Great Principles of Liturgy
  • Our moderator advanced the following Great Principle of Liturgy:

    Efficiency is not a liturgical value.

    I added:

    That a thing is possible does not make it advisable

    He suggested we put together a thread on Great Principles of Liturgy.

    Add yours here. Perhaps we'll prioritize them at some point, that is, we'll see which Principles of Liturgy are more important (relatively) and which are less so.

  • Just what does 'efficiency' mean in the given context?

    It sounds axiomatic, but what, actually, does it mean?

    Roman Use might be said to be 'more efficient' than, say, Ambrosian, or Sarum, or Dominican, etc.
    Is it, therefore, to be thought less desirable?
    (There are, to be sure, those grinches who would say just the opposite.
  • Jackson,

    I'll let Chonak speak for himself, but if you imagine an "efficiency expert" (say Frank Gilbreth), he worked to avoid wasting energy. The extravagance of the love God has for His children surely deserves more than "efficient" responses: what is the fastest I can get through this? That, clearly, would be the operative principle of the Ordo of Pope Paul VI.

    What do you have as a principle of liturgy?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,158
    I'm thinking of 'efficiency' in terms of time, and therefore meaning: performing an action quickly is not a requirement, but performing it with dignity and beauty is.

    In the case of crucifers, zeal for efficiency is harmful: it often turns the procession into a chase with one fast server in front, a few trying to keep up with him, and a more sedate priest trailing far behind.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,371
    In liturgical dialogue, to each utterance a unique response.
    Not the absurdity of the OF Memorial Acclamation.

    Crucifers should be forcibly slowed down by preceding them with a thurifer.
  • An hieratic language - a sacred tongue.

    (And an hieratic music to go with it.)
  • Elmar
    Posts: 500
    Have in mind - especially 'liturgy commitees' etc. - that "Liturgy = Public Worship of the Church" (rather than private devotion of the congregation).
    Have also in mind that the equation still holds when you add "Active participation of XYZ in ..." to both sides.

    Regarding efficiency: how on earth would one define a return on investment in liturgy? The more you try to get one (of whatever sort), the less you are worthy of any ...
    (btw. the shortest 'Masses' I know of - not representatieve - are Low Mass EF.)
  • - Good sacred music doesn't compete with silence, it complements it.

    "efficiency expert"

    Our bass section leader got a degree in this subject and works at a hospital implementing more streamlined practices. He and our soprano section leader were married less than six months ago. Knowing both of them, I imagine they will try to follow in the Gilbreth's footsteps in every possible sense.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,388
    There is a sufficiency of great principles in Sacrosanctum Concilium. 'Nuf said.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,943
    Well, in the USA, the Prime Directive has clearly long been since well before the Council:

    Thou shalt not add one more second to the Mass than is strictly necessary to fulfill the preceptual obligations.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 685
    Our pastor Fr. Pfeiffer recently had a homily that was aptly entitled "The Eat and Run Mass" . I post the homilies on the parish website and give it a "theme" based on something he said.

    I think it might be relevant to this discussion the principal being "how fast can we get the Mass over with".

    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Efficiency is not a liturgical value.

    That a thing is possible does not make it advisable

    Good sacred music doesn't compete with silence, it complements it.
    Sacrosanctum Concilium. 'Nuf said

    (On this last one, "finally, there shall be no innovation" is the most important principle)
    Thanked by 1toddevoss
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,217
    An hieratic language - a sacred tongue.

    Or as the eminent Fr. R. Skeris, Ph.D., put it: 'Sacred time, sacred space, sacred language, sacred music.'
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    Black is the new black.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,371
    Finally, there shall be no innovation UNLESS ...
    634 x 357 - 37K
  • Hawkins,

    I left off the "unless"!
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 254
    Fostering cognitive dissonance is anathema to good liturgy.

    E.g. For priests, is your homily really more important than a prayerful Eucharistic prayer? But isn’t that what you communicate when, to shorten mass after a long (usually bloated) homily, you choose EP 2 and go through it at the same speed that you would if you were calling an auction?

    And we know All Saints is about saints, so given that the mass is a short one, why not choose a Eucharistic Prayer that actually mentions a bunch of them?

    Planners: I know that the Apostles’ Creed is an approved option and its use is not an abuse — But on Trinity Sunday?

    Musicians: The priest has just said (something like): “We join with all the choirs the choirs of heaven as they sing . . .” Does your Sanctus sound like it actually reflects what Father just said?
  • Liturgical dialogues, sung or spoken, that are rendered so as to overlap -- that's what I consider offensive efficiency.
    Thanked by 1teachermom24
  • Recitation should be as rhythmically stately and uniform as singing (which should be stately and uniform).
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    If a committee thought of it, it's probably stupid; if something is stupid, don't do it.
  • If a committee thought of it, it's probably stupid; if something is stupid, don't do it.
    How many things this could apply to in real life... If a (fill in the blank) thought of it, it's probably stupid; if something is stupid, don't do it. Simple, yet profound! :)
  • If a committee thought of it, it's probably stupid; if something is stupid, don't do it.
    Much better to have a Eucharistic Prayer scribbled on a napkin by a single peritus while eating his lunch.
  • AFH... would this possibly be a committee of one?
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,704
    I thought that Fr Bouyer, was with a colleague in the Roman bar as they tried to correct the work of the "three maniacs".
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 539
    A sung ℣ takes a sung ℟.
    A spoken ℣ takes a spoken ℟.

    If I shouted across the street to you and you whispered back, it would be quite odd. If you whispered to me and I screamed back in your ear, it would be offensive.

    But in how many places does one hear the celebrant read out “Through him and with him....”, and The Choir answers with a 99-fold Great Amen with trumpets and cymbals?

  • Gamba,

    Thank you for raising this question. It's important that we understand the participation as partly dialogic... and therefore that the celebrant should sing more if he intends the choir and congregation to do so.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 539
    My point is entirely invalidated by the immemorial custom of singing the Sanctus in response to a spoken preface.
    Thanked by 2Liam Carol
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,943
    "A sung ℣ takes a sung ℟.
    A spoken ℣ takes a spoken ℟."

    I get the idea. I also get that if it were strictly enforced, the likely result would be the termination of employment of directors of music and organists. Because waiting for priests who don't want to cantillate their parts to do so is likely holding one's breath.

    Perhaps a more fruitful approach to the idea would be:

    A sung ℟ ought to be prompted by a sung ℣.
    A spoken ℟ ought to be prompted by a spoken ℣.
    Thanked by 1teachermom24
  • Carol
    Posts: 849
    Where I come from the Preface may or may not be sung, depending on the celebrant. The Sanctus is always sung and the congregation it sings well. What they sing best in my parish is the chanted "Our Father." If Fr. intones the words before the "Our Father," the congregation really responds! It does my heart good! This is an OF parish.
  • Carol,

    Liam's point ( I think) is that a spoken preface should logically lead to a spoken Sanctus.

    If it's not his point, it certainly is mine: both to encourage the lay faithful to sing and to accomplish more perfectly and intensely the worship of God, both parts ought to be sung.
    Thanked by 2hilluminar Carol
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,943
    No, it's not my point. My rephrasing is quite intentional and purposeful. It's that, with the Sanctus being sung (in the OF, it is supposed to either sung or recited by everyone - congregation, choir and clerical celebrants - it's not a dialogical response to the preface but rather a hymn that is part of the anaphora in which *all* the faithful present join the angelic host - it's an eschatological dimension), the celebrant ought to chant the preface. The celebrant's failure to do that does not mean the Sanctus ought then not to be sung; it's entirely a failure on the part of the celebrant.

    Much of the problem is a failure to set expectations in training. But there is a problematic residue with older roots: in a nearly all-or-nothing approach to whether the Mass itself would be sung or not. The conciliar reforms did remove the legal foundation for the residue, but the institutional culture the flowed from the residue remains in zombie-like life in too many clerics and places. Reciting the Sanctus is like a group recital of The Star Spangled Banner at a presidential inauguration - it ought to be unimaginable without laughing or crying (or both).
    Thanked by 3Carol hilluminar Elmar
  • I learned all of this the hard way. I'm not on a high horse, but rather a low horse:

    1) Liturgy is, first and foremost, prayer.

    2) Liturgy belongs to the People of God. They have a right to expect that you will follow the rubrics and rules. [Ok, so I have only learned this by observation.]

    3) Beyond following the rules, no one has an especial duty to accommodate your personal preferences. Respect the prudential decisions of celebrants and musicians at liturgies you attend, aware that you know neither their considerations and pressures, nor their education, experience, and heart.

    4) If you do feel a need to intervene to correct a liturgical indiscretion, presume goodwill on the part of the indiscreet, and avoid anger.

    5) The Mass of St. Paul VI is not the Mass of St. Pius V. It is that way on purpose. Respect these differences, and use them prudently to pastoral advantage if you are charged with celebrating or singing it, even if you love and/or prefer the older form of the Rite. Ditto vice versa.

    6) Most of the music you abominate to hear sung at worship has occasioned an experience of prayer for at least a significant minority of people, and it often holds profound meaning for them. That is why they love it. In improving sung worship, respect this fact, and take ridicule out of your arsenal.
  • Liturgy is, first and foremost, prayer.

    Would you accept the insertion of "highly structured"?

    The Mass of St. Paul VI is not the Mass of St. Pius V. It is that way on purpose.

    Do you mean that it is different in its essence and theology, or in its accidents?

    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,158
    "Liturgy is, first and foremost, a prayer" has been proposed, but may I offer something as equally fundamental:

    Liturgy is a ritual.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw dad29
  • Liturgy is a ritual.
    "Liturgy is, first and foremost, a prayer

    Are these two ways of saying the same thing?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,158
    They're different things. Some rituals are not prayers: as, for example, ceremonies of civil government. Some prayers are not rituals, when they are not a repeated activity with a fixed form.
  • Would you accept the insertion of "highly structured"?

    I wouldn't -- but we might not share a Great Principle, in that case.

    "Highly structured" is an accidental feature of the liturgies of certain traditions at certain historical moments. It may be more prudent, more unifying, more apt, more sane, etc. than a less structured approach, but liturgy is neither "first and foremost," nor even necessarily, a highly-structured thing.

    It is ritual prayer, as chonak has added, but between the two of those, I think the primacy falls on prayer. (I arrive at this conclusion by the thought experiment: given the choice, if indeed it were a dichotomy -- deeper prayer, or more structured ritual, which one seems the more essential thing to foster and cultivate? I feel like the Scriptures and Our Lord are not silent on this question)

    Liturgy is a ritual.

    Yes, but not necessarily a highly structured one.

    Do you mean that it is different in its essence and theology, or in its accidents?

    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • 5) The Mass of St. Paul VI is not the Mass of St. Pius V. It is that way on purpose.
    At the risk of provoking a theological brouhaha, although I agree with both these statements, I see them in an entirely different way from how you mean them.

    ...the music you abominate to hear sung at worship has occasioned an experience of prayer for at least a significant minority of people...respect this fact...
    I'm always extremely concerned when I hear an opinion like this. From my perspective, it unintentionally places Truth on a subjective rather than objective basis. I can't help but equate it with the self-righteous statement "I'm a spiritual person, not a religious person", usually used to explain why someone doesn't believe in attending "church" weekly - or even to explain why someone may not believe in a Supreme Being.

    Simply because people experience a wash of emotion - which they may view as a spiritual or religious experience - does not mean that what caused that emotion is objectively good. If that were truly the case, there would be no essential difference between Protestantism and Catholicism - or between Christianity and other non-Christ-centered faiths. I can guarantee that a "significant minority" of Protestants experience a prayerful, quasi-religious experience through their music and following along their prayer service.

    I think we've mentioned before - there are people for whom Kumbayah may be profound. Their belief does not make it so. Having said that, I don't find it useful to hurl attacks against those in that camp, or even to debate the issue at any length... which perhaps was the point you were trying to make about being charitable in our disagreements.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw dad29
  • Incardination, I think No Name was speaking from a pragmatic sensibility that, when dealing with those people who experience deep feelings when exposed to sacro-pop, respecting that emotional connection (which is all most people understand music to be) is just as important as upholding the Church's heritage, and belittling that connection is not productive.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • I can agree that belittling someone else's musical viewpoint is not productive... without having to respect the emotional connection as being at all spiritually significant. I can't grant that "respecting the viewpoint / connection" is "just as important as upholding the Church's heritage".
  • It's easy to piddle around with the subtleties of rarefied emotional experiences and inner subjectivities, so let's go for something more drastic:

    Sinner "X" is mired in a horrible, spiritually disfiguring addiction. His appetites and sensibilities are absolutely wrecked. Yet, he hears [insert your absolutely least-favorite piece of sacro-pop here] on his annual and reluctant visit to St. Y's church and, somehow, this cuts through all of the barriers that X has put up, and sets X on the journey whereby he finally gets help for his addiction, and resolves to try to give up sin.

    This sort of thing does happen, and is obviously of profound spiritual significance, rising miles above the emotional and subjective level. We're talking about actual growth in holiness, repentance for sin, &c.

    Church musician Z casually strikes up a convo with X, and offhandedly belittles [the piece that started it all for X], with consummate rolling of eyes. What good has Z done?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,158
    To tie in a previous point, liturgy is ritual because it is the Church's public worship.
  • Sinner "X" is mired in a horrible, spiritually disfiguring addiction. His appetites and sensibilities are absolutely wrecked. Yet, he hears a Wiccan talk about how important it is to be one with nature on his annual trip to Stonehenge and, somehow, this cuts through all of the barriers that X has put up, and sets X on the journey whereby he finally gets help for his addiction, and resolves to try to give it up.

    Must Z respect Wicca because it is causing X to seek to improve his situation?

    I can choose not to denigrate, not to belittle, perhaps even to not engage in an argument without choosing to "respect" something that is inherently flawed. I can even appreciate the natural good from X's experience at Stonehenge, and encourage the same, without giving value to Wicca. That's the distinction I'm driving at.

    The last six words of your #6 above embody what I believe you are trying to say. As in - "When discussing differences of opinion about sacred music, take ridicule out of your arsenal."
  • I think a more cogent point might be the separation of devotional and liturgical experiences - be it music, art, or language. Something can be undoubtedly religious, touching, spiritual, and emotional on a profound level - and yet be completely unsuited for liturgy. We should avoid denigrating those experiences that are legitimately appropriate for devotion while simultaneously excising them from liturgy.

    My mother loves crossover artists like Pentatonix and The Canadian Tenors when they perform sacro-pop (albeit at a much higher technical and artistic level than most). She also adores Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony in a liturgical context. For her, there is a clear separation between what is appropriate for Mass and what may touch her on a spiritual level outside of Mass.

    At least, that is my interpretation of what Nihil is trying to say.
  • I'm saying this:

    A man I much admire (now a very accomplished church musician), as a small boy, having come home from Catholic school one day in May, sauntered into the kitchen, where his mother was busy cooking.

    He was singing, in that tuneless and nasal way that small boys wishing to indulge in mockery do, "Bring Flowers of the Rarest."

    His mother began to weep: "That's my favorite hymn." He was horrified, and remains horrified to this day, that he hurt his mother like that.


    Fr. Rossini is not off-base when he characterizes, in the preface of his Liturgical Organist, many of the PiP's as "simple and earnest." They are devoted to Our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist, believe in, confess, and crave This, and they lovingly associate those externals that accompany their reception of Him with His Sacramental Presence. For them, this is liturgical piety, not devotionalism.

    They go home carrying tunes and their words in their hearts, and are upbuilt by them. Perhaps not ideal, but it's real, it's theirs, and it is approved and arranged for by their canonical pastor -- they are hardly trying to be disobedient or rebellious sons and daughters, and they would be utterly shocked to hear of anyone finding anything untoward about their piety.

    Some of these people are also aware of chant and love it. They see no contradiction. Strange but true, and in my experience, common.

    Often, I find their simplicity adorned with humility. If changes have been made, it's the Lord they love. They'll tell you what their favorite hymns were, if you ask, but never to complain. Just to remember. And they'll go to their parish week in, week out, for Our Lord, never hear their favorite hymn ever again, and not utter a cross word about it.

    I want to have spiritual fruit like that borne in my heart.
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 468
    The Psalms are not a liturgical manual, nor is David prancing about the Ark in his underwear
  • Carol
    Posts: 849
    I wish there was another option next to "thank" - a question mark.
  • David prancing about the Ark in his underwear
    No, wearing an ephod, the garment worn by the high priest over his other robes. It seems from the comment of his wife Michal, that he was NOT wearing underwear, and that the prancing made that evident. IMHO this is not a good liturgical precedent.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 468
    Thanks for the context.
  • Adequate variety.

    AFAIK no church has previously attempted to feed its sheep solely on the Eucharist. We have now had over 60 years of many congregations never being offered Benediction, Sunday Vespers, Rosaries, Holy Hours ... , these were where pious folk sang hymns and could express themselves. Forcing this need to be expressed during Mass is a bad idea. (In England this was not a VII thing, it started in 1953/55 when it became possible to say Mass later than 1pm)
  • Adequate

    Who gets to define what is adequate, in terms of variety?

    To your larger point, I think you're correct that when all the devotions were packed off to the south of France those devotional ideas remained, and people started to put them into Mass.