This morning I was able to attend Matins and the Divine Liturgy at the Byzantine Catholic Cathedral of the Eparchy of Parma, right here near where I live, (whose territory apparently extends from Ohio all the way to Kansas and North Dakota!)
(** Parma is an incredibly interesting city from a liturgical viewpoint. All I can guess is that it is or was chock-filled with immigrants; As far as I can tell, they have no less than FOUR "ethnic" Cathedrals- Byzantine Catholic, Ukranian Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Ukranian Orthodox!)
I've been to probably 4-5 Byzantine liturgies, and I am always struck by how different they are from Roman Catholic, and yet how we are in communion with them! How they managed to not lose their liturgical identity with Vatican II!
After having been to several of their liturgies, but none for the past couple years, it is enjoyable to hear/remember many of the responses that are so essential to this liturgy- "Wisdom!" "Let us be attentive!" "Lord have mercy," "Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim..." and of course my favorite, "The doors! The doors!"
So here I was, at a cathedral, and the amazing thing is how everything is sung, with no instruments! There did appear to be an organ in the choir loft, but no one used it; it was just an old man cantoring with a young man with a beautiful voice singing a harmony of 3rds, 6ths, and 5ths. I never know how to describe Byzantine singing. It's not chant, and it's not metrical. It's just... singing. I mean, like 95% of the service was sung, by the cantor (sort of with the people), or priest/deacon. The church wasn't very full, maybe 100 people, but it does make me sad that not many people made much effort to sing. Especially, since most of them probably go there every Sunday, and most of the music is the SAME - how hard can it be? So, I'm not sure that the answer to "how to get Catholics to sing," is necessarily, "sing everything, the same, every week." I think there needs to be something more, I'm just not sure what. Perhaps a choir, of at least a couple people singing the melody, in octaves, would help? (No one wants to feel like they are singing along with a soloist, which is what I felt like this morning... See "Why Catholics Can't Sing.")
A few other things to note:
The deacon and priest really like walking around the church ringing bells.
There were kneelers, but they were not used at all. Grr... Orthodox influences... :-(
I don't really know if this would be considered a "liberal" church, or what the spectrum of that is in the Byzantine Church, but I do know that the Mass intentions in the bulletin for the deceased were apparently "in celebration of the life of ..." Um, I'm pretty sure that offering a Mass for the "celebration of life" of someone is not by any stretch of the imagination a prayer, which is the definition of what a Mass is able to be offered for!
I have probably observed this before, but it's interesting that the Byzantines get their own translation of things, like for example the Creed. If I remember correctly, for example they said "of one essence," instead of the old Roman translation, "one in being," or the new translation, "consubstantial." They also definitely said "who proceeds from the Father" (with no mention of the Son.) Hey, Greek Orthodox, you can still be in communion with Rome and not have to add "Son" there!
Anyhow. Where should I go to church next month? Perhaps I could try the local SSPX chapel? Or one of the other ethnic cathedrals I mentioned above? They might have some fascinating singing and/or harmonies.