LITURGICAL MUSIC AND A HALF OF CENTURY OF LITURGICAL REFORM – EVALUATION AND PROSPECT

ThD. František Kunetka, Doc. /CZ/ - Palacky University Olomouc

The next year, exactly on the 11th October 2012, it will be the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council by the pope John XXIII. The draft document on liturgy has been treated as the first scheme. Even though this topic demanded it for its importance, it was not intended originally – nevertheless other drafts (e. g. on Church) had been prepared so insufficiently that their treatment had to be postponed.

The fruit of more than one year’s effort was adoption and edition of the Constitution on Liturgy (4th of December 1963); this one became the basic document for initiating and realising of the liturgical reform.

By its importance and its extent, the latter has joint two reforms of similar signification – the Carolingian one (8th century) and the reform introduced by the Council of Trent in the 16th century. These three reforms are linked by the fact that in their occurrence liturgical books were re-elaborated and published in which reform ideas were comprehended.

 

1. Liturgia reformanda – ecclesia reformanda

It is necessary to remark in general upon reformist tendencies in the history of the Church that a liturgical reform does not have be of such extent to lead to any specially, radical changes in the form of ceremonies. Such as the reform of the Church, a reform of liturgy is a permanent process. The Church as the pilgrim people of God lives in history influences it and is also influenced by. Every liturgical celebration is always inculturated into a concrete time, place, region, liturgy is always celebrated by quite specific participants; thus it has to be celebrated so that “a contemporary man with his truth could stand” (Guardini) in this action – that means in the truth of his being lived in quite concrete conditions.

But it is also necessary to take into account the second motion of the process and besides the inculturation to talk about the “culturation” of liturgy. This means that liturgy not only integrates itself into ambient culture and influences it, but that it is also being influenced by this culture, affected by it, therefore “cultured” and cultivated.

However, in the internal dimension of the Church interconnectedness between ecclesiology and liturgical theology will always remain a significant. The object of liturgical theology is not – as it might seem with half an eye – liturgy, that means some static and rigid object explored by this discipline, but – as Guardini says – ecclesia celebrans, that means the Church in one of its principal manifestations of life, the worshiping Church. Here we touch one of the key moments of the whole reform movement, whose efforts were then at the Second Vatican Council recognised, valued and accepted. Who is this ecclesia celebrans, acting as a liturgical subject? Is she the clergy? According to the Code of Canon law of 1917 (that was in force until 1983) only clergymen, that means the bearers of holy orders could officiate a liturgy; other believers could not officiate it and were only present. However, already since the beginning of the 20th century the whole theological and liturgical movement has assertively pointed out the fact that by virtue of Baptism and Confirmation every believer participates in the priestly mission of the Church (he has the so called baptismal or common priesthood). The Church as a whole is the priestly people of God, acting as such in the liturgy. Theatre needs audience, the liturgy, however, vigorously acting participants. One of the basic notions in the Constitution on liturgy is the notion of participatio actuosa (actuous participation). Let’s remark that the expression used here is not activa, but actuosa; and the adjectives finishing by –osus mean plenitude, in the sense of “being fulfilled”. Thus actuosus is not the same as activus. The term participatio actuosa does not mean a simple activism, but a fundamentally justified expression of priestly dignity of the whole assembly, acting as such “priestly” in the liturgy: each believer celebrates, each believer is liturgian (CIC 1144). Again, these concrete manifestations of participation during the celebration of liturgy result from the participation of each baptised in mystery of Christ – the only priest of the New Testament (in German for example this double aspect of participation may be expressed by words Teilnahme Teilhabe).

In its quite concrete steps in structural set of form of liturgy the present liturgical reform comes out from this concrete ecclesiology and is anchored in it. The form of the celebration of liturgy before this reform was a manifestation of another ecclesiology – the medieval, clerical one. It was the priest who celebrated the liturgy, he sufficed himself, he did not need any ministrants, the only sufficient liturgical book for him was the Missal; people were not necessarily taken into account. Instructions for mass celebration, for example, was its testimony, as still in the Missal of 1962 (this one is indeed still a mass-book of the Tridentine reform which has kept the medieval form of the mass also with its ecclesiology) the instruction about the beginning of the mass says: “The priest makes the Sign of the Cross… then he should no more return to anybody, but continue without uninterruptedly his (!) Mass until the end” (Ritus servandus in celebratione missae, III, 4). The instructions for the beginning of the mass in the contemporary Missal begin the description of the course of the mass by the formulation populo congregato (people being assembled); about the priest’s introductory greeting and about the people’s reply they state that by this dialogue “the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest” – Ecclesiae congregatae mysterium” (General instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 50).

As far as we are currently witnessing an attempt to return to the pre-counciliar liturgy, it should be noted that by the return to the previous form we are returning – without of our consciousness – to the former medieval ecclesiological concept in which this form of liturgy is rooted. However, from the historical, theological and liturgical point of view such return is not possible. History teach us that all tentative of and steps to return and re-domestication in an epoch that doesn’t exist – restoration tendencies at the end of the 19th century, expressed by histrionics in architecture and by cecilianism in music – anymore lead to exculturation, to alienation, and in the domain of arts then to a certain impotence and sterility.

 

2. Liturgical music – an integral part of liturgical events

This ecclesiological fact, namely that all the assembly is the subject of liturgical events, is then quite concretely manifested through the form of liturgical action. Let’s take an example of the mass-liturgy: it is not necessary to describe, for example, that they are approached to the altar – even if here we must admit that the so called mass-song from the times of Enlightenment tried at least by this way to approach the people to the liturgical action, that is to say to the mass “celebrated” by the priest – but during the Entrance we sing and express, for example by words of Psalm, our praise and thanksgiving for having the possibility to participate in communion with the others in the celebration; at the beginning of the Eucharistic part it is not necessary to describe that we are bringing offerings, but we accompany by singing, eventually by instrumental music the situation in which we really take the offerings of bread and wine in our hands and bring them to the altar. I don’t sing about God but I sing to God; I don’t sing during liturgy but I sing liturgy; I don’t describe a liturgical act but I officiate it and accompany it by singing.

Musical expression during liturgical action is thus its integral part. Music and singing shall intensify the God-human dialogue taking place during the liturgy they are in service of this mystery. The faith takes the form of music, as “the Word became flesh” (Ratzinger: Das Musikwerden des Glaubens ist ein Teil des Vorgangs des Fleischwerdung des Wortes).

The proper relationship of the musical and liturgical action is expressed by the title of the Instruction on liturgical music (1967) which is Instructio de musica in sacra Liturgia; but it is quoted – as usual – according to its’ introductory words “Musicam sacram”; the expression musica sacra signifies unambiguously liturgical music, this latter is “sacred” because it is a part of liturgical events. No kind of music art is excluded from this process; it must however correspond to “the spirit of liturgical celebration itself, to the nature of its individual parts, and does not to hinder the active participation of the people” (art. 9). It is true that in the official documents – for the last time in General instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) – the importance and pride of place of Gregorian chant are enthroned; nevertheless, by adding the parenthesis ceteris paribus (under the same conditions), the concrete situation and possibilities of the celebrating community are always pointed out. Theoretically it is possible to prefer the Gregorian choral chant, but the practical circumstances may decide on using another composition. The very definition of the Gregorian chant as “proper to the Roman liturgy” (cantus proprius liturgiae romanae) is opened, in a way, as it doesn’t exclude that Roman liturgy can consider other kinds of liturgical music and chant as its proper as well.

It is also important to mention that those, who exercise the ministry of cantor and musicians during liturgy, exercise “a genuine liturgical function” (verum ministerium liturgicum) (SC 29); they officiate it as members of people of God (laos), therefore as laymen – they don’t stand for the clerics. The interdiction of participation of women in [Church] choirs, included yet in the document of the pope Pius X from 1903 considering that singers take the place of clerics, appears as a total anachronism. The musicians and singers officiate their ministry in benefit of community they help others in their active participation. They are part of the community (pars communitatis congregatae), but they hold here a particular service (munus peculiare) (MS, no. 23). The chant is surely a matter of the whole community. Nevertheless we can conceive that in particular cases this activity is assumed by chanters who are then singing “on behalf” of the whole community, they are singing “in its name”; we call that principle of the “legitimate vicarity”. However it doesn’t mean that the active participation of the others is being interrupted. There is an active listening, as we know it for example from the liturgy of Word during the recitation of biblical readings. The question of “vicarity” and “inner participation” must be delicately dealt in a dialogue of liturgians as well as musicians.

If we should to characterise the general situation in liturgy fifty years after the council in our surroundings, we can conclude that this, to these days, the last liturgical reform on the whole-Church level had been accepted positively: simplification of liturgical forms, comprehensible liturgical language, active participation of believers resulting from their baptismal consecration, adoption of a new ecclesiological paradigm – this all has been accepted quite spontaneously in our regions.

 

3. Concrete issues – prospects and targets

Let’s, in this final part, look at the specific music issues. We wouldn’t take stock of present existing production in the field of liturgical music – let’s reserve such an evaluation to musicologists. Let’s determine, however, which possibilities of music equipment are provided by contemporary liturgy and how could the creative musicians could realise these possibilities. Let’s name three groups of liturgical types:

 

A/ Mass-liturgy

The classical Mass sets to music the parts of so called Ordinary; this term reflects the fact that these texts, despite differences of Mass formulas, remain invariable. Yet, this cycle of chants began to be formed in its most known form only with the birth of polyphonic music; a manuscript from the 9th century Musica disciplina by Aurélien de Reaumé enumerates as chants for Mass: Introitus, Kyrie, Gloria, Graduale, Alleluia, Offertory-chant and Communion-chant – among other Sanctus and Benedictus are missing, as they hadn’t been understood as chants but as continuation of cantilated Preface (cf. XVIII Ordinarium for the ferial days of the Seasons of Advent and Lent).

The cycle of the Ordinary as such hasn’t any inner coherence – for two reasons namely. The fact, that certain texts remain unchangeable, ordinary, doesn’t suffice to create a unity. The second reason is still more important: these chants are of very different origins, they have a different liturgical function, and thus also a different form. (Kyrie is a relic of prayer of faithful that disappeared from the Mass at the end of the antiquity, Gloria is a hymn from the Matins, Creed is taken from the baptismal liturgy, Sanctus and Benedictus are parts of the Eucharistic prayer, Agnus is a fractorium, a chant accompanying the breaking of the bread; from the point of view of the form Kyrie and Agnus are acclamations – they aren’t penitential texts, their number is open, Gloria and Sanctus/ Benedictus are hymns – rather perhaps hymnical acclamations, Creed is a celebration of professio fidei, a celebrative enumeration of Divine acts). It is obvious that this classical cycle loses its original rank and classification, for single elements of the Mass liturgy have to be evaluated in terms of the function that they have in particular liturgical type. That’s why, in no. 36 and 37, the Instruction to the contemporary Missal talks about the texts belonging to the whole assembly and being expression of its participation (Act of penitence, Confession of faith, Our Father, Prayer of the faithful), other texts are then divided into those forming a self-standing rite or act (Gloria, responsorial Psalm, acclamation before the Gospel, Sanctus, acclamation after consecratory words, chant of thanksgiving after Holy Communion) and those accompanying other rite (Entrance chant, Offertory chant, chant to the Fraction, Communion chant).

What possibilities and targets are there in the field of compositions destined for the Mass?

- If the authors wanted to create compositions destined for the Mass, they needn’t to be bonded by the usual cycle – even if obviously it is not excluded. Many successful musical arrangements of some Mass texts were created in the past years – whether of the classical Ordinary or even of the Proprium (processional chants).

- Open remains the field of creation of new textual and musical compositions in the area of the spiritual folk chant.

- It is possible to create the cycles of chants of the so called Proprium, i.e. Entrance chant, responsorial Psalm, chant before the Gospel, Offertory and Communion chants – according to the liturgical Season or to the feasts.

- In the future, perhaps a new cycle of chants in the Eucharistic prayer could arise, which would include Sanctus (in the future possibly without Hosanna and Benedictus), the acclamation after consecratory words and the Doxology.

- What at present, perhaps, is lacking, are the chants of thanksgiving after Communion – this chant should be distinguished from Communion chant.

- What possibilities the contemporary form of the Mass liturgy does offer for the church musicians, this means to organists, to the choir and to the orchestra?

- Organ music can be used besides accompanying of singing also in the form of improvisation before the beginning of the Mass, during bringing the offertories, after the end of the Mass – where a musically and liturgically erudite organist has the possibility to express the character of the liturgical Season, resp. the feast.

- The classical Mass (Ordinary) could be performed during the liturgy on special occasions, if it weren’t an extremely long composition; however, it would be necessary to make some changes in the placement of individual parts: Kyrie, which is a chant by which “the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy” (Instruction, n. 52) could sounded during the entrance procession, Gloria would remain in place, however, Creed would have to be left out, the other parts would be moved to the distribution of the Holy Communion.

 

B) Other types of the sacramental liturgy

- For the liturgy of baptism it is possible to create the compositions of chants for processions which would link individual parts of this liturgy: before the liturgy of the Word, during coming to the baptismal font, during coming to the altar, and then the closing chant.

- For the marriage ceremony it is possible to create, beside the opening and closing chants, a composition which will sound after the liturgy of the Word and then after the solemn prayer upon married couple.

- For the ceremonies of diaconal, priest and episcopal ordination it is possible to set to music the text of the so called Proprium.

 

C) Non-sacramental liturgical types

- For the funeral liturgy it would be possible to set to music Kyrie, Agnus and the chants of Proprium. A great opportunity is the so called “chant for farewell” (cantus valedictionis) which is a part of the “last farewell rite” (ultima commendatio et valedictio) where it constitutes its culmination.

- During the self-standing liturgy of the Word there is the sufficient space for using new compositions.

- For the Liturgy of the Hours (Liturgia horarum) an integral composition is conceivable – especially in the case of the Matins and the Vespers (laudes, vesperae).

- For the other non-sacramental types, which are mostly connected with the Mass (Ceremonies of dedication of the Church and altar, Ceremonies of vows and other), it is always possible to set to music the texts of s.c. Proprium, consisting of the antiphon with the Psalm or creating the self-standing composition.

- Other possibilities are brought by the various rites of benediction contained in the liturgical book The blessings (De benedictionibus).

 

4. Sensus ecclesiasticus – sensus liturgicus – sensus musicus

The present state of liturgical music and chant in our territory can be evaluated positively. With few exceptions, the liturgical reform started by the Second Vatican Council has been accepted quite spontaneously and positively. The cyrillo-methodian tradition of Slavonic liturgy, the textual and musical thesaurus of popular spiritual songs utilized in liturgy, and also the latter-day efforts of liturgical movement from the Enlightenment until the half of the 20th century have surely played their role. As it is considered that believers have a sensus ecclesiasticus, this sentire cum ecclesia, it is in the same time possible to disclose and confirm their sensus liturgicus inextricably linked with the former, the capacity of believers to sentire cum liturgia, especially in our regions naturally linked with a sensus musicus, more or less refined. This latter has surfaced – at least here in Moravia – for example by non-acceptance of the mode of application of Gregorian melodies on the Czech texts (on many places often favoured), but on the contrary by an unambiguous inclination to create new compositions for texts in national languages.

However, the acceptance of the form of renewed liturgy has a theological context. Because it is an expression of will of the local Church community – to accept and hold responsibly the role of subject of liturgical celebration and to exercise it consciously through participation in its musical equipment; but this doesn’t exclude a sensitive application “principle of vicarity”. It is important to understand that the function of liturgical celebration is not to saturate the individual religious needs, but that this celebration is an act of the gathered community. Thus the contemporary form of renewed liturgy can be a successful expression of mission of the whole priestly people of God fulfilled by the celebration of liturgy: to be an accepter of God’s lovely self-sharing and to respond to it by praise and thanksgiving.

Certain attempts to stop the development in the liturgical field, to bring it back and return it to the epoch which doesn’t historically and sociologically exist anymore – this represents an anthropological, sociological, historical, liturgical and theological misunderstanding. Church as community of believers in Christ – and just here in the ecclesial-liturgical field, there is a very important an ecumenical aspect – is obliged to perceive the signs of the times and to interpret them in the light of Gospel. Liturgy as one of the manifestations of Church’s life – together with the martyria and diaconia – cannot get off from this current of history and isolate itself.

Liturgical celebration, to which music and chant belong as its integral parts, has to be an authentic manifestation of Church in this historical epoch and in this particular cultural context. Very admiration, honour and thanks should be rendered to the artists, musicians and composers willing to engage in creating musical appearance of this manifestation.

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