Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pride of Place: Gregorian Chant

Catholic Exchange had the following article on the use of Gregorian Chant in the Church. I myself have bemoaned the lack of use of chant and really miss it. On the occasions that we do use it in our parish I never fail to feel uplifted and recapture that sense of the divine that quite frankly is missing in so many of the post-V2 tunes that pass for hymns these days. I've written before about Chant, and have researched for myself the writings of the Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium (116) that states “the Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as especially suited to the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” No where does V2 state that "Chant is's's old...and we're new and hip now so we must use guitar/tambourine/banjo-riddled feel-good esteem-building ditties."
Would that we'd stop trying to be like the world, that is unceasingly flocking towards the "new" and the "modern", and keep our foot firmly placed on the strong foundations of our predecessors.
So now I was in the odd situation where I was hearing Gregorian chant at home, but not in church. That was until one Friday night during Lent at Stations of the Cross. I knelt before the tabernacle to pray before the start of Stations. And that is when I heard it. First it echoed through the church. Then it echoed through my heart and soothed my soul with songs so lovely and so joyous that that there might well have been choirs of angels singing and lifting me upon their wings for flight. This sacred music lifted my prayers to a higher plane.
But it did more than that. It rooted those in the church with a solid sense of spiritual unity and rich tradition. At one point, I glanced quickly around at fellow worshippers. With faces all aglow and sparkling eyes, they let me know with approving nods that their joy was equal to, if not surpassing mine. Because Gregorian chant is the traditional music of the Church, it unites us to the Church. This unity was there that night at Stations because an individual in church said yes to Rome, and in saying yes to Rome, thus said yes to Christ. Just as Our Lady surrendered all to God in her "fiat" (“let it be done to me according to thy word”) and Christ surrendered all to God at Gethsemane (“Father, not my will but Thy will be done”), so we are called to surrender everything to the Father — even the music that we play in church and at Mass.
Gregorian chant opens the door between heaven and earth and rather than bringing the world into the church (which some pop Christian music can) it lifts us up toward heaven. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) expounded on the problems with pop music in his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy: “Pop aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and...has to be described as a cult of the banal” (p. 148). And because it is banal, no matter the good intent, pop music can stifle our yearning for holiness and block our journey in spiritual depth.
Unlike popular music, Gregorian chant is not banal. It is holy. And because it is holy, it helps make us holy. Gregorian chant is named after Pope Gregory I, and is part of our rich Catholic heritage. The sacredness of this music has stuck to the church and helped to transform the souls of saints through the ages. Just as the sacredness of this music has stuck to the church, so it sticks to the soul.


At 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. Bongos are out, too, I hope..


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