HE OPENING Mass of this year’s Colloquium was offered beautifully and spiritually by Fr. Jason Schumer. In Wednesday’s keynote lecture, Fr. Schumer again addressed the Colloquium participants, this time sharing with us the initial conclusions of his ongoing doctoral research.
At the heart of his lecture was asking this question: How does the liturgy grow? This foundational question broke into smaller questions. For example, are there principles of development? Is liturgical development a natural process or a supernatural process? Is it accidental or intentional?
The lecture included a helpful placement of the Roman Rite in its historical context. It also afforded nice summaries of the perspectives of several theologians. It centered almost exclusively on the Mass, to the exclusion of any real discussion of the Divine Office.
In its conclusions, the lecture seemed to say that the Church exercises extreme power over the liturgy. Because this is so, one could say that the liturgy is highly adaptable. Yet, the question of what can be changed, Fr. Schumer was careful to say, is quite different from the question of what ought to be changed.
Schumer continued this point by saying that the gulf between the possible and the prudent is wide. It is a matter of the Church’s prudence that she observes organic development with regard to changes in the liturgy. This was an interesting point I had not previously considered, namely: when we speak about “organic development” in the sacred liturgy, it should be understood as a limitation on development, rather than a promoter of development. Said another way, “organic development” is a suppressant on change, rather than its agitator.
The final conclusion of the lecture was that there have been periods in church history (including, but not limited to, the 1960’s) when sweeping changes were made to the sacred liturgy, and it is hard to reconcile sweeping change with the overall pattern of organic development that has been at work between the Last Supper and the modern age.
Another highlight from Wednesday was having lunch with Joel Morehouse, a music director in Syracuse, NY. Joel contributes to NLM, and our readers may enjoy this interesting new article by him about the work of the CMAA.
Joel participated with me in the New Music breakout sessions, which are the final aspect of the Colloquium that I will share with you today. This workshop is a feature of every Colloquium, but the character changes each year with the variety of composers who participate. The idea is that Colloquium participants are invited to bring with them new compositions to share with the group and receive constructive criticism. Moderated by David Hughes, this workshop surfaces many excellent ideas that help to refine the compositions throughout the week. At the end of the week, then, there is a New Music Reading Session, during which a wider group of Colloquium participants gathers to sing through the pieces and offer feedback.
I have always attended the final reading session, but this is the first year I have participated in the daily workshop. It was a wonderful experience for me. As a novice composer, I learned a great deal from listening to the struggles, intentions, and criticisms of the more sage composers in the group. A number of the new works we sampled are truly excellent, and each of them were improved by means of the collaborative process we undertook. Those who attend the reading session on Thursday afternoon will be impressed, I think, but those of us who participated in the process of clarifying revision received an added gift.
Colloquium week is filled with so many opportunities and blessings. Look for more tomorrow.