Marvelous piece in the current Adoremus Bulletin by the Guido Marini of the Western Hemisphere, Fr Scott Haynes of the Canons Regular of St John Cantius.
Go read the whole thang...
The serious study of the liturgical music of the Catholic Church — namely Gregorian Chant, polyphony and those modern forms of music that are consonant with the Church’s liturgical spirit and tradition — is of utmost importance in the education of a Church musician.
Catholic musicians must revere the treasury of sacred liturgical music. As the philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand observed, we should “fear to abandon the prayers and postures and music that have been approved by so many saints throughout the Christian era and delivered to us as a precious heritage. The illusion that we can replace the Gregorian chant, with its inspired hymns and rhythms … betrays a ridiculous self-assurance and lack of knowledge”.
The constant teaching of the Magisterium, underlined in the teaching of Vatican II, has reiterated that Catholics should receive the Sacred Liturgy, with its renowned tradition of sacred music, as food for the soul.
As French Cistercian Abbot Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard wrote, “The Church uses her chant and her ceremonies to appeal to the sense faculties, and to reach, through them, the souls of her children more fully, and to give to their wills a more effective presentation of the true goods, and raise them up more surely, more easily, and more completely to God”.
By analogy, as a child embraces the spoon that his mother puts into his mouth, he savors the food that his mother has prepared for him. In like manner, as children of the Heavenly Father, we too must earnestly hunger for the milk of our Holy Mother the Church, the truths of our faith that are lovingly prepared for us in the Eucharistic Banquet, so that fortified by all that is true, good and beautiful, our hearts, minds and voices might harmoniously resound with the voice of our Mother the Church, and return a joyful song unto the Lord.
When we have this sort of disposition, then we can come to know what the psalmist calls “the beauty of holiness” (Ps 29:2). The Divine Liturgy is the consummation of love between Christ and His Church, between Bridegroom and Bride, which is filled with song and replete with melody.
Because the liturgy peels back the veil of time so that we might come to see the Lord face to face, the formation of Church musicians cannot be limited to the study of theory, history or to the perfection of musicianship. Pastoral musicians must be drawn into an intimate contact with the Word of God, both through the Sacred Scripture and ultimately through the Holy Eucharist.
The Word of God must form in us mature Christian wisdom, to give us a relish and taste for the things of God. If we are to have clear perceptions of reality, we must know the eternal value of the Sacred Liturgy. If we can experience the music of the liturgy in this manner, then we follow the axiom based on the thought of Saint Augustine of Hippo, “he who sings well, prays twice”.
To sing well is to sing with a heart that is on fire for God. Our earthly music, no matter how refined it is in our vision, or how imperfect it may be in God’s, will be pleasing to Him only when we truly become mirrors of charity. As Benedictine Father Stephen Thuis wrote in 1952, “It is of interest to note that today we are experiencing a revived appreciation of plainchant. This, then, would indicate … that we are in the midst of a reawakening of the religious spirit”.
Church musicians are exhorted to follow the advice of Pope Saint Pius X, who counseled pastoral musicians, before making music before the Lord, to pray and meditate on the sacred words of the liturgy entrusted to the choir. If the renewal of liturgical music today is to bear lasting fruit, then each of us must cultivate a liturgical piety based on profound and prayerful meditation on the Word.
Listening to God
A very ancient art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as Lectio Divina or “divine reading” — a slow, contemplative reading and praying of the Scriptures — which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God. This ancient practice has been kept alive in the monastic tradition, and is one of the inherent benefits of celebrating the liturgy with Gregorian Chant.
In his rule, Saint Benedict says that the art of Lectio Divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear with the ear of our hearts. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves the opportunity to listen for the “still, small voice” of God (I Kings 19:12), which is God’s voice touching our hearts.