14 May 2020

More New Normal

Apparently, robust congregational singing [RCS] is unacceptable to those who are keeping us safe from the Pestilence.

I'm not going to crow about 'silver linings' while so many people are dying so painfully from the New Death. But, at least, I do not feel that we are obliged to mourn the criminalisation of RCS. It need not impinge at all upon traditional Catholics; the singing in a sung Mass can be done by socially distanced members of a schola or, at a pinch, by a single cantor. As far as the Novus Ordo is concerned, the sooner most of its dreadful music is discontinued, the better. Personally, both as an Anglican and as a Catholic, I have never sung hymns. When, in the Church of England, I deemed it pastorally prudent, I used to mime the words noiselessly with my lips. In the Catholic Church, with its less fierce regimentation, I have felt under no pressure to do even this.

But what many people, including many Catholics, will probably not realise is that the proscription of RCS is de facto the proscription of the surviving patterns of Popular Protestantism. For the common (wo)man, 'worship' means RCS. For those who never visit places of worship, 'going to Church' would mean RCS and listening to a 'vicar' preaching. Vast numbers of 'ordinary' lay  'Anglicans' intensely dislike the Eucharist. This is the Elephant in the Room which nonsense-circuses such as ARCIC have never noticed. After Bishop John Richards lured me down to his own retirement patch in rural Devon, I learned a great deal about popular Anglicanism. When our Incumbent resigned and, within days, 'JR' died, I was sweetly asked if we could take this happy opportunity to abandon the Eucharist and have forms of service generically known as "Songs of Praise". That means Everybody's Favourite Hymns. Except that it doesn't even mean that. It means Everybody's Favourite Tunes.

There are, of course, fragments of the old Anglican and Non-Conformist Patrimonies, mainly at the 'extremes', where this is not true. But, overwhelmingly, it is (I believe) a fact that modern 'dogma-free' Liberal Protestantism would not survive the abolition of RCS as a cultural phenomenon.

So we are faced with an interesting theological conundrum. Should we collaborate in eliminating this effete and pitiful parody of Christianity? S John Henry, you will remember, faced this question when he advocated the survival of the Church of England on the grounds that it was a barrier against worse varieties of unbelief; but added that the time could well come when a different prudential assessment might apply.

Have we reached that point? Is it best to retain a subculture which, at least, keeps alive a memory of Christianity, or would we be more free to preach the Gospel without this millstone round our necks?

I am far from infallible, but I increasingly incline to the latter assessment. I think the encroachment of 'Women Clergy' has been significant. We used to argue that the 'Ordination of Women' was "invalid", but the truth is that it is only too potently 'valid'. A 'woman priest' or 'bishop' is an ultra-valid symbolical affirmation and expression of a profound gender disorder, subversive both of Scripture, Tradition, and of most human experience. It has been the hyperbebaios first step into a brave new world of fluid and indeterminate gender.

So: burn the Hymn-books?

No? Yes?

16 comments:

neilmac said...

My feeling is that the RC and C of E liberals will try to use the pandemic as a means to destroy choirs and schola, by supporting a ban on singing. Then, when things have more-or-less returned to normal hope to establish "ditty-singing" as the only option.

Joshua said...

I congratulate you on such an incisive and insightful post!

My parallel fear is that, having moved from "communion for all", even those unshriven, enmeshed in mortal sin, to "spiritual communion for all", until the pandemic ends (if it ever will), there be very little desire in the hearts of many to return to being physically present at Mass: why bother to do so, if TV Mass and a more or less ardent act of spiritual communion suffices?

Or to put it another way, if devoutly imagining the Passion suffices, what has the Bread to do with the Body? Is this not Cranmerian Zwinglianism triumphant? Dix, where art thou?

Bob said...

Does this also suggest that all future masses should be celebrated ad orientem to prevent the priest spraying his droplets at the congregation?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Smashing and courageous post. All the enemies you'll make you should consider as their confession that you are right.

You note the ARCIC but you are much kinder in reference to it than is ABS for it is just one, of many, forms of Ecumenical destruction - Ecumenism is the Universal Solvent of Tradition.

What living faithful has even heard a Pope, Prelate , or Priest declaim the plain and simple truth that Jesus Christ lives in His Catholic Church and only in His Catholic Church and it is that truth which differentiates the Catholic Church from all other sects and communions?

All Ecumenism obscures this cataclysmic truth and places the One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church on the same level as sects and communions which do not possess the living presence of Jesus Christ.

Mystici Corporis, rightly teaches ...nothing more glorious, nothing nobler, nothing surely more honorable can be imagined than to belong to the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church.

When was the last time a Pope or Prelate spoke/taught this truth - Jesus Christ lives in His Catholic Church and only in His Catholic Church

ABS doesn't remember any Pope in his life (Pius XII - to Francis) speaking this plain and simple truth. prolly for the reason that ecumenical error predated Vatican Two and nobody - Mueller, Burke, Schneider, Vigano - can even be imagined saying it publicly today.

Do they even believe it privately?

John Patrick said...

I would tend to agree. There seems to be a Gresham's Law when it comes to church music. While there are many good and beautiful hymns ("Let all Mortal Flesh keep Silence" comes to mind) there seems to be this movement where "Liturgy Committees" and restless music directors always looking for something "new" and "cutting edge" such that the good hymns are tossed aside. One of the last straws during my time in the Episcopal Church was the appointment of a new music director who refused to play anything by "dead Germans" plus some busybodies recently come over from a Catholic parish who promptly advocated the abolition of the traditionally chanted Our Father and the addition of a new "song book" to replace the hymnal.

william arthurs said...

Fr Fortescue's Latin Hymns (Sung at the Church of St Hugh, Letchworth) was reprinted at Cambridge University Press in 1924. Simply considering it as a printed book: Taken through the press by Stanley Morison (later to become famous as the creator of Times Roman), the body text is set in Caslon while the capitals are Goudy Old Style.

It is laid out Loeb-style and maybe could also be used to teach casual enquirers simple Latin?

Scanned downloadable PDF, and some explanatory comments, are here. There is a copy in the Religion.Hymns section in the London Library, which (from memory) was donated to the Library by J W Mackail: it is an exquisite example of 20th century printing.

Aidan Nichols discusses it in his 2011 biography of Fortescue which I have not got to hand today.

Stephen said...

Kill it, unless you can have only Irishmen singing a capella.

Unknown said...

Many years ago in my Anglican days I attended a Corpus Christi celebration at St. Clements Notting Dale presided over by the then Bishop of London David Hope. At that splendid occasion clouds of incense etc we sang the beautiful hymn (sorry father it was in english) 'Therefore we before him bending'to the tune of ' What a friend we have in Jesus.', Which I think out does singing 'I'll sign a hymn to Mary' at the Anglican shrine to the tune of the Eton boating song. Surely those would melt even your Freddy heart!

Victor said...

Last sunday's mass (the first in six weeks) the celebrant initially apologized that congregational singing was prohibited: "we will have to pray all the prayers instead of singing. Now, who here knows the 'Glory to God in the highest' by heart?" It was the first time in my life I heard a public mass where everything was prayed exactly as it is written in the books. Now if we just could make the organist sing the gradual instead of the antiphonal psalm (which doesn't make any sense anyway without the congregation responding)...

Peter said...

In Brave New World Aldous Huxley introduced us to the Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury. Presumably he saw the drift in Anglicanism even then.

neilmac said...

Sorry! "scholae" I think, rather than "schola".

Sue Sims said...

'Fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music' (C.S.Lewis).

Oliver Nicholson said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YyLyvjW49w&feature=emb_title&fbclid=IwAR0s9d_BXI02S1ahf_Zc9fOidvDJZms7Ivk-9BRLQdF9uJqX1UrLeOTHoxs

Fr Herman said...

Father, I should have thought that robust hymn-singing would be considered an important element in the Anglican Patrimony brought into the Roman Church via Anglicanorum Coetibus. I would certainly stand in the way of anyone trying to burn my copy of the magnificent English Hymnal, edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams, or of the 1940 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church, edited by Canon Winfred Douglas. Though no longer Anglican, nor even Western in rite, I often return to those books and sing many of the hymns I came to love growing up Anglo-Catholic in the 90s. Much as I love the liturgical chants of the Orthodox Church, robust hymn singing is one of the few things I miss from the church experience of my youth.

Colin Spinks said...

One of the snippets I can remember from reading "Ritual Notes" is an extract concerning hymn singing. After explaining that, apart from the Office Hymns at Matins and Evensong, hymns formed no part of the Liturgy, it remarked that many people enjoyed singing hymns but "this book is concerned not with what people like, but with what is correct"! I must agree with Hierodeacon however, that robust hymn singing (and indeed embarrassed mumbling!) are part of the Anglican Patrimony. Of course there is plenty of rubbish floating about in this genre, but there are still some great standards which have stood the test of time: after all, even the Office Hymns permitted by "RN" were "new" at one time, and it seems perverse to allow them but not eg my own introit hymn this morning "At the name of Jesus".

Unknown said...

At St Barnabas Jericho, the cantor and the schola will continue!