Vatican II Hermeneutics Applied to Music and Liturgy

I can’t believe when the alarm went off this morning I was still thinking about Liam’s expanded rainbow of Vatican II hermeneutics. Applied to liturgy and/or music, here they are:

Hostility: those who more or less rejected the reform of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Most, but not all of the Tridentine Rite worshippers. The LeFebvre schismatics.

(Grudging) Minimalism: those who continue a pre-conciliar modus operandi with a half-hearted implementation. Pastors who never hired competent musicians, music directors who declined to educate themselves liturgically and continuing to work from their comfort zone, in other words, music as they’ve always done it: no psalms, no special music for liturgical events (baptisms, RCIA, or the new funeral rites) but lots of things that raised the roof in 1950.

Pragmatism: those who implemented more or less faithfully, more or less on time, but whose main concern was conquering tasks (ie solving finances, administration issues, etc.) I’ve worked for a few pastors like this. They assumed that the external compliance with liturgical reform might somehow percolate into the laity … not necessarily with a deeper liturgical spirituality, but with more donations, more volunteer hours, etc.. Musicians who still spend the lion’s share of effort on anthems as opposed to psalms, service music, and hymnody.

Authentic reformers: those who implemented while keeping one or two strong feet in tradition. In early post-conciliar music, I was thinking of the St Louis Jesuits. They steered to choices of Scripture-based, Hours-inspired compositions to replace the early catechetical songs, and used a musical language with roots in the pre-conciliar popular hymnody. That they did it with guitars wasn’t as relevant as how the best of the music translates well to other instruments. One of the more recent good examples would be Steve Warner at Notre Dame and his use of plainsong.

Careless innovation: those who just ran with implementation. Liam suggests the more emotive types, those who went with what felt good. He mentioned the “charismatic,” but I’d say a number of the DRE’s filling the liturgist role in parishes probably fell here, too. Good intentioned, often holy folks, but didn’t have a full grasp on either the pastoral situation or tradition. Theological background was likely lacking. All but the best of the immediate post-conciliar musicians and songs. People who advocated sand in holy water fonts, hand-washing on Holy Thursday, Santa Claus kneeling at the creche–things like that.

Radical innovation: those who implemented without regard for disruption. Most recently, I’d say the advocates of Eucharistic Prayer standing as well as conservatives hyper-concerned about altar procedures. Maybe Tom Conry on his worst days, though he advocated traditional music way back in the late 70’s.

It’s hard to pin down any person into one group or another. People may have passed through two or more in their lives. They might still inhabit two or more. I know I began in group two, but was influenced by group five in my college days. As I read more about liturgy and theology, I’d like to think my heart was in number four, but I’ve found most parishes are in number three with a liberal dose of five. It would be great to work in a parish or with people who were authentic reformists. I don’t think the current liturgical climate is conducive to it, though. Too much fear and paralysis, and I’m not entirely convinced the curia isn’t still awash with minimalists.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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