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Friday, 10 July 2009

"Noble Simplicity"

I read something about the authentic meaning of the phrase "noble simplicity" years ago when I first realized what a treasure the internet could be to anyone with an esoteric interest or unusual longing (what a sad commentary, that orthopraxy seems to qualify on both counts, even among the putatively "practicing,") and cannot remember the source, or the exact wording.

Having googled, I yet come up empty, but I did find this blog post with a little anecdote on the subject (and with a little reassurance in the combox, as well -- I am not alone in dealing with my alternately feeble and obstreperously ill-behaved recall of persons, places and pithily presented pensees.)
The phrase 'noble simplicity' is often quoted by those who love the Pauline reforms... I remember many years ago when I was a seminarian visiting [another priest], himself then just newly ordained, .... there was an Italian Salesian staying there, and he commented to me:
You Anglo-Saxons misunderstand this word 'simplicity'. In its latinate context it does not mean 'plain' or 'sober', but rather 'unified', 'harmonious'. So plain vestments in a plain church building are 'simple'. Baroque vestments in a baroque church are 'simple'.
I wonder if instead of "simplicity" of form, we would not do better to say "integrity."
Not being Italian, (or German.... there was some disagreement on the point as the thread progressed,) though hardly Anglo-Saxon either, (my Polish/Norman/Irish/African could generate enough power to light up St Peter's with their spinning, if such a calumny reached their ears,) I need to take this on faith, but it makes sense to me.

And embracing such a definition would clean up a a surprising amount of the mess we are in liturgically.

I myself am a reluctant practitioner of the "blended" liturgy, which is about as far from integrity of form, and "noble simplicity" as can be imagined.

A hodgepodge pleases no one.

The average liturgy is to that ideal liturgy for which we should be striving, as a camel is to a horse.

In fact the constant careening from speech to song is, if you think about it this way, perhaps even more than the mulligan stew of musical styles, the greatest offense against noble simplicity, the largest problem that must be dealt with.

If any of my 2.3 regular readers is more conversant in romanita, I would love to hear from you on this concept of Noble Simplicity.

3 comments:

Charles said...

This 0.3 portion has nuthin' on Nobili simplicitate. I do know a great deal about calumny, though, as I'm constantly confessing mine for likely the same circumstances that confound you in our respective duties. Thank God Fr. Pasley was available! He gets it.

Aristotle A. Esguerra said...

Nothing to say in the realm of noble simplicity, but it makes sense to me. It obviously made sense to Pugin, who designed vestments for the churches that he designed.

Echoing on this:

"In fact the constant careening from speech to song is, if you think about it this way, perhaps even more than the mulligan stew of musical styles, the greatest offense against noble simplicity, the largest problem that must be dealt with."

Hear, hear.

As I've said elsewhere, the OF English Mass celebrated by Fr. Keyes on Tuesday of the 2009-edition Colloquium is now the standard by which I judge all OF Masses. Without exception. (And, let it be said, many EF Sung Masses as well.)

I wonder if a through-sung liturgy could take a bit of the edge off of the clashes of music styles…or even expose some of them for what they're worth, one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if a through-sung liturgy could take a bit of the edge off of the clashes of music styles…or even expose some of them for what they're worth, one way or the other."

I think your instinct is right, it would.
Generally, the inexperienced have trouble envisioning things in context, you see it in theater all the time, people with "great ideas" that, on their feet, are absurd.
But in theater a "full dress" usually brings everyone, (or at least enough people,) to their senses, to strike unwieldy sets, replace ugly costumes, cut unworkable songs, eliminate unfunny bits.
We have no such luxury at Mass, we don't "run through" the entire things with all the participants.
No one has the luxury ahead of time of seeing, for instance, that some blast of happy-clappy music, coming out of silence is ludicrous, but so thwarts recollection that any subsequent silence becomes impossible.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as Context for the "great ideas" priests, liturgist, musicians, and committee-going wannabes often seems to be forgotten.
Yet liturgical musicians responsible for the Whole are often, if not usually at the whim of dabblers who insist on isolated Parts.
I am in thorough agreement about Fr. Keyes presidential skills and the other half of the equation, the CMAA Braintrust's music selection for the Mass.
I can say this in the relative privacy of a combox -- Fr Keyes is an aberration, completely out of step with the rest of his society, almost to the point of being a laughingstock in some quarters.
It is as great sign of the Holy Spirit's influence on our lives that Father's liturgical skills and sensibilities are as they are with the formation he would have had, as any miracle I can imagine.
(Without my usual sign-off, for deniability :oP)

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