About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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“It is most important that when the faithful assist at the sacred ceremonies … they should sing alternately with the clergy or the choir, as it is prescribed.”
— Pope Pius XI, "Divini Cultus" (20 Dec 1928) §9

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Entering the Mainstream Conversation
published 14 August 2015 by Richard J. Clark

HOSE OF US who are deeply passionate about Gregorian Chant, Renaissance polyphony, and the propers are often left to share such conversations among ourselves. Perhaps our interest is considered “on the fringe.” Likewise, those of us with such passions are also quick to dismiss “mainstream” liturgical practices of which we may not approve. What is important is to have the conversation. Only speaking to those with whom we agree is a form of “Intellectual incest” which only reaffirms our own established notions. From this practice we do not learn. We do not grow.

Most important is to examine what practices truly bear fruit. What needs reform? What needs to be done away with? What needs to be fostered, nurtured, or held in higher esteem? With fifty years of distance from Vatican II, what do we better understand now?

HE 2010 ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, Third Edition, and its chants shook up the mainstream conversation enormously. It is one that may very well continue for years. Lest we forget, it was Pope Saint John Paul II who promulgated the Third Edition in 2000 and established the new norms for translation with Liturgiam authenticam (LA). Now, and for years to come, we are shaped and formed by Pope Saint John Paul’s decision. This is always worthy of conversation.

Furthermore, Pope Benedict XVI shook up the conversation in many ways, especially with his 2007 Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, but these elements are still often considered on the fringe. Cardinal Sarah’s recent letter is not likely to make many waves in the mainstream. Sarah, who was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis, may likely see many of his points dismissed. But they should not be as they address the very heart and substance of full and active participation–Participatio actuosa–and entering into the mystery. Beyond the externals of facing East (as presumed by the GIRM!) the common ground Sarah expresses with regard to the liturgy’s very essence is enormous.

This is quite worthy of a wider conversation:

The liturgy in action is thus none other than the work of Christ in action. The liturgy is in its essence actio Christi: “the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God” (§5 SC). He is the high priest, the true subject, the true protagonist of the liturgy (cf. §7 Ibid). If this vital principle is not embraced in faith, one risks reducing the liturgy to a human action, to the community’s celebration of itself.

OST PEOPLE WE SERVE are not concerned about the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Rubrics, or the rules of Liturgiam authenticam. But the faithful do care deeply about matters of the heart. They care deeply about the scriptures. They care deeply about relationship with God and with each other. They care deeply about the heart entering into the Mystery, consciously or otherwise. If what we offer is cheap or trite, will it take root in the long run? Our young people are smarter than that. Ultimately, the root of substance digs deep and bears great fruit.

Can we have a conversation about that?