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Friday, July 15, 2011

More on the Inappropriatness of Hymns in the Catholic Mass

Continuing on the theme of Music at Mass:

Martin Moesbach opines....

"I am firmly convinced... that vernacular hymns have played perhaps a significant part in the collapse of the liturgy. Just consider what resulted in the flowering of hymns: Luther's Reformation was a singing movement,and the hymn expressed the beliefs of the Reformers. Vernacular hymns replaced the liturgy, as they were designed to do; they were filled with the combative spirit of those dismal times and were meant to fortify the partisans. People singing a catchy melody together at the top of their voices created a sense of community, as all soldiers, clubs, and politicians know. The Catholic Counter-Reformation felt the demagogic power of these hymns. People so enjoyed singing; it was so easy to influence their emotions using pleasing tunes with verse repetition. In the liturgy of the Mass, however, there was no place for hymns. The liturgy has no gaps; it is one single great canticle; where it prescribes silence or the whisper, that is, where the mystery is covered with an acoustic veil,as it were, any hymn would be out of the question. The hymn has a beginning and an end; it is embedded in speech. But the leiturgos of Holy Mass does not actually speak at all; his speaking is a singing, because he has put on the 'new man', because, in the sacred space of the liturgy, he is a companion of angels. In the liturgy, singing is an elevation and transfiguration of speech, and, as such, it is a sign of the transfiguration of the body that awaits those who are risen."

The notion of hymnody doesn't fit the liturgical action of the Catholic Church.  The Mass simply isn't designed for it.  The Mass has it's own music which is proper to it.   The addition of hymns to and replacement of the propers of the Mass undermines the voice of the Mass.  It effectively silences the great action which is the Mass herself.  It has always been my contention that the loss of rubrics, coupled with the loss of singing properly at Mass is the downfall of the Mass as we know it.  I think that Moesbach's assertions above make sense and they are even more supportive of the reasoning that if this new translation is going to work, the Mass must abandon hymnody and move back to what is proper.  Coupling this with enforcement of the rubrics and the Novus Ordo has a chance....albeit small in retaining it's position as the ordinary form.  If not, I think that within 10 years, the extraordinary form will return to prominence and the ordinary form will simply become a footnote in the annals of Catholic liturgical worship...much like the Gallican Rite.  It will be seen for what it really is...a novelty and "the great experiment that failed."

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