A life dedicated to prayer

SEPTIMO RECVRRENTE ANNO A SEDE ROMANA VACATA
OB PERTRISTEM MINISTERII DIVI PETRI RENVNTIATIONEM

Pope Benedict

OREMVS
PRO DEI FAMVLO
OLIM PONTIFICE NOSTRO
BENEDICTO
DOMINVS CONSERVET EVM,
ET INDVCAT EVM
IN FORTITVDINIS PLENITVDINEM
AD VITAM SVAM ORATIONI DEDICANDAM
ECCLESIAE SANCTAE DEI SERVIENDO.


29 June 1951
Ordained priest
28 May 1977 Consecrated bishop
27 June 1977 Created cardinal
19 April 2005 Elected pope

Continue reading “A life dedicated to prayer”

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Lent, Benedict XIV, and sacred music

Today is the 269th anniversary of the promulgation of Annus, qui hunc, which set forth guidelines on ecclesiastical discipline and sacred music. Benedict XIV, concerned about the spiritual welfare of Catholics who would go on pilgrimage in Rome in the Jubilee Year of 1750, as well as the opinion of other visitors during said time, issued the encyclical a year ahead of the celebrations.

Borrás Abellá - En el coro
En el coro | Vicente Borrás Abellá | 1890

The epoch may be remote, but the problems Benedict XIV identifies and attempts to remedy are as fresh as a pulsating newly-caught catfish. With this, we invite everyone to re-read the encyclical towards the end of this post, either in the original Latin or in the full English translation we provided. We opened a series quoting in three parts the words of the encyclical on organ music (here, here, and here). If the length daunts us, then let us offer it as penance this Lent.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Alleluia’s farewell in the Mozarabic Rite (a followup)

As we are all aware, unless we are following a different calendar, today is the First Sunday of Lent. In the Mozarabic Rite, it is called Dominica in carnes tollendas. In both Mass and Office, the alleluia receives a sort of standing ovation as it departs the repertory of the ensuing days leading to Easter. Also, since pre-Lent vanished in the novus ordo (or was it banished?), this Sunday, rather than Septuagesima Sunday, is closer to the last day of the alleluia.

Simonet - Flevit super illam
Flevit super illam | Enrique Simonet Lombardo | 1892

We thought people might be interested in the improvisation below on the hymn Alleluia piis (we are still preparing our transcription), courtesy of Professor Luca Ricossa of the Haute école de musique de Genève. This hymn, assigned to vespers of the First Sunday of Lent in the Mozarabic Rite, we discussed on the eve of Septuagesima Sunday.

The Mozarabic notation of the hymn is actually different, with a noticeable prolix neume group on the Alleluia perenne. With the current state of Mozarabic chant scholarship, the adiastematic notation remains melodically undecipherable.

We have already said farewell to the alleluia three weeks ago, of course, and hopefully, we have thusly spent Forelent readying our mind and body, our soul and flesh, to intensify those rigours that shall certainly redouble our joy and mirth come Easter Sunday.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Lent and psalm tone

Penitential seasons, one observes, are when Holy Mother Church returns to Her liturgical roots. We notice the unmistakable traces of austere Roman-ness in our Lenten liturgies, a character that intensifies as we approach closer to Holy Week. It is during the entire season of Lent when every feria is honoured with a complete set of readings distinct from that of the Sunday and of the other ferias. We can therefore generally look forward to singing an entirely different piece of Gregorian chant on each of the forty days of Lent.

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Sacromusically speaking, we can expect chant to be sublime and grave. We see a lot of even-numbered modes. Cantors, in fact, who cultivated the Gregorian repertoire for Holy Week tracts, built their comfort zone around the plagal of the Dorian mode. But what is perhaps the most chorally striking about Lent itself is that on its first and last Sundays the longest tracts in the Graduale Romanum are sung. The sheer length of these tracts—Qui habitat for the First Sunday of Lent, and Deus, Deus meus for Palm Sunday—understandably terrifies us cantors and choristers to such a point that for fear of attracting attention either to our indiscreet polyphonies, or to our vocal insecurities, or to our wandering key, we usually whimper into a corner of the choir loft and sing out the tracts in psalm tone.

And so Lent also unmasks our ongoing incapacity to own Gregorian chant, to treat it as a treasure worth displaying in its full glory. For, in reality, the temptation to retreat into the undemanding exercise of psalmodic chanting plagues us the whole year round. Peace is to a succession of puncta and virgæ, as chaos is to a scandicus subbipunctis and a torculus resupinus initio debilis. It is fashionably modernist to think that complexity is a disease, and that its medicine is simplicity. How easily we are egged on to equate time-honoured complexity with hierarchical arrogance and no-nonsense simplicity to self-effacing humility. We do not pride ourselves as modernists, but the idea of simplicity still interests us, usually qualified as noble. And, sadly, we have been deceived that the lingering tradition of psalmodising Gregorian chant has had an ennobling effect on this brand of simplicity.

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History teaches us otherwise. Psalmodising Gregorian chant, in due time, created a humiliating effect on simplicity. The practice altered churchly thought processes, pointing at a direction of a more radical way forward. We have already humbled sacred music by resolving the extraneous salicus, the whimsical porrectus, the contentious quilismata into harmless puncta, to the barest and merest chant grapheme, why cut back in our adventure now? And we wonder why the people enacting the reforms after Vatican II entertained neither trepidation nor indignity in subordinating Gregorian chant, sanctified for centuries in the lips of our saints, to alios cantos aptos, endorsed by eccentrics more for their latent sloganeering than for their liturgical suitability, no. 116 of Sacrosanctum Concilium notwithstanding.

In the usus recentior, an element of enforced uniformity ensures that alii canti apti preferentially remain in the forefront of music in the consecrated edifice. We are thankful, at least, that the modern concept of uniformity attracts weaker clout in the usus antiquior. That is, no one can force us to use psalm tone or use authentic Gregorian melodies, although instructions and decrees govern the exercise of sacred music. We know that approved books for both options are available, and we know that the former practice is tolerated by decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. Publication and toleration, however, are not a culmination that leads to naught.

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We like to think that the monks of Solesmes did not compile the Chants abrégés to replace the Graduale Romanum or the Liber usualis. They have worked so dearly to reestablish Gregorian chant in its pristine form and practice, why would they want to throw everything out of the window in 1930? In the same vein, it would be criminal to think that Father Rossini published his psalmodic propers around the same time with the intention of replacing Gregorian propers themselves. After all, his mandate from the bishop of Pittsburgh was to carry out the reforms outlined by Pius X in Tra le sollecitudini, not invent something else. There is, therefore, a common denominator in these two efforts so seemingly separated by distance, and that is the perennial concern and maternal affection of Holy Mother Church for Her children. She understands that not every Catholic can readily cast out the old corrupted praxis and with tantamount haste embosom chant as restored by ongoing scholarship. Chants abrégés indeed advises:

These abbreviated chants are meant exclusively for churches where it is not possible to execute in a convenient manner all the melodies of the Graduale Romanum, and for those which tolerate a simple psalmody of the sacred texts (S. C. R., decree 3697, at 5). Anywhere there exist sufficiently skilled choirs, they should make use of the official chant from the Graduale Romanum.

Ces chants abrégés sont destinés exclusivement aux églises ou il n’est pas possible d’exécuter de façon convenable toutes les mélodies du Graduel Romain, et pour lesquelles on tolère la simple psalmodie des textes sacres (S. C. R. n° 3697). Partout où il existe des chœurs suffisamment exercés on doit s’en tenir au chant officiel du Graduel.

But we need to look beyond this horizon. Boldly we shall claim here what we would otherwise acquiesce to ignore: that psalmodic chant is not an end in itself, to which alone we should aspire to gain impeccable virtuosity. It is not even a paradigm where we can elect to situate ourselves in our attempt to avoid the disagreement between ictualists and semiologists. It is, rather surprisingly, a tool, a methodology, at our employ to attain that supreme goal of mastering Gregorian chant. We, therefore, join fellow workers in the Lord’s vineyard who had noised abroad the oft-overlooked preeminence of the Graduale Romanum [1].

Holy Mother Church believes that we can learn the chant that sanctified hundreds and thousands of Christians before us. It would be a monumental failure on our part if we detect in these psalm-toned propers nothing but an invitation to isolate ourselves in basic simplicity, rather than an encouragement to build steps around that facility and ascend to the summit of sacred music. For these simplified chants personify a foretaste of that heavenly harmony, that holy terror, that hope for the Beatific Vision, we often associate with well-executed Gregorian chant.

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The objective to restore Gregorian chant, driven by paleography, obtained its momentum in the 19th century from the realisation that there was something wrong with what we chanted and how we chanted it, a thorny question that continues to evolve and inspire debate across different disciplines. It was, ultimately, the same festering wound that Charlemagne decided to remedy in 774 A.D., rectifying Frankish chant through a return to the source that was Roman chant [2]. Unfortunately, when some wounds heal, they leave scars. Our inability to wean ourselves from the ease of psalmodic chant cements that blight, that scar, that continues to disfigure the face of sacred music we so zealously claim to defend and uphold.

And we decry this because sacred music and sacred liturgy are inseparable. Qui bene cantat, bis orat, Saint Augustine is thought to have said [3]. “The chant proper to the liturgy” ought to be “the liturgy itself in chant”, says Maestro Fulvio Rampi [4]. Often, it is the gradual, the alleluia, the tract, and the offertory that fall under the scythe of our beholden dedication to psalmodic chant. We thus redouble our disapproval because oftentimes these are the most beautiful parts of the propers of the Mass.

For this we reecho the plea of our predecessors in the choral office: In this holy season of Lent, let us sprint to that extra mile, let us deny our hankering for ease, let us stir our dormant spirits, and sing in full the chants that Holy Mother Church keeps in Her liturgical treasury.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


[1] Jeffrey Tucker, Fr. Rossini’s Proper Settings (23 October 2007): New Liturgical Movement (2007) http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2007/10/fr-rossinis-proper-settings.html
[2] John the Deacon, De vita Gregorii Magni bk. 2, ch. 9: PL 75 (1845) 91; cf. Monk of Angoulême, Vita Caroli Magni ch. 8.
[3] Saint Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 72: PL 36 (1845) 914.
[4] Fulvio Rampi, Il canto gregoriano: un estraneo in casa sua (16 January 2013): Chiesa (2013) http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350249.html.

Annus, qui hunc: On the organ (3)

The preoccupation about the organ and permissible musical instruments in general, in the context of their use in the Liturgy, obtained its vigour in the ongoing (at that time) disparity of the reaction towards the question. On one hand, there were churches that approved their use; on the other, there were churches that condemned the same. Annus, qui hunc wisely obviates identifying which position is correct. Rather, it isolates the graver issue and laments the ongoing failure to remedy it: both unaccompanied chanting and accompanied singing, as well as polyphonic music, were, in the practice of that time, impaired. The admission of the organ into church music had seemingly opened the floodgates of musical vanities that, in a short time, church music appeared to arrogate upon itself the obscene right to fraternise with theatrical music. The problem was so pivotal that Benedict XIV concluded that no one would object if a distinction were to be established between the music proper to churches and that which was proper to theatres. To winnow out the chaff from the grain, so to say.

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The opinion, therefore, that they—who, from those climes where there is no usage of musical instruments, travel to Us and to Our cities, in whose churches they shall hear polyphonic music not different from those in theatres and other profane places—are to receive from Us, anyone can attain by himself with easy conjecture. Even foreigners will come, there is barely no doubt, from those regions in whose churches singing and musical instruments are used, as in like manner is usually done in some of Our places. But if these men be prudent and pious, they shall indeed sorrow over not finding, in the singing and in the sound of Our churches, that remedy that they hoped to be brought forth for curing the wrongdoing of their churches. And indeed, having neglected this controversy, in which some bicker amongst themselves, some of whom disapprove and criticise polyphonic music and the use of musical instruments in their churches; while some approve and praise them: there is certainly no one who would not desire some distinction between ecclesiastic chant and stageworthy crooning, and would not doom theatrical and profane songs to be not tolerated in churches.

Quam igitur opinionem de Nobis accepturi sint, qui ex illis regionibus, ubi nullus musicorum instrumentorum usus est, ad Nos, nostrasque Urbes proficiscuntur, in quorum Ecclesiis concentus musicos audient, non secus ac in theatris aliisque profanis locis, facili quisque per se coniectura assequi potest. Venient etiam, haud dubium est, exteri ex illis regionibus, in quarum Ecclesiis cantus et musica instrumenta adhibentur, perinde ac in aliquibus nostris fieri solet. Sed si isti homines prudentes et pii sint, dolebunt quidem in cantu et sono Nostrarum Ecclesiarum, remedium illud, quod malo suarum Ecclesiarum curando afferri optabant, non invenisse. Etenim, omissa controversia illa, qua nonnulli inter se decertant, quorum alii cantum musicum et musicorum instrumentorum usum in Ecclesiis reprobant ac vituperant ; alii vero probant ac laudant : nullus certe est, qui inter cantum Ecclesiasticum et scaenicas modulationes discrimen aliquod non desideret, et theatrales profanosque cantus in Ecclesiis tolerari non condemnet.

The list of what impair sacred music has been evolving, that it would seem counterproductive to even admit that there is an impairment. Many of us perhaps know of the anecdote of the Palestrina intervention which saved polyphony from being cast into the exterior darkness, upon which action greatly contemplated Pope Marcellus II, to resolve the question pitting the intelligibility of the text against the aesthetic value of the music. Then came the temptation to assimilate techniques and forms that are more attuned to the atmosphere of the theatre than to the hallowed precincts of the church, a problem that had been prefigured in the decretal of Pope John XXII. Now, with musical instruments almost universally accepted in the Church, the guitar, together with the drums, is another pathogen worthy of destruction. Let us heed the call of our holy popes and resist the tide that attempts to erase the distinction between church and tavern, to literally assert the omnipresence of God in order to erode the importance of the consecrated edifice, and having thusly demolished the Church, to finally declare that there is no enclosure anymore brandishing an exclusive claim to salvation. Steadfast in our faith, singing wisely, let us fight this good fight!

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Reference: Benedict Pp. XIV, Encyclical Letter Annus qui hunc, 3, near the end.

Happy 9th anniversary!

Today, we turn 9 years.

Choir at 9

We came to the Traditional Latin Mass under different circumstances. We stayed. And, in 2009, we decided to sing. Eleven of us gathered in that first practice we ever had to stake our future on Attende, Domine, glowing nonchalantly on the back of our heads the enervating sun of that second Saturday in February 2009, right after afternoons began to swelter, when the amihan would usually and disappointingly whimper into a mere memory of Siberian coldness.

Choir demographicsIn the course of our nine years the demographic of this first eleven has become a fascinating factoid, not because our youngest was then a teenager and our oldest not yet quartering a century, nor because most of us were still working for our undergraduate degrees, but astonishingly because most of us unexpectedly and perplexingly came from that institution, which, as a neonate, allegedly received in 1910 the moniker la escuela del diablo thanks to a parish priest from Surigao [1]. It must really be quite disarming that most of the first members of the choir—many came and went; many stayed—pursued and finished their education in the University of the Philippines (click on that doughnut graph and look!).

Novem abhinc annos, we continue to whittle down a little and swell up a little. And so we soldier on, in season and out of season. Not because change is so fearsome we would rather bury our heads in our enormous chant books, but because nothing out there can quite replace the beauty of the sacred music we are privileged to sing and experience in the Traditional Mass. “We carry a mission transcending time and space: the transmission of Tradition that has gained for the Church triumphant greater glory in heaven, the Church militant assiduous warriors on earth, and the Church suffering spiritual respite in purgatory” [2].

Deo gratias !


[1] Michael Tan, American UP (8 January 2008): PDI.
[2] Siniculus, Spes Ecclesiæ juventus (17 February 2014): Dei præsdio fultus (2014) http://deipraesidiofultus.blogspot.com/2014/02/spes-ecclesiae-juventus.html.

Honouring the Holy Face

Holy Face on the Shroud of Turin
Holy Face of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin, from the 1898 negative taken by Secondo Pia

Devotion to the Holy Face of the Lord is now widespread throughout the Catholic Church, broadly associated with the negative image of the Shroud of Turin, first obtained and developed by Secondo Pia unsuccessfully on 25 May 1898 and successfully three days later, which were initially received with scepticism. Using this image, the first Holy Face medal was coined in 1936, after Giuseppe Enrie’s photographs in 1932 corroborated Pia’s own work. Devotion, however, to the Holy Face, started way before the Turin photographs. An ancient manuscript missal in Saint Peter’s Basilica prints a collect ad faciem Christi. The more recent Missale Votivum Terræ Sanctæ, likewise, contains a full Mass that used to be celebrated in the sixth station of the Via Crucis.

France figures particularly in the establishment of this devotion, for in the missals and breviaries of many French dioceses—Périgueux, Meaux, Marseilles, to name a few—print in its entirety the pre-Leonine and pre-Pian proper Mass and Office of the Holy Face of the Lord. (In these aforesaid sees, the feast is kept on the Ember Friday of Lent, and is styled as the feast of Most Holy Face of Christ Disfigured in the Passion.) In fact, it was at the request of the archbishop of Tours that, on 1 October 1885, Leo XIII erected the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face of Jesus. This act awoke a great enthusiasm, supported and championed by bishops of sees where the archconfraternity established itself, that necessitated the decree, dated 16 February 1889, extending indulgences. Furthermore, it was to the see of Cambrai that, on 9 November 1908, Pius X authorised the Mass Humiliavit for the feast of the Holy Face. Later, in a decree on 13 July 1910, the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved the proper collects for the Mass, extended by decree to the Benedictine Sylvestrine Order on 15 March 1957, and to the Capuchins in the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manopello on 23 February 1963.

Ciseri - Il trasporto di Cristo al sepolcro
Il trasporto di Cristo al sepolcro | Antonio Ciseri | 1883

Today, certain places will be celebrating the feast of the Holy Face of the Lord. By God’s grace, we will be attending the Votive Mass of this feast in the presence of the relics of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. (Notice the connection: Holy Face, France, Saint Therese of Lisieux.) For this occasion, which in itself is as rare as 2018 having three blue moons, we prepared two pieces.


O adorandi (alternate)The first one harks back to the old Office of the French sees. Assigned to Vespers in this Office is the hymn O adorandi, written in the handsome Sapphic Adonic metre, which simply melts our heart. (Ut queant laxis, the first and sixth syllables of whose first three verses became the names of the notes of the mediaeval hexachord, is in Sapphic Adonic.) In this vein, O adorandi appears here in our chant setting (click the thumbnail to open the file), alternated with the melody of Iste Confessor from the Antiphonarium Pictaviense.

The second one we prepared owes its words from the seven-fold poem Rhythmica oratio in trochaic tetrameter ascribed either to Saint Bonaventure or to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux or to Arnulf of Leuven, which debuted centonised under the title Membra Iesu nostri patientis sanctissima (BuxWV 75) in 1680 in the hands of Dieterich Buxtehude. This poem is composed of seven parts, addressing each of the seven wounds of the Lord: first, on His feet; second, on His knees; third, on His hands; fourth, on His side; fifth, on His chest; sixth, on His heart; and seventh, on His face. This last part begins with Salve, caput cruentatum, which inspired first a German translation by Paul Gerhardt, O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, to which Johann Crüger (publisher of the hymnal where the translation appeared) applied a simplified version of Hans Leo Hassler’s Mein G’müt ist mir verwirret, a confluence eventually arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach for the Passio Domini nostri Iesu Christi secundum Evangelistam Matthæum (BWV 244). James Waddel Alexander, a Presbyterian minister, translated the German into English as O Sacred Head, now wounded. Henry Williams Baker, Bart., an Anglican vicar, revised this by using the original Latin, and produced the more known (at least it is the translation used in the hymnal from which we sing this hymn) version O Sacred Head, surrounded.

Salve, caput cruentatumBut here (click the thumbnail to open the file) we used the Latin, set to music by Father Carlo Rossini, an Italian priest working in the diocese of Pittsburgh to implement the reforms of Pius X with respect to sacred music, upon invitation by the then bishop Hugh Boyle. This piece appears as hymn no. 75 in the 1935 Canticum novum. Two things to note on the as-is piece: first, it centonises the original, meaning only some verses were selected from the poem to form the lyrics of the current piece; second, the central solo part takes its words from the fourth part of the original poem, Salve, latus Salvatoris. Our version preserves the centonisation but replaces the central solo part with centoes from the seventh part of the original poem.


Shrove Tuesday received its name from the archaic English word shrive, which focuses on the activity of priests with respects to penitents (hearing confession, assignment of penance, and absolution).

Losev - The parable of the prodigal son
Блудный сын | Николай Дмитриевич Лосев | 1882

We confess; the priest shrives. The word is thusly used. Let us, therefore, sanctify this day by being shriven.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Reference: Stefano Pedica, O. S. B., The Holy Face in the documents of the Church (1975: New York) ed. 3, part. I, ch. 3.

Schedule: Ash Wednesday 2018

Ash Wednesday will be on 14 February this year. We are fortunate this year to have the pilgrim relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux in the parish where we sing for the Traditional Latin Mass from the evening of 13 February until the morning of 14 February.

Schedule - Ash Wednesday

In some places and congregations, Shrove Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, is the feast day of the Image of the Holy Face of our Lord Jesus Christ. (We have to mention the official title of the feast in view of the condemnation meted out by the Sacred Congregation of the Council to the devotion directly to the Holy Face of Jesus, a condemnation reiterated in the acts and decrees of the First Provincial Council of Manila and the First Plenary Council of the Philippines.)

Continue reading “Schedule: Ash Wednesday 2018”

A decision of great importance

SEPTIMO RECVRRENTE ANNO AB ANNVNTIATA DECISIONE
DIVI PETRI SVCCESSORIS MINISTERIVM RENVNTIANDI

Pope Benedict during Good Friday

OREMVS
PRO DEI FAMVLO
OLIM PONTIFICE NOSTRO
BENEDICTO
DOMINVS CONSERVET EVM,
ET INDVCAT EVM
IN FORTITVDINIS PLENITVDINEM
AD VITAM SVAM ORATIONI DEDICANDAM
ECCLESIAE SANCTAE DEI SERVIENDO.


11 February 2013
Announcement of resignation at the Vatican
28 February 2013 Final address at Castelgandolfo

Letter to Corriere della Sera dated 5 February 2018

Dear Mr. Franco,

I was moved that so many readers of your newspaper wanted to know how I am spending this last period of my life. I can only say in this regard that, in the slow decline of my physical strength, interiorly I am on a pilgrimage towards Home. It is a great grace for me to be surrounded, in this last leg of the road, sometimes a little tiring, by such love and such goodness that I could not have imagined. In this sense, I shall also consider the concerns of your readers as a company for some time. I cannot, therefore, help but thank you, in assuring all of you of my prayer on my part.

Warm regards,
Benedict XVI

Caro Dott. Franco,

mi ha commosso che tanti lettori del Suo giornale desiderino sapere come trascorro quest’ ultimo periodo della mia vita. Posso solo dire a riguardo che, nel lento scemare delle forze fisiche, interiormente sono in pellegrinaggio verso Casa. È una grande grazia per me essere circondato, in quest’ ultimo pezzo di strada a volte un po’ faticoso, da un amore e una bontà tali che non avrei potuto immaginare. In questo senso, considero anche la domanda dei Suoi lettori come accompagnamento per un tratto. Per questo non posso far altro che ringraziare, nell’ assicurare da parte mia a voi tutti la mia preghiera.

Cordiali saluti,
Benedetto XVI

Annus, qui hunc: On the organ (2)

There was a time when the virtues of the Roman Church inspired her daughter churches to follow her example. Though many chapels and cathedrals had already opened the gates of their chantries and quires to the music of the organ, many prominent sees in France, the so-called Ecclesiæ Primogenita Filia, still adhered to the age-old tradition of the choral office pristinely, exclusively, and purely vocal, a tradition that was confident of its repudiation of the organ, and all musical instruments, for that matter. One such see is the see of Lyon, which, despite its many peculiar customs that were not always honoured even by Rome herself, followed the example of the papal chapel in its non-admission of the organ.

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[Jean] Grancolas reports in the Commentarius historicus in Breviarium Romanum, ch. 17, that, even until now, in French territories, prominent churches, which do not employ the organ and polyphonic or harmonised music in the Sacred Mysteries, are found: Nevertheless, up to this day, there are great churches in France that disregard the use of the organ and of polyphonic music. The distinguished Church of Lyon, which indeed has always been opposed to novelties, having followed until this day the example of the Pontifical Choir, is resolved never to employ the organ: It is certain, therefore, from these that have been said that musical instruments were accepted neither immediately from the outset nor in all places: For even now in Rome, in the Chapel of the Supreme Pontiff, the celebration of the Office is always done without instruments; and the Church of Lyon, which has no knowledge of novelties, has always repudiated the organ and has not accepted it even to this day. These are the words of Cardinal [Giovanni] Bona in his treatise On divine psalmody, ch. 17, § 2, no. 5.

Refert Grancolas in Commentario historico de Breviario Romano, cap. 17, etiamnum in Galliis aliquas insignes Ecclesias reperiri, quae organum cantumque musicum seu harmonicum in sacris functionibus non adhibent : Sunt tamen ad hanc diem insignes in Gallia Ecclesiae, quae organorum et musices usum ignorant. Illustris Ecclesia Lugdunensis, quae quidem novitatibus semper adversata est, usque ad hunc diem exemplum Pontificiae Cappellae secuta, nunquam organo uti voluit : Constat igitur ex dictis, nec statim ab initio, nec ubique recepta fuisse musicalia Instrumenta : Nam etiam nunc Romae in Sacello Summi Pontificis semper sine instrumentis Officiorum sollemnia celebrantur ; et Ecclesia Lugdunensis, quae novitates nescit, semper organa repudiavit, neque in hunc diem ascivit. Sunt verba Cardinalis Bona in Tract. de Divin. Psalm., cap. 17, § 2, num. 5.

We are witnessing the passing of an age when trust in the pursuits of Rome, or in the people that wield power thither, is nearing its death. We are living the aftereffects of a Liturgy entrusted to curial personalities vested with an almost plenipotent authority to reform it. For a clew of yarn in the paws of a kitten does not stay intact for a long time. The efforts to distill clarity into the ambiguities of the Liturgy’s motley translations immediately entered liberalism’s lengthening list of anathemas. The painful dismantlement of the Liturgy gathers momentum in the gradual erosion of its sacrality, which means abandonment of hieratic language and banishment of sacred music, raising in their places inferior praxes that please or soothe performer and spectator, rather than instruct them on the true worship of Divine Majesty. Churches, incidentally, have discovered a new museifying zeal in the past decade to cope with the sudden surplus of useless trinkets, tossing everything that survived the great sacristy purges after the Council into a chamber of glamourised art, corralling true sacred music inside tantalising enclosures, converting sacred space into an aesthete’s salon. When the Liturgy will have been completely mired in this inherited mess, God forfend, as current events point to, hoping meanwhile that we are wrong, there would be no recourse for us but to uphold and defend Tradition.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Reference: Benedict Pp. XIV, Encyclical Letter Annus qui hunc, 3, near the middle.