AM SURE MANY OF US have heard or read that “Gregorian Chant should be given a pride of place (or main place) among different style of church music”. If not, here is the exact quote from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no.116:
The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
This phrase is not invented by myself or some “liturgists”, it comes directly from the Second Vatican Council. Are we doing what the Council asked us to do? Some of us are, but most of us probably don’t hear Gregorian chant in Catholic churches these days. How exactly, then, can we give Gregorian chant a pride of place?
There are many articles with very practical advice on our blog about how to chant or introduce chant to a parish. So instead of listing out advice and methods, I would like to write a reflection in the style of an “examination of conscience”. I believe that spirit behind the term, “pride of place”, is greater than just singing at Mass or chanting the Propers. We can find out whether we have given Gregorian chant its pride of place in our parish by reflecting on the following questions:
1. Are we singing the Gregorian Propers and Ordinaries, which is specially suited to the Roman Liturgy, at our parish Masses?
2. Do we understand the texts of the chant and fully express them through our voices?
3. Gregorian chant and prayer are inseparable, are we praying when we chant?
4. Do we sing the Gregorian Ordinaries proper to each liturgical season? Or are we doing the minimum by chanting Missa de Angelis or Missa Jubilate Deo every week?
5. Do we spend enough time to practice Gregorian chant so that we can improve our techniques? Do we take advantage of conferences and workshops to further study the art of chant?
6. Other than chanting the Propers and Ordinaries, do we make use of the Gregorian hymns for different liturgical seasons and devotions?
7. Do we study the symbols, voicing and other traditions of the chant repertoire?
8. When we are given the opportunities to improvise on the organ, how often do we improvise on Gregorian melodies?
9. Are we familiar enough with the repertoire to be able to point out the hidden chant melodies in polyphonies and other works?
10. Are we doing our best in rehearsals and the liturgies so that we can touch people’s heart with the beauty of Gregorian chant?
These are some questions I asked myself to see if I truly grasp the true spirit of Gregorian chant, the true meaning of “pride of place”. If we put chant in a pride of place, we will realize that Gregorian chant is a very rich repertoire and you can never get bored with it.