Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cantate Domino

So this weekend I finally got to do some Gregorian Chant at Mass. It was
Laetare Sunday which is the midway point of Lent, and it is so called because of the Introit which begins "Laetare Ierusalem, et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam." (Rejoice Jerusalem, and come together all you who love her.) What I have realized about chanting is that it is difficult not because the notes are tough, but because it flows without a real rhythm almost as a feather dropped from a high point drifts to the ground. It was very gratifying, though, I have to admit.

I found myself becoming nervous that the congregation would be frustrated with sitting while we chanted Psalm verses in Latin, all the while not being able to sing, because after all, singing is one of the joys of being a Christian. But in reality, there are parts of the Mass that are not meant for congregational singing, like the gradual, the offertory, and the communion chant. Unfortunately, we have lost the sense of who has what role in the Mass. What used to be clearly defined roles of priest, server, choir, and congregation often is now simply priest and congregation, while the choir really serves only to lead the congregation in singing. I even see the old ladies sitting in the front pew saying the Eucharistic prayer along with Father, so it would appear that even in some cases the role of priest and congregation is being blurred.

So, what I plan on doing the next time we chant (which will be this coming Sunday) is making sure the congregation is familiar with the chants of the ordinary (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Pater Noster), the gospel acclamation, and the memorial acclamation in the Eucharistic prayer. Given time and practice, it should become second nature for the people, and I know they can chant because they do wonderfully with the two chants they are most familiar with (the Our Father and the Agnus Dei).

Pope Benedict has called on us to once again put Gregorian Chant back into its rightful place of honor in Mass. The way I look at it, what we are doing is mandated from the top, so what do I have to worry about?

Cantate Domino canticum novum;
Cantate Domino omnis terra.
Cantate Domino benedicite nomini eius;
Adnuntiate diem de die salutare eius. - Psalm 95 (96):1-2


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