A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On Singing Hymns

As I mentioned in a previous post, Catholic blogs tend to be full of discussions about proper liturgical music. Usually, these discussions bore me, because regardless of what the discussers say, they usually come down to matters of taste rather than to theological questions. And as we all know, there's no disputing taste. Some of us truly do prefer the sound of "The Servant Song" to "Blest Be the Tie That Binds."

In any case, Amy Welborn has a recent post which says something actually interesting about the use of hymns in the liturgy. Essentially, she points out that hymns themselves are a concession, not the ideal model of liturgical music. A truly traditional Catholic Mass would be one in which the music sung by the congregation is all part of the Mass. One of the quotes Amy pulls out is worth repeating here:

Simply stated, the Church calls us to SING THE HOLY MASS, not sing AT Mass. This is done by singing the various chants that the Sacred Liturgy of the day gives us- especially the Entrance Antiphon, the Offeratory Antiphon, and the Holy Communion Antiphon. This is normally done by chanting the antiphon as a refrain, with psalm texts used as verses. This is the way the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex lay it out.

After describing the traditional mode of worhsip, Amy raises questions about how the use of hymnody became the norm for American parishes. It's worth reading, if only because it' s amusing to think that one sure way to get rid of the Haugen-Haas bashing would be to remove all hymns from the liturgy and return to the use of propers and graduals. In some ways, this suggestion is like the Catholic equivelent of the Protestant "Psalm-only" debates. (One of the differences, of course, is that no one on the Catholic side would actually claim that there are Scriptural principles forbidding the use of hymns in worship: the question is a matter of tradition and liturgical theory, not a matter of conscience.)

What is ironic about all of this was that, before I read this post, I was already planning to blog on the subject of "Top Ten Places Not to Sing Hymns," begining with an academic library. (Trust me, no one will thank you for the disruption, even if you are disrupting their work with holy song.) If the church in America goes in the direction that Amy points out, your local Catholic parish might become #1 on the list.


Anonymous Becky said...

Yay Amy!

I wouldn't mind singing SOME hymns at mass (say as a reflection piece) as long as we sang the mass. But we don't. Almost nowhere do we sing the entrance and communion antiphons. Off to read Amy's Blog.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Bob the Baker said...

Sounds good to me. I LOVE chant, especially because it's so easy. You know, I really really miss attending morning and evening prayers at the Benedictine Abbey in Atchison.

9:00 PM  

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