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Sacred Music Colloquium XXI

Here, my friends, is the solution - the only cure: the sacred liturgy and its arts. Everything is in order. Let all mortal flesh keep silence. Politics recedes as worship advances. The 21st century, ever present, matters but little; evil times are vanquished with surprising ease.

Comments (9)

Hey, I see our choir director in there!

Thanks, Jeff. Beautiful and excellent. The kind of pause we all need to take.

Agreed. Holy songs of all religions are the cure. The sacred songs of Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Hindus are some of the most beautiful sounds. They still the anarchy of the mind and replace it with the peace of the soul. May we make more time to listen to sounds of the sacred. Create Silence.

Jeff, your intro is memorable, every sentence, "politics recedes as religion advances" especially. Thanks

Jeff, thanks for reminding me. We have GOT to get my family up there. (Not me, I cannot sing a note. But the rest of the gang can.)

In a healthy world, people would be champing at the bit to be the best they can be at singing for God, in whatever forum they have available. Gregorian chant is among the noblest of these options, and this forum is among the best available anywhere.

Anna Newton, do Hindus sing to many gods, or to the one God?

Thank goodness Catholics (some of them, anyway) are doing their best to maintain this great tradition.

Protestants have always been more ambivalent about the place of music in liturgical celebration, once it goes beyond simple hymns. I remember reading that some of Bach's fellow parishioners were terribly shocked by the *St. Matthew Passion* - opera brought into the church! they cried.

Bach doesn't seem to have been ambivalent. I mean, he was Bach. In fact, the Lutherans did, to put it mildly, a lot for church music in those centuries.

I think Steve is right, with respect to the broad scope of history, but it must be admitted that the Catholic Church was rather slow to accept anything other than Gregorian Chant into the sacred liturgy. Even the organ, to this day, is considered mere decoration: the essential thing is the choir. For a time, Rome resisted even the works of Palestrina, though he is now regarded as the Church's pre-eminent doctor of music. Nevertheless the genius of Catholicism is its ability to claim and absorb all that is good, true and beautiful in the world - though never without the necessary trials.

Lydia is also right about the Lutheran musical tradition, especially with respect to chorales. Lutheranism mastered the chorale. The Anglicans, too, contributed mightily to sacred liturgy in the west, and hymns of Anglican origin are common today even in the context of the traditional Latin Mass. Interestingly, although Bach was commissioned to write music for both Catholic and Lutheran liturgies, much of what he composed was never intended for actual worship. His Mass in B minor is a work of art, but not suited as a whole for the liturgy itself. The problem is that both Lutheranism and Anglicanism are, in their official doctrine, indifferent (if not hostile) to the idea of a sacred tradition, so they have no theological justification for preserving and advancing their own musical tradition. The Catholic Church is picking up the baton.

Of course, much hymn music arose out of Christian traditions (e.g. Methodism) that simply don't have liturgies at all. So naturally their musical tradition is not liturgical. This has nothing to do with suspicion of music (they loved music) and everything to do with suspicion of liturgy. It's a different musical kettle of fish altogether and gave rise to whole genres (e.g., much of the hymn literature) that probably wouldn't exist otherwise. Of course, one may wish they didn't, though I don't happen to take that view.

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