Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Monday, 1 December 2008

I must decrease...

To subordinate oneself to the ritual, to the office, to the moment... that is the goal.
I feel in the on-going "negotiations" with my choir that we are no closer to their, or at least the movers and shakers amongst them, understanding that what we do is not about even the music, much less their performance of it, than we were when I started.
But how could it be?
So many of their models make every word and gesture about themselves. I read recently that one test of a well executed liturgy is that one has difficulty recalling the identity of the mortal personnel.
I don't think that's fair, as most of us have such a very limited pool from which our memories are populated.... sometimes the best are the most memorable, by virtue of the complete absence of idiosyncrasy. No "creativity", no personal touches.
I am struck, again and again when watching coverage on EWTN, at how different the Holy Father's demeanor during Mass or Vespers is from his demeanor in diplomatic meet-and-greets, or audiences, or jaunts in the pope-mobile. The enormous throne, splendidly lavish vestments, hordes of other MCs and deacons and acolytes, "big hats" -- coupled with his paradoxically fervent diffidence, (or diffident fervour?) they all only serve to aggrandize the moment rather than him. I think he is aware of that. I think those who have helped codify the rubrics and create the customs of what they recognized as a God-given sacred Liturgy, rather than something of their own devising, are aware of that.
Someone who knows more about these things than I told me once that the phrase "noble simplicity" has been much misunderstood, that in the Roman understanding, it refers not to plainness or starkness, (as those who have given us the sterile minimalism of much liturgical art, architecture, vestments, etc, of the past few decades seem to comprehend it,) but to a proportionate aesthetic, (of either complexity or simplicity,) by which attention is not directed where it ought not be.
A man's face hovering over a white, patternless polyester chasuble, over a white, patternless marble table, on a white, patternless floor, in a white, patternless room might as well be hit with a spot; it calls so much more attention to itself than the same face (or the back of a head? ;oP) in a sea of multi-coloured baroque ornamentation.

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