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Friday, September 30, 2005

Gregorian chant in the Sacred Liturgy

Denis Crouan, prolific author on matters liturgical, has allowed the weblog of the Church Music Association of America to publish online an excerpt of his book, The History and Future of the Roman Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2005). The twenty-first chapter addresses the place and role of Gregorian chant in the Sacred Liturgy. Here are some excerpts from the excerpt (boldface emphases mine):
When it is celebrated according to the Roman rite, the liturgy ought to be sung in its entirety: this is the "normal" form. All parts of the Mass or of the Divine Office, from the simplest prayer to the most complicated readings, including of course the recitation of the psalms, are in fact meant to be declaimed according to principles that obey the laws of music...

In order for chant to fulfill its purpose, it must be cultivated, taught at a very young age, and handed down by carefully trained choirmasters. The treasure of sacred chant should be preserved principally in the seminaries and in religious houses, by musicians who have had serious liturgical formation...

With respect to the liturgy, Gregorian chant must not be considered as one musical form that is more interesting than another, or, more simply, as singing that is added to the liturgy "to make it beautiful". It is more than that; it is more than a type of "religious" music: it is sung prayer, the most perfect rendition of the Roman liturgy on the musical plane. It is itself, in a way, this liturgy, but as though expanded, as though raised to its highest degree of expression. It follows that Gregorian chant is capable of spreading among the faithful a message that is more universal, more complete, more capable of being "interiorized" than would be the message of a liturgy that had simply been embellished with ordinary hymns...

Gregorian chant is a sensitive master who takes his time in teaching us: although he loves to cover the words that we sing with a veil, with a shadow, it is not in order to disguise the meaning of what we are proclaiming, but rather to make sure that this meaning is only gradually revealed to us, so that we might never be tempted to celebrate ourselves, but rather might remain turned toward Him who acts at the heart of the liturgy.
Aside: Fr. Robert C. Pasley, who posted the above excerpt to the CMAA weblog, is rector of Mater Ecclesiae Church in Berlin, New Jersey, USA, where all sacraments are celebrated according to the 1962 books. Juventutem pilgrims will see some familiar faces in the parish website's photo album.

Comments [2]

Anonymous Anonymous:

It is sometimes overwhelming to reflect upon the position that we are currently in, and what we have been placed custodians over... :) Deo gratias.

Sat Oct 01, 05:24:00 AM GMT  
Blogger Brownthing:

It's hard to listen to Gregorian Chant outside of the Liturgy. It just seems like it doesn't belong anywhere else. I used to say Gregorian Chant is my favorite type of music, but I became more aware of this dicotomy..and that excerpt made it much clearer to me *why*. Thank you!

Sun Oct 02, 05:16:00 PM GMT  

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