tisdag 6 augusti 2013

Why must the liturgy be "contemporary"

Defenders of the type of music that was performed at World Youth Day argue that we are in the modern times and need to be contemporary.

"Contemporary" is a term so vague as to be meaningless. However - we are no longer in the modern time. The presentation of WYD was as dated as a Gary Glitter song or a computer running DOS. We are in the Post Modern time, and have been for the past thirty years. Post Modernism itself arose out of the ruins of Modernism, whose theoretical basis was dismantled in the 1960s by anthropologists such as Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. In the past two decades we have had huge advances in understanding in linguistics, cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Building on this, philosophers such as Catherine Pickstock have demonstrated the unwisdom of tampering with the liturgy, and this is confirmed by empirical observation of the contemporary success of the Orthodox church, spectacularly in Russia.

Culture needs fixed points and the liturgy is one of them. A familiar and trivial example is the design of the Marmite jar, which has scarcely changed since the product was launched. It is now owned by Unilever, who employ advertising agencies who, unlike contemporary "liturgists", have to sell things and do so by using all the knowledge currently available. You can be sure that if they thought it would sell more Marmite, Unilever's advertising agency would have recommended a re-design, but they did not.

The Catholic church previously had what in the commercial world would have been described as a strong brand image, an identity sustained by bringing into play all the arts. No commercial agency would lightly throw away such a strength.

There is of course no reason why other forms of music can be used for worship - but they need to be outside the context of the Mass. As regards the music of the Mass itself, it is governed by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and Sacroscantum Concilium. To breach this norms is disobedient and a lapse in discipline. It is unfortunate that there seems to be tacit approval of this at the highest level, but that is an ancient problem and does not make it right.

1 kommentar:

True Colours sa...

Agreed. Your definition of 'modernism' and 'post-modernism' slices apart woolly-minded ideas of 'modern' and 'up-to-date' - which haven't changed in my life time, at least. If fields like technology and medicine are growing ever more advanced and complex, why should music be getting ever more simplified and dreary?
Besides, even if so-called 'modern' liturgy were modern, one of the things that has always drawn me to Christianity is its long history. If you go to visit a castle or similar heritage site, you can often see people in costumes of varying quality, re-enacting scenes of everyday life to show you how the castle would have been used a thousand years ago. Walking into a church you can see people using the building the way they would have done a thousand years ago, but it's not a reenactment. The robes, candles and incense are for real.
Churches need to stay abreast of present-day issues and be open to new ideas, but congregations need to feel reassured that God is eternal and outside fashion, and won't get 'all embarrassed' and start shifting his ground if he finds Himself off-trend.

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