Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Lived Experience of the LIturgy

Good morning folks. I hope your celebration of Easter continues and that your "Alleluia" is as strong today as it was at the Paschal Vigil. I'd like to offer some general reflections on the comments that were posted about yesterday's blog. I apologize for not being able to comment directly to each one. There simple aren't enough hours in a day. 

I find it fascinating that the first time I entered the arena of musical style and the liturgy, this was the topic that generated more comments than anything else previously posted. Obviously this is a hot-button issue among Catholic leaders, musicians, liturgists, and parishioners. This is an issue that, contrary to some of the comments, is not going to go away. I'd like you all to know one thing about me. Yes, I am the associate publisher here at World Library Publications, but I am also a baptized Catholic, practicing my faith in a poor, struggling community on the near South Side of the City of Chicago. That is where my faith is nurtured. That is where I receive my own foretaste of the heavenly banquet each week. That is where I am asked to sing chant; that is where I am asked to sing treasures from the African-American spiritual tradition; that is where I am asked to sing contemporary Catholic liturgical music; that is where I am asked to sing strophic hymns. I cannot separate myself from my experience. In 1997, the Congregation for the Clergy at the Vatican released the General Directory for Catechesis. This is a document that I believe should be read by a much broader audience. It has been helpful for me as a liturgist and musician in many ways. In it, the role of the experiential in Christian formation is treated quite well.

"Experience promotes the intelligibility of the Christian message . . . experience is a necessary medium for exploring and assimilating the truths which constitute the objective content of revelation. Experience, assumed by faith, becomes in a certain manner, a locus for the manifestation and realization of salvation, where God, consistently with the pedagogy of the Incarnation, reaches man with his grace and saves him. The catechist must teach the person to read his own lived experience in this regard, so as to accept the invitation of the Holy Spirit to conversion, to commitment, to hope and to discover more and more in his life God's plan for him (GDC 252)."

The liturgy is known primarily through the experience of it. I know that I enter a mystagogical moment following each celebration of the liturgy, trying to probe, post facto, the meaning of the ritual, the texts prayed, the texts sung, the word proclaimed and preached, and the celebration and reception of Holy Communion. When I am sent forth from Sunday Mass, I try to figure out how I am going to work hard to "work off" the rich nourishment I've received at Mass. I don't want to become spiritually lethargic; I know that I have been nourished in word and sacrament to do something, to be Christ for others in the coming week.  There are those who do this when they have an experience of the Mass that is rich with diverse musical genres. There are those who do this when they have an experience of the Extraordinary Form. There are those who do this when they have an experience of a "Life Teen" Mass. There are those who do this when they experience a daily Mass when a few hymns and the acclamations are sung without musical accompaniment. Peoples' experience of the liturgy—whatever musical style is employed— is one that "is a necessary medium for exploring and assimilating the truths which constitute the objective content of revelation." 

As a publisher, we are proud of the fact that we offer a very broad spectrum of musical styles for the Catholic Church. The texts we publish all receive ecclesiastical approval. We have some of the best music editors on our staff. We have theologians on our staff who help composers craft texts that are consistent with Catholic teaching. We know and firmly believe that we are publishing the best music and texts for worship. We want to help people's experience of the liturgy be rich and varied, just like God's people are. One need only explore our web site to discover this. We want to be able to offer the very best in a variety of musical styles to help people enter an experience of the liturgy that helps them grow in their relationship with the living God. 

On this Easter day, I hope you enjoy this snippet from William Tortolano's arrangement of All Creatures of Our God and King.

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