Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Liturgy & Hymnody Review: A Roman Perspective

Joncas, Jan Michael. From Sacred Song to Ritual Music: Twentieth-Century Understandings of Roman Catholic Worship Music. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997. 115 Pages. Paper. $16.95. http://www.litpress.org/ (LH)

I like being a fly on the wall. Often, one can learn a lot from overhearing the discussions from another Christian tradition. The Lord gave us two ears and one mouth. That should teach us something. Fr. Jan Michael Joncas lets Lutherans like me hear what's been going on in Roman Catholic worship music since Vatican II.

"From Sacred Song to Ritual Music identifies the shifts in understanding that have led to significant changes in Roman Catholic worship music theory and practice during the twentieth century.

"In this guide, nine documents are chosen to answer five questions for the future: What is Roman-Catholic worship music? What is its purpose? What are its qualities? Who makes it? and How should it be played?

"Father Joncas documents the changing attitudes about Roman Catholic worship music in papal, conciliar, and curial documents for the Roman Rite throughout the world, and then narrows his focus to bishops' conference and scholarly documents produced in the United States. The nine documents he examines are Tra le sollecitudini, Musicae sacrae disciplina, De musica sacra et sacra liturgia ad mentem litterarum Pii Papae XII "Musicae sacrae disciplina" et "Mediator Dei," Sacrosanctum Concilium, Musicam Sacram, Music in Catholic Worship, Liturgical Music Today, The Milwaukee Symposia for Church Composers: A Ten-Year Report, and The Snowbird Statement on Catholic Liturgical Music. He concludes with reflections on the theories and practices marking the United States' liturgical renewal.

"From Sacred Song to Ritual Music clearly identifies for Roman Catholic church musicians, pastors, and liturgists the revolution that has occurred both in theory and in practice this century. Father Joncas shows that these nine documents are a source of inspiration and encouragement for all who generate, participate in, lead, sustain, and evaluate the worship music of the Roman rite in its journey "from sacred song to ritual music."

"Jan Michael Joncas is assistant professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota. He holds liturgy degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the Pontifical Liturgical Institute. He has served in parish work and campus ministry and is a composer and editor of liturgical music" (publisher's website).

I do appreciate the "long view" found in true churchmen and patient, pastoral, theologians and practitioners of Christian liturgy and hymnody.

"And also with you" has become nearly universal among liturgical protestants at a time when Roman liturgies are leaving behind experimental forms and returning (in a way) to a better translation of the Latin "et cum spirituo tuo," "And with your spirit," the form proposed in the LCMS Hymnal Supplement 98 for use in the next LCMS hymnal, a hymnal project that produced Lutheran Service Book in 2006. Unfortunately, Commission on Worship members changed and so did the opinion on  this liturgical language.

What does this mean for a Lutheran fly on the wall? We're not the only ones having discussions, disagreements, and frankly, disasters on some Sunday mornings. The Twentieth Century had its share of revolutions (113) in nearly every realm of American society. Our struggle as Christians is to be in the world but not of the world. And faithfully watch, patiently wait, and receive our Lord's good Gifts until the life to come.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.