Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Man blunders again

I cannot believe I missed International Women's Day again this year. Did you have it marked down in your diary? How organised of you! I'm afraid it slipped my notice for what must be nearly the fortieth time in my life. It is just some kind of blind spot.

Don't get me wrong! As Sir Humphrey Appleby says somewhere, 'Some of my best friends are women.' It's just that an international day of phoney celebration, releasing balloons or doves and joining in candle-lit vigils, is beyond even my powers of endurance, whatever the cause or the agenda. But then why do people get so excited about it? I've heard of 'any port in a storm', but 'any bandwagon in a crowd'?


I assisted at a Mass this evening at which the Missa Santi Joannae Dei (sp?) was sung. The music was lovely, at least taken in the abstract. In his sermon the priest observed that Haydn, who had written it, was a devout Catholic who used to get inspiration from praying the Rosary. But then if he was so devout - and I'm not doubting it, honest! - why did he write a Benedictus which held up the consecration for what felt like five minutes? It's no good telling me that St Pius X banned all that stuff: it still gets performed. I wonder if my lack of sympathy for it is like my lack of sympathy for International Women's Day - a feeling of resistant to the implausible elaboration of what should naturally bring us into a state of veneration. Why the fuss and bother?

Along such fault lines do classical and baroque minds part company.

Go to 3 minutes in for another view.


Londiniensis said...

Err, isn't normal practice for the sung Sanctus to be split in two, and for the Benedictus to be sung after the Consecration?

GOR said...

Well you’re not alone Ches. I wasn’t aware that it was ‘Women’s Day' (or is that a magazine?) yesterday either. You say this has been going on for some time, eh…? Extraordinary. One must get out more.

Now as to EF ‘performances’, there you touch a nerve – or possibly a ‘third rail’ - in traddiedom. Now one of the knocks on NO Masses is that they have becomes performances – by the presider, the guitar-strummers, the waltzing mathildas and so on. My beef – or perhaps fish (it’s Lent) – with much of traddiedom is the insistence and emphasis on Solemn High Masses with all the trappings. How are these not also ‘performances’…?

Granted it may be a more reverent, nay even classical performance, but is it not a performance nevertheless – something we’re seeking to eliminate from the NO? Are we not substituting one performance for another? Reports of Solemn High Masses wax eloquent about the schola, the accomplished organist, the vestments, the number of altar boys, biretta’d ministers etc. One is tempted to ask: “What did you come out to see?”

The argument is advanced that Solemn High Mass is the ‘preferred’ way of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice – the ‘norm’ as it were. I expect those advancing this view did not experience the EF when it was the OF fifty years ago. I contend that while this view may have been advanced somewhere in writing, it was never the ‘norm’ in times past and was a rare occurrence outside of religious life, seminaries, cathedrals and the Vatican – and sparsely celebrated even there.

I’m with Martin Mosebach on this. He was taken to task by a cathedral dean for wanting the Old Mass: “…after all, he [the dean] said, very elaborate orchestral Masses were celebrated in the cathedral from time to time. I could not make him see that a low Mass in the old rite, read silently in a garage, is more solemn than the biggest church concert with spiritual trimmings…”


berenike said...

Eww. Very genuinely pious people advertising "Mass with Mozart's Missa Something performed by the XX choir and orchestra, and chant by XXX schola, in the form Chopin would have known, on the anniversary of Chopin's fourth sneeze" . Ugh ugh ugh.

Women's day is a "communist" feast day in Poland, but is quite popular. The usual way of marking it is for men to give women of their acquaintance (work colleagues, etc) a flower - used to be carnations, tulips are the usual thing these days.

I suppose you'd get slapped in the face for sexism if you tried that in the UK ...

JARay said...

I heard that it was "Women's Day" on the radio because the presenter of that particular show is a woman of a particular kind, who has her hair cut like a man and rides a motorbike.
Surely the cutting of the Sanctus into two ended decades ago! I can remember the days when it was done but then I'm not just over 21 but very much over 21!
It seems to have become more common for Masses in places like Cathedrals to actually advertise them and the music to be performed. By doing so, it clearly (to me!) is a case that something of a concert is going to take place.
I am reminded of a couple of lines by Alexander Pope:-
"And some to church repair,
Not for the service, but for the music there"
I think that those lines are taken from "The Rape of the Lock"...but then, as before, I'm going back many years and my memory just might be a little faded now.

Anonymous said...

Was it the ordinary form of the Mass that the Haydn was sung at?
John Ashley
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

GOR said...

On the subject of ‘performances’, allow me to insert another pet peeve of mine – relating to the Cappa Magna.

I have great admiration and love for Cardinal Burke – from the time he was bishop of LaCrosse and was little known outside the State of Wisconsin. My one quibble with him regards his penchant for using the Cappa Magna at the drop of a mitre. I know he’s not alone in this and the CM can and has been used by other prelates below the rank of Cardinal.

Frankly, I can’t see the purpose of the CM. It seems to hark back to a time when Cardinals were spoken of more in terms of being ‘Princes of the Church’ rather than potential martyrs for the Faith – a time when they also lived like princes, with mansions, estates, livery, a gaggle of servants and an entourage fit for a king.

Responding to criticism of his bishop (Bishop Slattery) for using the CM, Mgr. Patrick Brankin of the Diocese of Tulsa had this to say some time back:

"The cappa magna does indeed represent the finery of the world, its power and prestige. That is why after his entrance wearing it, the prelate is publicly stripped of this finery and humbled before the congregation. Then, vestment by vestment, the bishop is clothed in the new man of which St Paul speaks, including the baptismal alb, the dalmatic of charity, the stole of pardon and the chasuble of mercy. When finally clothed in Christ, the prelate makes a second entrance into the church to begin the eucharistic celebration in persona Christi, the visible head of the body, the church.

It was a clear statement that the power and prestige of the world have no place at the altar, but it is expressed in a liturgical ritual or symbol, which, unfortunately, are often lacking in the contemporary rites and thus hard to grasp.”

Which is a nice explanation – pregnant with evangelical perspicacity. But I suspect it is lost on the majority of people. They see the ‘parading’ but miss the ‘stripping’ I would venture. To many people it may come across as a wanton display of episcopal finery, redolent of an age when prelates unfortunately were known more for their worldliness than their godliness – something of which Cardinal Burke could never be accused.

Of course Gerald Warner would probably say I’m suffering from cappaphobia which, he says, “chiefly targets the elderly, many of whom may already be suffering from dementia.”

He may have a point…