As we return to public Mass and we labour under continued restrictions, music directors are trying to figure out what is possible when it comes to liturgical music. Here are a few possibilities.
A Sung Mass with one Cantor. In Scotland, the guidance from the bishops allows for a cantor to be used ‘at a distance.’ I am not a scientist but as a singer, I know that for possibly centuries, we have been using a breath control exercise which involves singing without extinguishing a candle at mouth level. If the candle does not go out, I wonder how much singing really propels droplets. Anyway, due to the inability to have servers and therefore incense etc, a Low Mass with the ordinary and propers sung by one cantor/organist is possible. The congregation are not allowed to sing and should not join in with the ordinary of the Mass- under the guidelines.
An Organ Mass. This is not the alternatim practice of baroque France but rather an instrumental version of what would have been the most common practice in preconcilliar Scotland, a Low Mass with Hymns. Where once hymns would have been sung, up to the Introit, during the Offertory, Communion and at the end of Mass, organ music is played (Fortescue, pg 177). This is a long standing tradition in Catholic music which the French call it a ‘Messe Basse’ and there are pieces of music written for the purpose. I have even read that the French symphonic repertoire, with its four movements or parts in each opus were written to fit the Procession, Offertory, Communion and Sortie of the Mass. Organ music can also be played between the elevation and the Pater Noster and adapting music written for an alternatim Mass such as Couperin’s Messe pour les couvents can be effective as can the elevation toccatas of Italian composers like Frescobaldi and Zipoli. An accomplished organist may also improvise these pieces of music as is done every Sunday at the weekly Organ Mass at St Jame’s, Spanish Place, London. It should be pointed out that while my default is the Traditional Latin Mass, it is possible to achieve a similar effect in the Novus Ordo although with some alterations because all of the prayers except the offertory, if you are lucky, are read aloud. The ‘Introit’ piece/improvisation would have to end when the priest reaches the altar and the offertory would not be as long but communion and ‘sortie’ music should work without issue.
Some may ask, why bother, why not just have a Low Mass. Well, the Church has been the primary patron of the arts for most of Her history. Why? Because God is worth the maximum beauty that we can offer and because sacred music lifts the heart and mind to God- the chant most fully as is clothes the sacred silence and provides an exposition of the text in sound, and other music after that. Sunday is different. We can steep ourselves in the silence of the Low Mass during the week but Sunday is the Lord’s day and deserves the most solemnity that we can achieve.
So, there are my thoughts on Sacred Music in Lockdown Liturgy.
I will be playing an Organ Mass tomorrow, with the following music.
Introit- (Up to the Introit)- ‘Duo’, Suite du Premier Ton, Louis Nicolas Clérambault
Offertory- ‘Récit de Nazard’ Suite du Deuxieme Ton, Louis Nicolas Clérambault
Communion- ‘Récits de Cromorne et de Cornet séparé en Dialogue’, Suite du Premier Ton, Louis Nicolas Clérambault
Sortie- ‘Grand plein jeu’, Suite du Premier Ton, Louis Nicolas Clérambault
Clérambault was organist of the Church of St Sulpice, Paris. He died in 1749.
A great prayer exercise for those involved in sacred music is to meditate on the texts of the propers (the changing prayers of the Mass) using the chant.
The western chant repertoire of the Church is an amalgamation of chants belonging to the different western rites, the final corpus being delineated by Pope Gregory the Great in the late 9th Century- giving it the nickname ‘Gregorian Chant.’ It would be a mistake to think that this is the beginning of the chant repertoire- the same mistake as thinking that the Tridentine Mass originates from the Council of Trent which simply codified and standardised the Latin Rite which can be traced back to the Apostles. Continue reading “Exaudi Domine, V Sunday after Pentecost”
We find ourselves in a situation where we need to keep the liturgies of Holy Week at home. This sort of situation is not unprecedented. My thoughts are drawn to the recusant Catholics of the Anglican persecution, the true Church in China and other underground Christians and even His Eminence Cardinal Pell who has been denied the right to offer the Holy Sacrifice for many months.
Rather than becoming angry and frustrated, let us resign ourselves to the permissive will of God as did Our Lady during the Passion. We should make the most of this opportunity to grow in our understanding and practice of the faith.
Collect for Saturday in Passion Week
We beseech Thee, O Lord, may Thy devoted people grow in the spirit of pious devotion, that learned in the holy rites, they may become the more pleasing to Thy majesty as they abound in spiritual gifts. Through Christ Our Lord…
In the Pearce household, we have greatly benefited from praying in union with livestreamed Masses and we are grateful to all priests who have made the liturgy available to us, especially the FSSP at Livemass.net. For Holy Week, however, we have decided not to livestream Mass but to do what we can to be present to the liturgy in our own home- a time for us to up our ‘Ecclesia Domestica’ game. (For that is our WiFi name after all!)
Below I have provided notes on how this can be done at home. Some points to consider:
We don’t have to try to replicate liturgical perfection at home. The point of this is to pray and absorb the theology of the ancient prayers and chants.
This is an example of the maximum that can be done. If your kids get restless, cut things out and read them privately once they are in bed. The point here is to celebrate what we can and not to overdo things and put our families off. Better to do less for the greatest spiritual payoff than to try to do everything and end up with tantrums. It is consistent with my Benedictine spirituality to adapt things to the needs of those participating rather than making unattainable demands.
We don’t allow toys in our home chapel but we do allow anything that we would pack in the Mass bag. Age appropriate books and colouring sheets are a good idea and since the ceremonies are longer than usual, we will allow a little more moving around than at the family rosary each evening.
For those who can’t sing the liturgy, I have compiled playlists. These could even be used outside of the prayer time to keep a recollected atmosphere throughout the day.
Texts for each liturgy can be found here by selecting rubrics pre-1955 and selecting ‘Sancta Missa’ at the top of the page. Another option would be to print the relevant pages from a pre-1955 Missal such as the Fr Lasance Missal.
Resources: Either sing or listen to chants using playlist here. Chant can be seen and printed here. Generally speaking, chants in Latin, readings and orations in English. Fr Lasance Missal pg388 onwards.
Asperges III- Father of the family sprinkles home altar and family with holy water.
Antiphon. Hosanna filio David followed by prayer- Deus Quem Diligere
Lesson from Exodus 15
Ant. In Monte Oliveti
Father reads Gospel
Always replace Dominus Vobiscum with V. Domine exaudi orationem meam. R. Et clamor meus ad te veniat
Father reads through the blessings- Only a priest can command a blessing of an object but we can still pray that God will bless the palms/branches that we have prepared. We also benefit from the rich theology of the ancient prayers.
Sing the Sanctus.
Sing Pueri Hebraeorum while the Father hands branches to each family member in order.
Procession- (The door of the prayer room/chapel is closed when the last person leaves.) The Father can lead with a large crucifix if one is available. Think of a reasonable procession route that includes parts of the house and garden.
Sing Gloria, Laus et honor tibi sit during the procession.
Return to the prayer room/chapel in time for the ending of the hymn. (If your family is large enough, you could have some inside the chapel as in the rubrics of the missal, if not just continue).
The family wait outside the closed door of the chapel/prayer room.
The father knocks three times on the closed door with the foot of the large crucifix. (He could just knock if no such crucifix is available.)
Sing Ant. Ingrediente upon re-entering the room.
N.B. You may decide here to skip to your time of spiritual communion depending on how the kids are doing.
The Missa Sicca proper
Follow the missal as is.
The reading of the passion.
Option 1- Read the full Passion. C-Mother, S- All, + – Father OR (if your kids are getting restless by now!)
At what would be a low Mass, the Passion is substituted for the Gospel that is read before the blessing of the palms. You may decide that since you already read this earlier, you may omit it and give a summary of the passion in your own words for the benefit of the children.
Sing the Credo
Sing the offertory
After the offertory, select some prayers from offertory of the Mass to prepare for a spiritual communion. (Suggestion- Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, asking God to receive all the Masses throughout the world. The preface could be read and the Sanctus sung. Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Act of Spiritual Communion, silence.)
Finish the prayers of the Mass. End with Benedicamus Domino in place of Ite Missa Est
I will post the same sort of resource for the Sacred Triduum in due course.
Today marks the end of the Christmas season, but before taking down the tree and putting away the crib for another year, we have the beautiful feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Candlemas.
A few years ago I was asked to give a lecture on the development not Sacred Music and its place in the liturgy. I considered writing this up as a series of articles, but Dr Kwasniewski has posted a lecture, remarkably similar to mine but better!
Today is the feast of the Holy Family. Here is the Immaculate Heart of Mary Schola joined by a few of the monks of Papa Stronsay singing Vespers of this feast day in 2019. You can follow with this booklet. The hymn at 18.02 is particularly beautiful.
The collect of the feast is a mission statement for every family:
COLLECT O Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified home life with untold virtues by being subject to Mary and Joseph. May they assist us to imitate the example of Your Holy Family, so that we may share with them their eternal happiness; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .
“Come, Holy Spirit, Creator Blest.” (Veni Creator) PLENARY INDULGENCE if recited on the first of January or on the feast of the Pentecost. Otherwise, a partial indulgence is granted to those who recite it. No 61 Enchiridion of Indulgences.
Conditions: Holy Commuion , Confession, Prayers for the Pope’s intentions (Ave, Pater, Gloria Patri).
During Advent, the Sacred Liturgy is replete with references to the Blessed Virgin Mary who bore the Word Made Flesh in Her womb. From prophesies about the tender shoot that came from the root of Jesse to chant motifs appearing in the propers, Our Lady is evoked and invoked continually.
Today, I was astounded to learn that the origin of the Hail Mary that we pray so regularly finds its origin in the offertory chant of today’s Mass. I was aware that the ‘Holy Mary Mother of God’ part of the prayer was added later but according to the liturgical scholar Fr Lasance, the first time that the angelic salutation (Hail Mary) and the greeting of St Elizabeth (Blessed art thou among women) were placed together was in the offertory chant of today’s Mass.
This chant dates back to the Gregorian Antiphonary (compiled by Pope Gregory the Great, 6th century) used in the early Roman basilicas which was widely considered to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore untouchable- and we sang it this morning!