lördag 27 oktober 2012

Descralisation of Catholic worship

Increasingly, the post Vatican II changes are being re-evaluated. Innovations like communion in both kinds, the Blessed host received in the hands whilst standing, from lay ministers, removal of communion rails, are being recognised for what they are - a deliberate de-sacralising. The process is reinforced by the use of the vernacular, something which many of the other world religions have carefully avoided by reserving an ancient classical language such as Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit or Pali, for liturgical use. This is sound practice, not least because vernacular languages are politically loaded. The English language and the way it is used is closely tied to the class system and Britain's colonial legacy. One does not need to look any further than across the Channel to Belgium to see how divisive language can be.

Then there is the influence of the Novus Ordo on the music. In the EF, hopefully, at least the Introit will be sung to the tune of the day, and the other seasons have their settings for the Ordinary, as well as the seasonal hymns. Thus over the year there is a succession of music which reinforces the church's narrative teaching.

The worst of it is that some, probably most, of the post V2 settings are egregious, ranging from the infantile to the downright unpleasant and comparable to the kind of sounds that set teeth on edge. There is a particular problem with the English language because English texts sung to Gregorian tunes tend to end up with the emphasis exactly where it makes no sense, resulting in an absurdity, as here; in the first line of this setting of the Creed, the three-notes that fall on "Deum" are now on the word "one". This is not inevitable - this alternative setting here is successful.

I suspect that the use of Protestant hymns is more damaging than is generally appreciated. Because the quality of the music is often high, for example by composers such as Goss, Watts, Wesley, Hassler and Neander, it is difficult to fault them on musical grounds. But they are infused with a Protestant sensibility, damaging slowly and subtly. And it is difficult to argue against their use except on the grounds that this is not "real Catholic music".

See comments here on Father Raymond Blake's blog.

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