Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tradition of Chant in the Roman Rite-Summary

Dr. Weber's talk on Sunday was fascinating. I thought he'd be done in a half-hour, maybe forty-five minutes. Nope! He took material from two class sections, and talked till just about 3:00 PM. He started at just after 1:30...wow!

He began by telling us that his title was misleading, and rhetorically suggested alternative names for his talk. Why? Dr. Weber emphatically declared that chant is the liturgy. To separate them is to suggest that chant is a nice layer that was only later added to the liturgy. Rather, the sung liturgy was present in the early days of the Church. I use the word recite here in several places because the texts aren't always clear...we have gaps in our understanding.

Dr. Weber explained the Jewish liturgy that was known to the Apostles. It was divided into two halves, taking place at different times on the Sabbath. The first consisted of prayers, the recitation of the Sh'ma, and concluded with the Kaddish, a prayer remarkably similar to the Our Father. Then, a second service was celebrated, coinciding with the sacrifices in the Temple. It consisted of prayers of blessings, and ended with the recitation of Isaiah 6:3, "Holy, holy, holy Lord of Hosts; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory."

That is the introduction to the Christian Sanctus, which takes us to the worship at the Holy Sepulchre around the start of the fifth century. Prayers were conducted outside at dawn, including the recitation of the Psalms. Then, the monks went back inside to pray more. Clearly the Divine Office was present, as an heirloom from the Apostolic custom to pray at the Temple alongside the Jews at specified hours.

The Spanish nun on pilgrimage to Jerusalem referenced by the good 'professor' did not mention the celebration of the sacred mysteries, but did explain that they returned later in the day to pray at the shrine of the Crucifixion in a manner again resembling the Divine Office.

The celebration of the Eucharist in the Roman Rite is most thoroughly laid out in the 600s, following the work of St. Gregory the Great to develop the liturgy. He provided a thorough description of the general liturgical praxis at the Lateran Basilica for the Supreme Pontiff in the notes, and referred to the Mass as sung in the station churches. Pretty much the entire Roman Rite was laid out, complete with books for the Office, and the propers and the Ordinary of the Mass. The only thing missing at this time are the Sequentia and the Agnus Dei. By the 10th and 9th centuries, respectively, these are placed in the liturgy.

Dr. Weber then detailed the celebrations at Salisbury and Worcester Cathedrals in the high Middle Ages. So we think processing to an entrance hymn and/or the Introit is long? Bah! The processions at Salisbury would have lasted hours before the Mass, and the celebration of the Mass was concentrated in the choir. It was elaborate, and was chanted.

At Worcester, they chanted as the canons processed around the town. Yep, the town! Someone asked how long the Sarum Mass would have lasted. I directed them to the Youtube videos of Candlemas, celebrated at the University of Oxford in 1997. I argue that the ancient English uses need no permission for priests to use being much, much older than the latest edition of the Missal codified in 1570, as amended (the Tridentine Mass...). Hopefully, the Ordinariate could use these, depending on where they live. A Scot would use the Aberdeen use in Aberdeen, those in York the Use of York, Hereford for those territories, Bangor for parts of Wales, and Sarum for much of England.

Dr. Weber also explained the origins of musical notation, solfedge, and the evolution of teaching chant. Anne, being the resident Ward Method part two teacher at Immaculata and a devotee of sacred music, attended, and explained that the early medieval innovation that accompanied neumes and solfedge was basically the Ward Method! "Nothing new under the sun," was my reply. (OK so it's not exact, I'm sure.)

I asked about the Sequences, since Dr. Weber didn't dwell on these during his talk. And, I also asked about getting the congregation, especially at Masses in the traditional form, to sing. People just don't know they can, it seems. St. Martin's can be a church of exceptions; normally the issue is they don't like it at the TLM! But, we're trying. Fr. Beach said that in the seminary, they had to go to chapel twice daily for the office and again for Mass. The choirmaster taught them how to sing by ordering them to sing so they could hear their neighbors. He suggested that we might try that if we are afraid or we aren't musically skilled.

Dr. Weber relayed his colleague's words: If you don't know the propers, you're not doing your job. Right on.

Sing the Mass!

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