Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Worship of the Lord is the Primary End of the Liturgy

The Vivace Newsletter contained this article today, I don't think Mr Mawby, an admirable contemporary composer of liturgical and other sacred music, will mind its reproduction here
Vivace! 124 March 2014
God-Centred or Man-Centred?

I was recently employed as the Editor of a Hymn Book published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd. The meetings of the Editorial Committee were extremely interesting and there was much discussion on whether contemporary hymns had been too man-centred.

This question not only applies to hymns, it is basic to a consideration of liturgy and its purpose. Pope Benedict - when he was still a Cardinal - stated that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of liturgy. He wrote that the worship of God is its prime end, all else is secondary. This is a profound statement that should help shape contemporary views on liturgical worship.

It throws into perspective some contemporary hymns that have been written since Vatican 2. So many have concentrated on the condition of men, women and their needs. There is undoubtedly a place for this but there is a far greater demand for hymns centred upon our Creator. The texts of hymns should be primarily concentrated on God and not on mankind. Scientific discovery has given us a far greater knowledge of the wonder of our Creator: this should inspire us to write hymns of worship and not those of supplication – please God give me what I want, preferably today!

Pope Benedict’s remarks also apply to the composition of liturgical music. Much of it is written in a style unsuited to worship: it sets out to appeal to congregations using styles that have no place in liturgy. I have no doubt that Gregorian chant is the ideal liturgical music. It has a sense of prayer that transcends time and space. The best polyphony is also suited to worship but music that is written in a catchy pop style clearly isn’t. Much contemporary hymnody is fine but a lot of it is banal, lowest common denominator, junk. There is a wide difference between sacred and pop and, however hard you try, it is not really possible to adapt the latter to worship. Church music should appeal to the spirituality of people and not to their baser instincts.

Pope Benedict’s statement also affects the ritual of worship and the posture of the priest. One is regularly left with the impression that the Celebrant of a Mass is performing rather than praying; so intent upon making the message attractive that he manages to obliterate any sense of worship. [Amen.(This is Scelata talking). Monday the celebrant at the Mass I heard could not resist a libellous joke about St Katherine Drexel's religious colleagues. And he couldn't wait until his homily to share it with us, it appeared in his 'introductory remarks'] [An item allowed in the Order of Mass with which I am growing increasingly impatient.].

The editorial committee of the Mayhew Hymn Book posed a most important question: its implications are vast and these need to be considered with great care. I pray that a balance will be struck and that the worship of God will be placed in its correct perspective. Praising our Creator is of far greater importance than praying for the needs of mankind.

Colin Mawby KSG
Let us hope that his (and the Pope Emeritus's [sp?punc?]) opinion prevailed at that editorial board meeting. (I am assuming that any topic which provoked "much discussion" did not find the participants in that discussion enjoying ...unanimity.

No comments: