ISHOP RUDOLF GRABER, who participated in the Second Vatican Council, asked in 1985: “Where do the conciliar texts speak of communion in the hand, for example, or where do they enjoin the so-called altar facing the people, which is scant testimony to that ‘giving perfect glory to God’ which the liturgy constitution says (paragraph 5) is the goal and purpose of worship? The answer is: Nowhere.” From the testimony of Father Robert Skeris, we learn that Graber went on to mention other items in the same category: elimination of the subdiaconate and the four minor orders; the monotonous enumeration of “Sundays in ordinary time”; de facto abandonment of Latin as liturgical language of the western Church; elimination of the second imposition of hands during priestly ordination, and many others. If Bishop Graber (1903-1992) were alive, he might be surprised to see that so many “pre-conciliar” items—Communion under one species and replying AMEN, congregational singing, extraordinary ministers, the congregational Pax, and so forth—have now been forbidden by the same bishops who previously said such items were absolutely crucial.
Covid-19 has caused choirmasters enormous difficulties. Here in Los Angeles, we have been “locked down” since March: restaurants closed, gyms closed, parks closed, nightly police curfew, and so on. There are constant changes to what we are permitted to do. Last Sunday, we sang some plainsong accompanied by the organ. Here’s an excerpt:
We tried to add a little “solemnity” to this piece by having the ladies sing a perfect fifth above on every other verse, as you can (marker 0:22) hear:
(That style mimics “organum” but—despite what some erroneously claim—it isn’t. Authentic organum is a mixture of fifths, fourths, and octaves.)
When Does Christmas End?
When does the season of Christmas end? Dom Prosper Guéranger was quite clear: “We apply the name of CHRISTMAS to the forty days, which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25th, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2nd.” In my article on the difficult Christmas feasts, we spoke about how the Consilium ad Exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia [“Commission to implement the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”] could not decide when the Christmas season ended. Bishop Graber spoke of the monotonous enumeration of “Sundays in ordinary time”—that’s because prior to the Second Vatican Council, Sundays had a “marked character” (either post Epiphaniam or post Pentecosten). In the Ordinary Form, “tempus per annum” begins after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and many people think shortening the season of Christmas like that is an impoverishment. As far as the Extraordinary Form is concerned, the season of Christmas lasts until 2 February.
We are not allowed to sing English during the High Mass, so we often sing Latin words to the melodies in the Brébeuf hymnal. Sometimes the Brébeuf Hymnal “demonstrates” how this can be done by providing English and Latin:
Here’s how that piece sounds—recognize the tune?
* Mp3 Download • Brébeuf Hymn #761
—We are not allowed to sing English during the High Mass.
When it comes to great hymns for Christmas, Epiphany, and Ordinary Time (“per annum”), the Brébeuf hymnal is peerless. If that book had been available when I started as a Church musician, my life would have been so much easier and perhaps I wouldn’t have the physical problems I currently do, which were a result of extreme stress. I cannot think of any Catholic hymnal that comes close to the Brébeuf in terms of quality…it truly is on a pedestal.