Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Mass is not entertainment

Or so quoth Cardinal Francis Arinze (Zenit, which gives selections from an interview with Inside the Vatican.)

Regarding "music in the liturgy, we should start by saying that Gregorian music is the Church's precious heritage," he said. "It should stay. It should not be banished. If therefore in a particular diocese or country, no one hears Gregorian music anymore, then somebody has made a mistake somewhere.
YES! :-D And a pox on those who equate a desire for Gregorian chant to Restoration and a betrayal of the Council. Such folks haven't actually read Sacrosanctum Concilium too carefully, methinks. But, a long way to go -- you won't see much Gregorian chant from OCP and GIA. And I suspect the knowledge of parish musicians in this area is minimal. It's Christ the King this Sunday -- how many parishes will sing "Vexilla Regis Prodeunt?"
"However, "the Church is not saying that everything should be Gregorian music," the cardinal clarified. "There is room for music which respects that language, that culture, that people. There is room for that too, and the present books say that is a matter for the bishops' conference, because it generally goes beyond the boundaries of one diocese."The ideal thing is that the bishops would have a liturgical music commission which looks at the wording and the music of the hymns. And when the commission is satisfied, judgment is brought to the bishops for approval, in the name of the rest of the conference."What should not be the case, insists the Nigerian cardinal, is "individuals just composing anything and singing it in church. This is not right at all -- no matter how talented the individual is.

That brings us to the question of the instruments to be used."The local church should be conscious that church worship is not really the same as what we sing in a bar, or what we sing in a convention for youth. Therefore it should influence the type of instrument used, the type of music used.

"Suitability"

I will not now pronounce and say never guitar; that would be rather severe," Cardinal Arinze added. "But much of guitar music may not be suitable at all for the Mass. Yet, it is possible to think of some guitar music that would be suitable, not as the ordinary one we get every time, [but with] the visit of a special group, etc.""The judgment would be left to the bishops of the area. It is wiser that way," he pointed out. "Also, because there are other instruments in many countries which are not used in Italy or in Ireland, for instance.
You know, I hope there is never an outright ban of guitar music. That would be idiotic. And an extreme reaction to the rightful criticism of parts of this repertoir. There's nothing wrong with guitars per se.

"People don't come to Mass in order to be entertained. They come to Mass to adore God, to thank him, to ask pardon for sins, and to ask for other things that they need"
I could be really really really petty and say, "and receive the Lord in Holy Communion," but I'm sure the good Cardinal doesn't think this is ancillary to the celebration of the Lord's day!

5 comments:

assiniboine said...

"People don't come to Mass in order to be entertained. They come to Mass to adore God, to thank him, to ask pardon for sins, and to ask for other things that they need"I could be really really really petty and say, "and receive the Lord in Holy Communion," but I'm sure the good Cardinal doesn't think this is ancillary to the celebration of the Lord's day!



An excuse for shoddy liturgy. God doesn’t mind when he is shabbily praised? I doubt it!

Let me tell you a little story. Whenever I have a visitor from overseas who passes through Sydney, I of course take them to Mass at St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral. As I have previously said, its liturgy is the best Christianity that I know.

Anglican and United Church of Canada friends of course react as one might expect: “God is here and God is glorified!” Muslim friends less predictably say, “I do not know if it is proper to say it …but this magnificent thing place glorifies the God…this is a holy place!”

Gashwin said...

What is an excuse for shoddy liturgy? Could you clarify a bit?

Whenever I make it to Australia (and I certainly plan to. Some day. There's you, of course, and a good friend from college who's settled in Adelaide) I shall have to visit Sydney's RC Cathedral.

I simply cannot stand a certain style of modern architechutres that make a church look like a conference hall, or a spaceship about to take off, or a large Hershey's Kiss.

pritcher said...

i've "always" (does 4 and a hald years count as always?) been partial to guitar music at mass, mostly because i associate it with a congregation that's singing, not just standing there dutifully holding a hymnal open to the right page and mouthing along.

but then that may have more to do with the particularly good community in which i came into the church, and not so much the particular instruments that happened to be used there.

still, they go together in my mind.

assiniboine said...

That it's not supposed to be entertainment -- good music and good ceremonial and good ritual presumably being entertaining.

To return to a point made in some post a long time ago in quoting the letter from Rome, though -- not true at all that the proposed re-revision of the gloria etc don't fit any music now in use. Goes very well with the forms which were used in the years just after Vatican II -- Douai Bible English, essentially (and rather corresponding to the Book of Common Prayer for obvious reasons). So the Missa de Angelis works; so do all kinds of other settings of the Latin texts, with very minor adaptation.

Gashwin said...

I do think you misunderstood. Entertainment is not the goal here. Mass isn't just performance or theater for the sake of performance. In the US, in the evangelical megachurches, this is the biggest criticism: that it reduces Christian worship to a rock concert where people go to get entertained. These ideas are prevalent in the Catholic world as well -- that it's just the music or just the preaching or "what can I get out of it" and so on.

I think the good Cardinal was reacting to this attitude. This does not mean that one makes the mass (in your usage) "unentertaining" and therefore shoddy.