the role of chant

Jeffrey Tucker has a fabulous post on The New Liturgical Movement , titled “When it is chant and when it is not.” Here’s an excerpt:

The famously unfulfilled mandate of the Second Vatican Council, that Gregorian chant should enjoy a principal place (principem locum obtineat) in liturgy, is finally being taken more seriously by Catholic musicians and ecclesiastical bodies. But there are many issues that are unresolved, mostly due to the lack of consciousness on the part of the musicians and clergy. The Vatican document from 1963 assumed more knowledge than most Catholic musicians and pastors currently have on this issue.

For example, people might believe that one way to implement the mandate is to add a chant to the hymn selections. We can think of once-popular such as Adoro te Devote, Veni Creator Spiritus, Attende Domine, or Salve Regina. The belief persists that if you add one of those into the mix, you are living up to the ideal of the Council. There is nothing wrong and much right about taking this approach if the goal is a transition measure toward actually using chant in the Mass.

These chant hymns are a great place to begin. A choral director can easily add one of these in at offertory or communion, and invite people to sing. The people will pick them up and learn that Latin is a beautiful language and that chant has a special capacity for lifting the heart and mind toward heaven. But let us be clear that this action alone, as meritorious as it might be, has essentially nothing to do with with the Council envisions, what the GIRM states, or what the new USCCB document on music calls for. There is a massive difference between using an old Latin hymn as a one in a selection of musical picks for Mass, and actually using the chants as part of the Mass.

Read the whole thing.