Friday, December 14, 2007

the Mass or the music?

(ok, that was just supposed to be a catchy title so you would read this.)

Dear Abby,

I pointed out to my boss that Gaudete and Laetare Sunday are called by those titles because they are the first word of the Introit for those respective days. But he doesn't seem to agree because he says that "the music is written for the Mass!" Well, of course, but I would still think that the common name for the Sunday is such because of the first word of the introit! But I guess I could be wrong. Whatever am I going to do?

-Questioning Soul


Anonymous said...

Gavin said...

The name was established AFTER the lection for the Mass was. So there's no disrespect to the lection.

What your boss fails to understand is that the music ISN'T for the Mass. It IS the Mass! Again, it's "singing at the Mass" vs. "singing the Mass". The introit is as much as the part of the Mass as the epistle - hence why the "4 hymn" model is so very bad to abuse! Again, "Gaudete in Domino semper" wasn't written for the Mass, it was written as part of the Mass! Explain this distinction to him. Also, any Mass with a title (there are very few exceptions such as Low Sunday) gets its title from the Introit: Gaudete, Requiem, Laetare, Quasimodo, etc (no, I don't mean missa et cetera!)

Anonymous said...


Your boss is dead wrong! They are indeed called that because of the first line of the Introit. Here is the first sentence of the Catholic Encylcopedia article for Gaudete Sunday:

The third Sunday of Advent, so called from the first word of the Introit at Mass (Gaudete, i.e. Rejoice).

Let's look at Laetare Sunday entry in the Encyclopedia:
The fourth, or middle, Sunday of Lent, so called from the first words of the Introit at Mass, "Laetare Jerusalem" -- "Rejoice, O Jerusalem".

If your boss maintains that those are not the reasons why these days have these names, he is simply dead, flat wrong. There is no other way to say it.

Cantor said...


Your boss, I think is partially correct - the music, per se, is written for the liturgy.

However, the words “Gaudete...” are part of the liturgy, even more so than the official chant melodies.

"the boss" said...

y'all are pretty quick to jump on "the boss" here in this blog. Its amazing the judgments that come my way here, especially since I am the one who hired Mara and trust her to do her work (as she herself reported in an earlier entry). Right from the start, I was the one who encouraged her to use the introits instead of "entrance hymns"...but people who get really contentious over the liturgy ought to examine themselves. Some of the comments in this blog here (not just this entry but others) remind me why I think there is so little difference between the ultra "liberals" and ultra "conservatives" to use terms I severely dislike). Both are unwilling to suffer. Both want things exactly their way and are unwilling to suffer either the efforts of virtue or the ignorance of those who are weaker in one area or another. Sorry "anonymous" I am not "dead wrong" in the query that was put to me. I don't pretend -- as Mara well knows -- to be an expert in the liturgy, but I know for sure that the music is written to carry the theme of the Mass. Musicians did not decide to celebrate the resurrection at Easter time, nor did they decide when to celebrate the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit did. Is Gaudete Sunday the Third Sunday of Advent or is the Third Sunday of Advent Gaudete Sunday? What is the "name" of it? Let's not be silly. (What does your encyclopedia entry really prove? Nothing. Except that you know how to reference the encyclopedia.) It was (and is) common for encyclicals for example, to receive their names from the first few Latin words. Obviously the same occured here BUT which came first the chicken or the egg? In the case of the Mass the answer is very clear, the music is written for the Mass not the Mass for the music (that would be ridiculous). I think there are some folks for whom the anonymity of the internet backfires and allows their worst side to come out...why are some folks so quick to put others in their place? Does it make them feel better about themselves as maybe knowing more than others? The liturgy is a mess everywhere. I understand that people are reacionary toward abuses but how about supporting the priests who are trying to make it better and giving people the benefit of the doubt rather than tearing them down with petty and sophmoric arguments?

Mara Joy said...

(I would like to point out that my very dear boss was having a very bad day before he wrote that entry...)

Gavin said...


You make a false dichotomy between the music of the Mass and the text of the Mass. When one does propers, it need not exist. As something of an example, if you chanted the Gospel, would anyone be able to then say the Gospel is extraneous to the Mass since it is music? No, not at all. It is the same with the propers. They came about in the Mass much as the readings and collects did. You are correct in pointing out that the official chants arrived later, but the practice of chanting (in some fashion) "Gaudete in Domino semper" at the 3rd Sunday in Advent is just as integral to the evolution of that Mass as the collect. When one refers to "Gaudete in Domino", they don't refer to a chant in mode 2 or a renaissance polyphony piece. They refer to the text which is the Introit of the Mass, and it is no more "additional" to the Mass than the reading. This issue only needs to be pressed because it's important to understand that singing, ESPECIALLY of the propers, does not make something less important or turn it into an "extra" - quite the opposite, it makes that something MORE important by increasing its solemnity, and that singing is quite essential to the Mass.

And don't get me started on the ultra-conservatives. With all the crap I take at MY church, it makes me quite enraged to see someone spit all over it just because it's not a Tridentine Mass, or my pastor wears his biretta wrong, or people don't receive at the altar rail. It's an unfortunate attitude, and hopefully it's reserved to the fringes of Catholicism.

Mr S said...

Gee whiz.... I take a few days off from this and other sites, and sparks turn into flames. How sad.

Sure glad I am not so learned in so many areas. Fr Corapi might say I have educated myself into imbecility.

So I prefer to learn what I can, all the time recognizing how much I do not know. It keeps my sanity in check - sort of.


Personally, since the Mass is timeless, and is God centered (Who Himself is outside the restrictions of time)....
and since even glorious music as we know and employ it began when we did, and will end when we do....

I would , nonetheless, be satisfied if the timeless Mass had to be totally silent.

So keep up the good work Mara. There are many who appreciate it even when we fail to say so as often as we should.

And "Boss"... I pray that you will not tire in the good you are doing. I am sorry that you may have taken an earlier comment (being a M/M) in any other way than as the true compliment and observation that was intended.

When one shows such concern and involvement in all areas of his parish as you do.... how could that be anything but good?

Let the anonymous bloggers fall where they may. One third of any parish will love the pastor, one third will dispise him, and one third won't care - whether it is you or someone else. I trust you to decide what is best, spiritually, for each of them.

the boss said...

Gavin, you make a well-reasoned argument, and I understand what you are saying. And quite frankly I don't have the time or the energy right now (let alone the inclination) to discuss this nuanced issue. That is why I hired Mara. But I do think that perhaps what I am saying is more of the essentials than you have gotten to in your line of thinking... When I was in the seminary we were encouraged to sing the Mass as much as possible. That is always the goal. I know the singing of the Mass is integral to its beauty but you can strip even a beautiful thing down to something more essential in its function. That is not desirable but it is often from its function that beauty grows.

totustuusmaria said...

If I may respectfully put in my two cents:

"When I was in the seminary we were encouraged to sing the Mass as much as possible. That is always the goal. I know the singing of the Mass is integral to its beauty but you can strip even a beautiful thing down to something more essential in its function. That is not desirable but it is often from its function that beauty grows."

-The Mass is a song. Missa in Cantu is the mass in its original form, the Missa in Dictu was a late development which is less than a thousand years old. In the East it is still the case that no form of the spoken Divine Liturgy is permissible. During the Liturgical reform, Bugnini and the liturgists referred to the Sung Mass as the "Missa Normativa" to show that the spoken Mass is somewhat a special permission that's outside to norm. With that said, "The Boss" is clearly correct. The Music is an art which makes part of the substance of the Mass, but it isn't an art necessary for the validity of the Mass. The arising the Low Mass (Missa in Dictu) is, to me, clearly an impoverishment of the liturgy, but it was a legitimate move, and I think, even with making the liturgy poorer, it was a good thing for private masses and the like. I think it ceased to be a good thing when it became the main Mass the people assisted at.

- It's wrong to suppose that the Cantus part of the texts for a Missa in Cantu was chosen seperately from the texts. It certainly developed -- I mean the original chants aren't what we have now -- but the point must be stressed and maintained that the text was *never* spoken as part of the Mass until the advent of the spoken Mass.

- It follows that the Chant "Guadete" was not written for the Mass "Guadete in Domino", but that it developed contemporaneously with the Mass. It was an integral part of the Mass from the beginning.
4)All masses are named after the first words of the introit. My goal this year is to memorize all the masses by their names (Missa Ad At, Missa Guadens Gaudebo, Missa Populus Sion, Missa Guadete in Domino, Missa Rorate Caeli, etc.). The text oftentimes is essential to understanding the spirit of the Mass, but not always. For example Missa Quasimodo (the Octave Sunday of Easter) means nothing more than "as if in the manner" and doesn't really tell us much about the Sunday.

- At least in the older form of the Mass, the priest is supposed to speak all the parts of the Mass (or at least those not sung). This makes sense for the newer form as well. I don't think it would be illegitimate at all for the priest to quietly read the introit after he's approached the altar when the congregation is singing something else.

- My conclusion is this: 1) The words are an integral part of the Liturgy. 2) The music is an integral part of the Liturgy. Hold it! Let me explain. The music can be suppressed without affecting the validity of the Liturgy, but when its sung, it isn't like you've just *added* music to the text, rather when they're *not sung*, you've removed the music from the text. This is made clear in the laws governing music in the older form which state that there can be music *at mass* when the mass is spoken, but no part of the mass may be sung. Conversely when the Mass in sung, all parts of the Mass must be sung at least recto tono. This is to show that the music is integral to the liturgy and not something added on. It can be removed, but historically and liturgically it comprises part of the Mass itself.
"Let the anonymous bloggers fall where they may. One third of any parish will love the pastor, one third will dispise him, and one third won't care - whether it is you or someone else. I trust you to decide what is best, spiritually, for each of them."

- I should stress that some people who comment of this blog are not part of the Parish at all. I'm not, for example. I'm a parishioner at "St. C," but I'm so deeply attached to the Extraordinary Form that I normally travel to Detroit on Sundays.

Nevertheless, I too love the Pastor, I support him, and I pray for him quite often.

John said...

A helpful comparison can be found in looking at the second Sunday after Easter, commonly called "Good Shepherd Sunday". This is derived rather from the Gospel of the day than from the Introit but the idea is precisely the same. The Mass as a whole is named after a part. In fact, the word "Mass" itself also demonstrates this.

One cannot seriously maintain that the words "ite missa est" were added to the text of the Roman Liturgy because it was already called the Mass.

Similarly, one cannot seriously maintain that Jn 10:11-16 was chosen as the Gospel reading for the second Sunday after Easter because the theme of the Mass was already the Good Shepherd.

Quite the reverse. The proper texts of the Mass, which include the introit as much as the Gospel, themselves set the theme of the Mass. And it is from them that the name of the Mass is often derived.

I love and miss all of you! Give my warmest Christmas greetings to the "Boss."