Which do you prefer? The Gregorian Chant “Spiritus Domini” or Chris Tomlin’s “Holy Is The Lord.”
Liturgical music is a sore spot with some people. I’ve heard time after time that “Those kids need to stop singing their upbeat music and get back to the basics of chant and older music, which the Church was founded on.”
Our good friends at the “New Liturgical Movement” focus their material on liturgical history, theology and praxis, sacred art, architecture, and music. Their group feels strongly about sacred music. I really enjoy this blog and I think it’s worth checking out if you haven’t done so (see side bar under Blog Squad). Alas, they value chant very highly and have numerous articles on why chant should still be utilized in the Church nowadays. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for chant and possess my very own “Greatest Chant Hits” yet there is something that catches my interest about contemporary Christian music. I’ve found that contemporary Christian music is largely taking over in the circles of younger kids and young adults. They sing loud and proud and throw their hands in the air giving praise to our Lord and Savior. Groups like, Lifeteen, help foster this type of music and use contemporary music for their masses. I care greatly about both groups and feel both types of music are reverent in their own way.
However, I believe there is a fine line between the old and new. I am not one for changing just to change but rather think that either changing something to make it better it worth doing or going back to what we know works is also valuable. Back in February Pope Benedict released his Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis.” In this exhortation this Holiness speaks on the use of liturgical music, and mentions that:
“…This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres, which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy, should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).”
Yet, what Lifeteen, youth groups, contemporary churches, and colleges are doing, playing contemporary music at mass, is not incorrect by any means. Are guitars, drums, and violins, distracting us from the mass? Some would say yes, this is awful, while others would say, no, it draw me closer into prayer and communion with the rest of the community. I’ve heard others argue that a mass with contemporary music is anti-liturgical in meaning and that we’re making the liturgy to creative. That we lack the reverence the mass deserves and we are not abiding by the Church’s wisdom. The liturgy is not something that serves the culture but is something that is supposed to be set apart from the culture in order to worship God, and to worship Him but in the best way possible. If the Church's wisdom is that guitar music is not right for mass, then it would seem to simply follow that we would not use guitar music in mass. Yet, since there is nothing formally stated in writing should we tolerate it? Should we continue to do this? Is sheer "being able to do it" a good indicator that we should do it? Is this worship, deemed appropriate by the general instruction?
I feel like I’m caught in a pandora’s box with these types of music. I enjoy both types, yet I also do not want to go around the Church’s teachings and do what makes me happy. Once again a tough topic for some, especially for the younger generations. Therefore, should we change with the times by adjusting our way of thinking, which is still correct but different, or should we reaffirm the older, pre-Vatican II ways of life?
Almost forgot! Today is the feast day of my favorite saint, St. Dominic. Here is a good quote by him.
"A man who governs his passions is master of his world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil."