Glory to God

This morning I was given an early Advent present.

I had heard a few months ago that the bishops of the United States had decided parishes could begin using the musical settings of the new revised translation in September, so that people could begin learning the translations before Advent came and the complete revised missal went into effect.  But I hadn’t realized that my parish would choose to do so!

I was thinking about the revised translation as I drove to Mass, thinking how close we were and wondering what the first Sunday of Advent would be like across the country.  It was much to my surprise, then, when I got to church, that there were handouts in the pews with the chants for the revised Gloria, Sanctus, and Memorial Acclamation, with a note detailing the permission of the bishops, the fact that more of the parts would be changing but that we were beginning learning these musical settings now, etc.  The Agnus Dei isn’t changing, but the revised Missal contains a chant setting for that, too, which was included on the sheet.

So this morning, for the first time, I sang the revised Mass parts.  The revised Mass parts about which I’ve been lecturing for the past few months, I’ve been reading about for the last few years, and the Church has been working on for many, many, many years.

You know what?  They were beautiful.

Was the whole church singing?  No.  (Does the whole church sing the Gloria normally? … no.)

Does that mean it’s horrible?  Doomed?  Destroying our community?

…No.

Will it take time for us to learn them?  Sure.

While I’m guessing choir directors and “music ministers” are stressing out about finding the best Mass setting with which to teach the text to their people, after this morning I can confidently say that singing the chant setting provided in the Missal itself will make it easier for us to learn the revised texts.

The people at my parish are already familiar with the “tune” of the Mass from Jubilate Deo (found here), so the English chant “tune” came very naturally to us.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet there are more people in the pews familiar with the Jubilate Deo setting (or “Missa Primativa”) of the Sanctus or Agnus Dei than many priests think.

While I understand the crucial need to catechize the people in the pew at this time (believe me, I do…) I think that many people’s focus is in the wrong place.  People are wasting oxygen and space on the World Wide Web complaining that these changes are too hard, that they’re being rushed, that they’re coming at a bad time, that people are going to reject them, yadda yadda yadda.

The changes aren’t hard.  And if anyone leaves the Church over them, they’re leaving the Church for a lot of other reasons and using the “changes” as an excuse.

(I hate saying “changes,” because the far bigger change was after the Council, and in many cases the “changes” we’re making now are just revising what shouldn’t have been changed in the first place.  For example, it’s clear from the writings of St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165) and St. John Chrysostom that the response to “The Lord be with you,” is “And with your spirit.”  If they had responded that way from the first century until the mid-twentieth century, and we began responding “and also with you” in the last forty or so, which is really “a change”?)

This time should not be about scaring anyone about changes or bemoaning the fact that they’re happening.  This is a time to be catechizing on the liturgy, about what is happening at the Mass, why words matter, and how to enter into the great mystery we face each time we partake in the Holy Sacrifice.

I love what Father Finigan says in his blog today, after the churches in England and Wales used the new translation for the first time.  Speaking of his thoughts about the former translation, he said, “of course, many people have been sanctified by their participation in the Mass using this translation, but if you have even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin, it is frustrating to know that the people are being denied the richness of the Church’s sacred texts” (emphasis mine).

It’s not about politics.  It’s not even just about Latin.  It’s about the richness of the texts.  It’s about the theology of our word.  It’s about the ability to enter into the liturgy more fully.

My prayer every night for more than a year now has been 1) for the priests, that they be obedient to the Holy Spirit during this time and listen to Him speaking through the Church and 2) that the people in the pew approach these revised translations and the time of renewal with an open mind and heart.

As I await the full introduction of the revised texts in November, I can’t help but think: Glory to God- they’re almost here!

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3 thoughts on “Glory to God

  1. Amy says:

    I’m ashamed to say I’m not exactly sure what all changes are coming. Will every parish use the musical settings you posted? What will happen with the other musical settings – entrance, offertory, communion, & recessional hymns?
    I’m studying up on liturgical catechesis these days, so I’m looking forward to the revisions that will help me/us pray more accurately what we believe. Love, love, love the quote from the Holy Father you posted. 🙂

    • joanallegretti says:

      You can find a good summary of our changes at http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/ (there’s a tab for “sample texts”). Unfortunately, not every parish will use the settings I’ve posted. Those settings are going to be right in the Missal (what we used to call the “Sacramentary”) so it will hopefully be “easier” for priests to chant more of the Mass. I say “easier” because we know that it’s more than just reading music — some priests, if they want to chant, will have to learn how to chant. But for the first time the notation will be right in the Missal, making it much easier for those priests who desire it. But there are tons of musical settings out there — many of the Mass settings used in parishes now have been adapted for the revised texts. (So while I was hoping the Mass of Creation will be buried in a nice deep grave after November 27th, that’s not going to happen.)

      It’s hard to say what WILL happen with the other things that you mentioned. The prayers are translated far more accurately, but so few parishes actually sing the entrance antiphon or the communion antiphon, even though those texts are supposed to be sung. Most parishes will continue to sing hymns at these times — it can be debated whether they should or not. For most parishes, the only “change” many people will notice is that some of their responses have changed. They won’t notice anything else. (The priests have the majority of the changes, and if they read/pray them beforehand and therefore recite them well when they pray, many people aren’t going to notice a change. But there will be a change — the prayers will be far richer and more beautiful, the Scriptural allusions will be much more apparent, the theology will be more precise, etc.)

  2. Amy says:

    Thanks for the source & thoughts on what to expect. I’m right there with you on the Mass of Creation, but I do like some relatively “new” Mass settings, a la FUS. Just curious what changes might really happen, and of course, trying to be one step ahead of my students on it! 🙂

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