Elizabeth Schiltz at Mirror of Justice has linked to an interview at The Chronicle of a married couple, both medeivalists at Notre Dame, speaking about the effect that Vatican II has had on liturgical music. While not always true, there does seem to be general consensus that, at the very least, the “spirit of Vatican II” caused a significant decline, or even abandonment, of liturgical music rich in theological content and beauty. Mediocre liturgical music, whether poor in content or execution, is a persistent problem.
Many seemed to think that the introduction of the new translation of the Roman missal would be the first of many remedies to a host of liturgical errors, music included. Benedict XVI has approved the extraordinary form to be celebrated in local parishes, and his striking words concerning the bleak condition of liturgical practice have been strong. But by and large, nothing has changed for liturgical music. We are still cheerfully asked, to our dismay, to turn our hymnals to “Gather Us In” at the processional; we are still confused by the odd theological twists and turns of “One Bread, One Body” at communion; we still must have the strange words, “I am the Lord of the dance, said he,” running through our heads for the remainder of Sunday. From the interview:
“The council did say the church valued all true art from any culture. However, what we’ve had is not so much the adoption of real traditions of music but the assumption that the only way to have congregational singing is to have pop songs written by amateurs. That has not produced a healthy tradition of congregational singing.”
It is difficult to discern the orientation to tradition in hymns like “On Eagles Wings,” and this may be a source of considerable frustration for some, but until these odd constructions from the 70s are heard no longer, we would do well to join in chorus praising, singing the Dies Irae, with Tony Esolen’s slight modifications:
Day of wrath, O day of mourning!
Earth to ashes now returning!
Gather, by millions, burning!
Smite them, Lord, yet of they pity
Take their songsters to thy city:
Even Haugen, Haas, and Schutte.
Spare them on the stern condition
That they feel a true contrition
For the Worship III edition.
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