?
  • ClergetKubisz,

    Thanks for the question. It took me a bit to get back to you with a couple funerals this week and All Saints and Souls. I don’t know how much of an expert I am – just a priest who loves our Lord in the Eucharist! I started writing a response to your question and it became much longer and involved than is really appropriate for a forum post (I got kind of side tracked considering what the Church says about hymns at Mass, but it all helped me formulate my ideas better). If you want to read the long answer, which has my thought process related to the documents of the Church, see the attached document. Here is a short answer as I see it:

    According to the three degrees given in Musicam sacram, one can have a Sung Mass following the first degree regardless of what is being sung in the second and third degrees. If the first degree is sung, the texts of the prayers of the Mass are being sung. If one uses hymns to replace the Proper of Mass, it is true that those texts of the Mass are not being sung and so in those moments one is singing at Mass rather than singing the Mass. I think it would be preferable not to replace the proper texts, but sing hymns in addition to them. So, for example, a hymn might be done prior to the entrance chant, after the offertory or communion chant, and after the dismissal. Of course this would depend upon time, since these three propers accompany liturgical action and should finish as the liturgical action is finished.

    In introducing propers the people would have to be taught what participation at Mass is all about: first interior and then exterior. That way they can understand that they are not expected to sing everything. (This takes the pressure off the musicians and music directors: they should not have to feel it is their job to coax singing out of the congregation. Those who like to sing will sing, those who don’t will not. One need not sing everything in order to actively participate at Mass.) Depending upon which sources one uses for propers (Graduale, SEP, Lumen Christi, Weber, etc.) will determine the amount one might expect the faithful to sing for those propers.

    When I was at Conception Seminary I was introduced to proper-like antiphons with psalm verses sometimes used during communion time. Everyone was to sing the antiphon and listen to the psalm verses. It was quite the prayerful experience since you would stop singing and listen and pray, an increase in interior participation. Even though the congregation sings less, there was even an increase in exterior participation, for it was not as imposing as a hymn in which one is expected to sing every word. Seminarians tend to like to be quiet and pray after communion and would not always respond to sing the hymn, while the antiphons allowed one to sing a little but also have the quiet. I still have some of those wonderful Scriptural antiphons stuck in my mind.

    Should the goal be to completely get rid of hymns at Mass? I am not convinced of this, especially when I read the documents of the Church and the positive things they have to say about hymns. Certainly we should be more discerning as to which hymns are used and when. Singing the Mass does not mean that everyone sings everything and at every moment, but rather that each sings at the times given to them according to their role (priest, deacon, cantor, choir, faithful). Any movement toward singing the Mass cannot be done without the support of the pastor, for it must be the priest who leads both in singing the Order of Mass and in catechizing the people about participation at Mass. I know this is a source of difficulty for a number of the musicians who frequent this forum. My hope is that as a pastor someday, God willing, I might have the support of musicians like those of CMAA in giving our faithful the vision of the Sacred Liturgy the Church desires, making more transparent both Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary and the heavenly Wedding Feast of the Lamb!
    Thanked by 2dhalkj CHGiffen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,294
    Certainly we should be more discerning as to which hymns are used and when. Singing the Mass does not mean that everyone sings everything and at every moment, but rather that each sings at the times given to them according to their role (priest, deacon, cantor, choir, faithful).

    Can this be in the next encyclical on sacred music please?
  • Thank you Fr. Vogel for your wonderful insights! As evidenced by our esteemed Francis who replied before me, your view has been quite enlightening. Deo gratias!