Y ORIGINAL INTENT was to listen to Father Fryar’s talk, given as a keynote address at the recent Sacred Music Symposium 2022, and to take some brief notes so as to do a ‘cliff notes’ version of it. But upon listening to it, I knew I could not just do a brief outline of the talk. There were just too many ‘aha’ moments and gems of wisdom, and valuable insights…
Many Hours Spent! • I ended up transcribing each and every word from Father Fryar’s talk, and even though it took many hours, I relished the process. Moreover, I had time to ponder all the insights and thoughts from a priest who has obviously thought long—and prayed hard about—what it is that is needed to make Sacred Music … sacred.
What I Took Away • If you’ve ever wondered how to get a deeper appreciation and to restore a sense of awe and wonder at your role as a musician, choir director or choir member in the Church, read the whole transcription of the talk, listen to a recording of it, ponder and reflect upon it, and you’ll find that there is strength and joy for the journey ahead. Of course if you still want an outline of the talk, here is my humble offering :
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Everything that is used for the Mass, is blessed, consecrated and dedicated specifically for Holy Mass; e.g. the accoutrements used upon the altar, the altar cloth, the beeswax candles, the linen, the chalice, the paten, the cruets etc., are all meant to be set apart for the worship of God and therefore they should be the most valuable, be in the purest state, be of the best quality, so as to better represent and reflect the qualities of God; qualities such as Beauty, Purity, Timelessness, Strength, the Omniscience of God.
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Therefore, we too, as choir members, as musicians, as music and choir directors, are ‘set apart’, called to sanctity, for the specific purpose of Holy Mass. The music has to reflect that value and beauty.
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We have to represent the angels not just in the choir, but in our own lives. In the lives we live. We have to strive to be as pure as we can, as holy as we can…to sing from a pure heart, to live a pure life. We have to strive to be humble and not to be ‘performing’ from a place of pride.
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We should try to reflect the beauty of God, to have a certain quality about us such that people can tell that we are distinguishable as choir members, in the way we try to live. So we should prepare, not just the music that we sing and direct, but we should keep in mind our spiritual preparation as well…we should try to keep our souls as pure and as holy as we possibly can, so as to better represent the angels.
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Among our choir members, we should strive for Charity and Harmony among the members. A united, harmonious choir will sing and sound better.
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The choir director should lead by example. People need to see that we live a purity of life that inspires. Joy, Devotion, Love, Patience…all these and more should emanate from our lives and the way we live.
Most surprising learning point • I had never before heard of the teaching of ex opere operantis and ex opere operato. So, it was surprising to me that my role as a choir member and a choir director, in fact my responsibility at ensuring that I kept my soul pure and my faith strong, and my thoughts turned towards the good… all these were more important than I ever realized. I had a part to play in the amount of graces that were available to the congregation at that particular Mass where I served. How, you ask? Well…
Google This! • So, as Father Fryar mentioned, the Mass has all the graces from Calvary, there, from the Mass itself, and the Latin phrase for it is ‘ex opere operato’. Google it. I did. I had to read it several times over, and I’m still trying to digest all that it means….but suffice to say, there is a huge amount of grace available at every Mass, in the Mass itself.
Everything Else • Then there is the ‘ex opere operantis’ which is everything else to do with the Mass. So, if the music, the architecture, the accoutrements, etc. are beautiful, valuable, pure and extremely fitting for the Mass, the result of all that is that we all benefit from more graces just out of attending that particular Mass. Conversely, if the priest or altar servers are in a state of mortal sin, or the chalice used is made out of an inferior material like plastic, or if the choir members are living immoral lives, then everyone who attends that Mass is shortchanged … is deprived of all the graces that could have come from attending that Mass. It is amazing to think that we have the privilege of helping every single person in the congregation grow closer to God in the liturgy and in the Mass just from us being aware that we need to live these virtues in our lives. We have an important part to play in how much of the graces can be received at that particular celebration of the Mass!
That being said, PLEASE read the whole transcript or listen to a recording of the talk. It is very good.