Why Chant Can’t Speed Up

Canto GregorianoWhen I first encountered Gregorian Chant in the Catholic Mass, it felt like a serenade for my soul. The music massaged my anxiety away, and I knew right away I wanted more chant in the masses I went to, more chant in the prayers I prayed, more chant in my life.

So what did I do? What I usually do when I find treasure — I shared it with others as fast and as much as I could.

I started by teaching Tantum Ergo to the kids in the youth group. Yes, it was all in Latin. Yes, they took to it easily and faster than I thought they would. And yes, it was slow, paced, and measured.

But why exactly is Christian chant so slooooooow? Why do we draw out the Kyrieeeeeeeeeee eleison (among others)? Why do we take our time and pronounce everything carefully, tediously…

Well, it’s the same reason why lovers can talk for hours. When you love someone, you don’t rush through conversations, you don’t speed through hellos and blitz through farewells, you don’t sing to each other just to get it over with. You savor it!

You take it slow, show them you care, take the time to make it clear and meaningful.

When you encounter beauty, you want to stay in it. Nobody brushes off a stunning sunset. Nobody forgets a special smile. But everybody wants to prolong their exposure to beauty, to stall and relish in it — get absorbed into it.

And that’s why chant can’t speed up. Because we’re singing to our Beloved, because we’re humming to Him with the saints in Heaven, because we’re steeping in His glory and beauty.

Even toddlers know Gregorian chant is just different — and dare I say…  just better.

So next time you’re at a Mass with chant done right, don’t just listen… but feel the music. It’s prayer with texture.

Is Chant Still a Thing?

[YOU BET it is!]

The Priest Disappears

For most of my life, I’ve been going to the Ordinary Form (aka: the Novus Ordo, the New Order) of the Roman Catholic Mass. It was the Mass I was born into, grew up with, and still appreciate. It’s the Mass of Vatican II, the Catholic Mass of today.

But once you taste the sushi, the steak, the cake, the wine… you just don’t wanna settle for the canned tuna, the burger, the Twinkie, the Hi-C. (That’s not to say you can’t have a really good tuna sandwich, gourmet burgers, and fresh homemade creme cakes with organic fruit punch, though!)

Sushi!

Mmmm… Mmmm!

Hmmm...

Hmmm…

And once I tasted the Extraordinary Form (aka: the Vetus Ordo, the Old Order, the Tridentine, the Traditional Latin Mass), I just found it more and more difficult to feel satisfyingly fed at the Ordinary Mass. I mean, even the name itself sounds… not-extraordinary.

Well today (October 13, 2013, World-Wide-Consecration-to-Mary Day!), a few fellow seminarians invited me along to the Tridentine. I was surprised at first, because we had just went to a Mass! At the Cathedral! Five minutes ago! But at the same time, I felt like someone was treating me to a banquet — how could I decline? How?

So I went to Mass again, twice within four hours!

And WHAT A DIFFERENCE.

I could give dozens of reasons why I’ve grown to love the Extraordinary Mass. Ever since my first encounter with the EF in 2010-ish, I’ve seen my love for the Liturgy and my reverence for the Eucharist mature and ripen. The Tridentine has taught me how to worship, how to pray and praise, and how to serve the Lord.

And today at Vetus Ordo, I noticed yet another reason why: the priest disappears.

That’s right! The priest — he disappears!

I found myself wrestling with the prayers, exercising my soul, working out my mind and disciplining my body. Then I looked toward the High Altar and couldn’t see the priest. “Wait, where did Father go? Where… hmm… OH! There he is!”

So what happened?

I meditated on what just happened (the silence of V.O. Mass let’s you do that easily) and I realized: Mass is really not about the priest. It’s not about his homily, not about the jokes that he shares, not about the stories he relates (good as some are).

No. Mass is about the Lord. Mass is about Christ sacrificing Himself for love of us. And about Him feeding us with Bread from Heaven, with True Food and True Drink (John 6: 48-69).

And the servant of the Lord — the priest — knew Who was the focus of Mass. The priest submitted himself to Jesus, submitted so much so to the Church that *poof* he disappeared.

I must decrease, and He must increase (John 3:30). Right?

Bon Appétit!

*Please see this short video for more*

The elevation of the Blessed Sacrament.

The elevation of the Blessed Sacrament.

UPDATED [Jan. 20, 2018]: My intuition is only further affirmed by this quote taken from this article from OnePeterFive:

In the Old Mass, the personality of the priest does not matter. His office matters, and he and the people together are facing the Lord. Conversus ad Dominum. And for that reason the role of the priest is an objective one. It’s not subjective, and for that reason he disappears. That is, obviously, he is the mediator between the congregation and God, leading the congregation toward God, but because of the objectivity of the structure, he disappears. That is very salutary, because the Mass is not about the priest; it’s about God. In the Novus Ordo, because of the versus populum practice, and because of all the options of the priest inserting something like a comment, or spontaneity, the role of the priest becomes terribly subjective. Therefore, he becomes the focus of attention, so the New Mass is terribly clericalized because it’s all about the priest, as opposed to the Old Mass. And this is unfortunate.