Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Why Can't We All Just Get Along....but to My WAY?!?"

Consider the lilies, the swallows…not even Solomon in all his glory was so adorned. (No quotes, just paraphrasing as I recall His words.) The flip side, my words: Look at the images of the birds on this blog’s masthead. How many are still flying I wonder? Most of the images of the saints and sinners that adorn blogs have arrived to their reward or will do so at some point of time. This isn’t meant to be morbid in the slightest. We believers in Christ push on, whether dragging through the mud and waste or flying in concert with the Spirit, confident in faith that a “reward” does, indeed, await.

I personally believe that there is a sublime reality that escapes our notice about one particular endeavor we enjoy from God’s bounty that also escapes death. Whether this re-creation is rewarded with a hellish posterity, an ignorant, interminable limbo, or received into glory, dunno. Of course, I’m speaking of music. I mean, how couldn’t I feel this way based upon the blog title? “Music is the greatest gift of God.”

Notice I’ve never qualified that. It’s not “some music,” “my music,” “your music,” “our music” and most certainly not “God’s music.” He’s passed that. Who of us that has consciously put the muse to the pen or the recording device hasn’t secretly acknowledged that we were gifted to be the sharers, or “authors” of our tunes and harmonies from the one who created this aspect of the cosmos and spread it out upon the ether.

Here’s the point. I believe it’s basically a vanity and therefore pointless to use this gift as any form of tool or weapon to advance our truly heartfelt, informed and even righteous agendae and thus lambaste any and all perceived adversaries to our self-proclaimed truths in an effort to (what?) simply prevail upon others. And doing so seems to me a remarkably counterproductive waste of time (that is also a gift) if we are to be fully invested in evangelizing our neighbors and strangers to the whole of the Gospels. To be clear, I have no enmity towards sharing the bounty of our Catholic Church’s wise counsel that, at worship, we are inheritors and benefit from the unique and mysterious charms and priceless treasure that are revealed in chant, polyphony and other truly sacred forms of music.

On the other hand, if we cannot in good conscience deny that God is the sole author of grace and operates in His time and wisdom, then should any soul in pain, doubt and darkness who cries out for solace, reconciliation and forgiveness, and salvation have those prayers rejected by God’s ordained ministers? It’s about the sacraments, silly (to paraphrase President Clinton in irony.) But, if that same soul is hanging by a thread to the Christian life and asks for a sip of water that musically is known as “Be not afraid,” who are we to deny that? (I’m reminded of another irony in the hymn-tune PLEADING SAVIOR; “Father, if it be possible….) Are we to declare to that pleading soul, “Why sure, sinner-man, as long as it’s chanted and in Latin, ‘you down with “Nolite timere?”

Well, the way I see it going down at least for another four decades of wandering is that great strides will be made towards restoring solemnity and dignity to the performance of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass as sung in the vernaculars. But they will continue to be sung in the vernaculars by and large. And bar the highly unlikely scenario of an official reckoning with the IGRM/GIRM, proper texts may be restored to their appropriate roles at the processionals, graduals, alleluia/tracts/sequences more pervasively and hopefully persuasively, but that will never come at the expense of the use of strophic hymnody (as opposed to liturgical hymnody) and religious song whose paraphrased textual source may align to the proper calendar, as well as the vast body of both poetical and scriptural allusion lyrics. These latter forms, Frankenstein-monster-spawn of the Freemason Bugnini or not, have been taken up by more than one undisciplined, laconic and spiritually-undernourished generation. And they now own these songs and a great many of the hymns that they “get.” And those of us chant TRUE BELIEVERS that want our Quick Remedy Wagon surplus bought en masse right now by the unwashed PIPs are prone to that time-honored curial penchant for forked-tongue-ed “you can have your cake and eat it too” rhetoric in our spiels and appeals.

Of course the people are to sing their appointed portions of the liturgy, as long as they’re those of the chanted Latin settings appropriate to the seasons and occasions (huh?). But if you can’t master much more than the Death Mass in Latin or even English, don’t worry, we, THE SCHOLA, will cover for ya, no problem. You just listen real hard, contemplate, watch and pray. And now that you know those bold fonted thingy’s called antiphons in the missalettes actually mean something, just trust us that they’re more attuned to the scriptural lessons than all that sacropop syrup those hippies have spoon fed you, and we’ll sing them real purdy, and not just at the “gathering, preparation and feasting” parts, but we’ll sing them ourselves between the readings and dazzle ourselves with our florid gymnastics that will make Christina Aguilera even more embarrassed and jealous of her obvious lack of ornamental skills. But wait, what? You want to take part too? Watch and pray isn’t working for you? Okay, then, we can do that. Here, we’ve got tons of vernacular chant propers and ordinaries that are “Lite,” you’ll get the hang of ‘em real soon. But wait, what? No, you can’t sing “On Eagles’ Wings” ever again. Here, I’ve got a 400 word treatise on why it doesn’t even qualify as an “alius cantus aptus,” so there! But wait, what’s an “alius cantus aptus?” Well, look it up ‘cause I’m done with schooling you all, and “Beagles’ Wings” ain’t one of ‘em in any case. Trust me! I mean it, TRUST ME!

I think I’ve exhausted the point. Make no mistake about it or me. If I could attend a solemn Latin High Mass in EF every day, that’s how I’d worship. You heard it here by these lips, “Ed Schaefer was right.” (Look it up.) Some of us eventually have to make a hard and fast choice. But equating our choice with imposing same upon others isn’t good medicine for all like cod liver or castor oil. It is more akin to the cliche about teaching the pig to sing. But guess which of the two protagonists in that cliche is more pig headed? Slow and steady as she goes, hope and pray and nourish the poor and teach them to swim in waters that are moving and not in pools. But don’t expect them to do a swan dive off a high cliff right behind you because you can come up and breathe afterwards to applause (which is, of course, meant to be no applause.)

Get used to the Big Tent having more than one ring in the circus maximus for a few more decades, my friends.


Kathleen Pluth said...

I think you are right, Charles. I wonder sometimes if the earnest desire to present the ideal leaves reality shivering out in the cold.

On the other hand, maybe I should adjust my air conditioner.

Thanks for the shout out for hymnody. Best wishes for a beautiful Corpus Christi!

Charles Culbreth said...

As long as each soul recognizes that the rite they've enjoined was evidently, and to them experiencially, the Holy Mass, then WE need to come to terms with a warm, breathing reality that "Plenty good room" doesn't mess with our own personal karma, er, sensibilities.
You too, Sis.

Ron Rolling said...

This is an extremely accurate observation. No amount of intellectual stimuli is going to replace the emotional investment the PIP have to how they have or will continue to experience the OF. "The heart has reasons that reason alone cannot express." We who are church musicians, with our limited time, energy, and resources, do have to nourish the flock as much as the pastor. While at times we can feed them with something of more substance at times, we do have to realize we had better be careful, lest we cause spiritual indigestion. Yet, we know the bare bones recipe we have can always be "kicked up a notch."

We still need to give them a better taste than "Taste And See". But we still need to sate that appetite.

Roger Brown said...

Great Charles! You alway say I'll be able to remain contemporary Rog until my expiration date! I appreciate your words and thoughts reflecting the reality of those of us who flew in and out the opened windows of Vat II and somehow lost our apprectiation for the days of our youth in Latin and incense. Your openness to other's experience of God in the face of talented and trained musicians and liturgists is admirable. CR