From one New Missal to another: a reflection by Gerry Fitzpatrick
It is 45 years since we welcomed the first modern translation of the Roman Missal, and as we prepare to move onto a new translation it might be useful to reflect on where we have come from and how far we have come since 1965.
The repertoire for the Mass liturgy before the New Missal was introduced in 1965 was in Latin, though we also had an extensive repertoire of hymns for the Novenas and Benediction which were so popular at that time. There were lots of choir Mass settings available – Richard Terry in C, Francis Duffy, Gounod, Smith, Kitson in D, – and many parishes managed to sing some of these and the plainsong settings of Mass V111 and Credo 3, but they could usually only manage such settings at the main Sunday Mass. Some schools, colleges and cathedrals managed Palestrina’s Missa Brevis or even the Missa Papae Marcelli but these were laudable but exceptional! The hymns used at Benediction and ‘Devotions’ included such as Sweet Sacrament Divine, O Salutaris, Tantum Ergo, Adoremus, Sweet Heart of Jesus, Jesus my Lord, I rise from dreams of time, Hail Queen of Heaven and a host of others. Choirs gloried in Ecce Panis Angelorum, Franck’s Panis Angelicus, Mozart’s Ave Verum, Arcadelt’s Ave Maria, Palestrina’s ‘O bone Jesu’ – to mention but a few.
The Vatican Council’s decree on the Liturgy refocused the Church’s attention in music for the Liturgy but in its encouragement of fuller participation and the vernacular it wasn’t breaking entirely new ground. Almost 16 hundred years previously in the 4th century St Ambrose began writing vernacular hymns to give the faithful the tools of prayer with hymns such as Deus creator omnium (God creator of all) with its concluding Doxology : ‘Hail we the Father and the Son, and Son’s and Father’s Spirit, one blest Trinity who all obey; guard Thou the souls that to Thee pray. Amen.’ Ambrose used Doxologies at the end of hymns not only for devotional reasons but as a means of expressing the Catholic faith in the face of the Arian heresy!
A similar pastoral purpose can be detected when at the Reformation more than 450 years ago, Martin Luther, like Ambrose, recognised the power of music and introduced people to vernacular hymns and psalms such as : “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Got” – A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing. Likewise, John Calvin encouraged vernacular song but restricted singing in church to scripture. The Genevan Psalter had immense influence with enduring masterpieces such as the Old 100th ): ‘All people that on earth do dwell’
When the Plainsong revival took off in the early 19th century, the intention was still to provide people with appropriate tools for participation and prayer and it clearly bore fruit – some parishes were still singing Mass 8 and Credo 3, Salve Regina, O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo, Salve Regina, Veni creator and more, at least at one Sunday Mass, in the 1960s. That plainsong revival was partly a reaction against the intrusion into the liturgy of inappropriate and even operatic type songs Later, Pope Pius X tried to reinforce that reaction by making Gregorian chant and classical polyphony the standard against which liturgical music should be assessed. It had become important to make a clear distinction between liturgical music and religious music in general – and it still is.
About the same time, the early 19th and late 18th century, there was another outburst of creative hymn writing aimed at giving people the tools with which to pray and to express their faith (( ‘lex credendi, lex orandi’) ‘what you pray is what you believe’). From the 16th century Catholic hymns had continued to be in Latin, the Calvinist repertoire was scriptural and vernacular, but the Lutherans were using both scriptural and new devotional hymns. By the 18th century writers and composers in the Anglican, Methodist and reformed traditions had begun to transform public worship: Isaac Watts whose copious writings included ‘When I survey the wondrous cross,’ ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘O God our help in ages past’ and Charles Wesley whose hymns also aimed at expressing our personal feelings in prayer – rather like taking a leaf out of a psalmist’s book! – “Where shall my wondering soul begin? How shall I all to heaven aspire? “ and many of us still sing his “Love divine, all praise excelling”
Catholic writers such as Fr Faber gave us enduring verses such as Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all, Sweet Saviour Bless us and a host of others – aimed at equipping people with the tools of prayer and faith. And Cardinal Newman enriched us with ‘Lead kindly Light’ and ‘Praise to the Holiest. . . . . ‘ Attention was also given in the 18th and 19th centuries to translations of some of the ancient vernacular hymns such as Corde natus: ‘Of the Father sole begotten’ by Aurelius Prudentius (+413). Vexilla Regis : ‘Abroad the regal banners fly’ by Venantius Fortunatus: (+609) The 7th c Creator Alme siderum: ‘Dear maker of the starry’ 7th c. The Victimae paschali Laudes: ‘Christ the Lord is risen today’ by Wipo 11th c. Jesus Dulcis memoria; ‘Jesus, the very thought’ – St Bernard 11th c.
During the 1960s much work was being done in Scotland preparing the St Andrew Hymnal for use in Catholic Churches – again aimed at providing the tools of prayer and participation. Sadly the timing of this publication could hardly have been worse, because it came out when parishes were prioritising material for use during Mass and there was less interest in a hymnal which had been designed for the liturgy before the Council. Nonetheless the book contained much that will surely win a place in our repertoires, hymns by Francis Duffy and Joseph McHardie, Mother Turnbull and Charles Fraser, John McQuaid, Desmond Gunning, David McRoberts and others.
In the 45 years since Vatican 11 we have seen an immense flowering of liturgical composition across the churches aimed at that ‘full, active conscious participation’ which the Council asked for. John Bell wrote in the Preface to ‘Common Ground’ in 1998: “The Scottish Churches do not have a proud history of encouraging the creative arts, but recent experience suggests a change in attitude.” I suppose we can all look at what has been done from a variety of perspectives – is the glass half full or is it half empty? In the 1960s it was difficult to get parishes to buy hymn books – but then there wasn’t much singing at Mass anyway, and we have come a long way since then. The music and hymns are certainly not all masterpieces but then was it not always thus
We have had the benefit of the scripture based hymns of James Quinn S.J. who also wrote material specifically designed for use at Mass. Some of his most popular ones have included ‘This is my will’, ‘Where true love is dwelling’, ‘Christ be beside me;’ ‘O light from light our footsteps guide,’ ‘Day is done,’ ‘Forgive them, Father dear,’ ‘Praise the king,’ ‘I believe in God,’ O Come, O Come,’ ‘Remember those, O Lord.’ The St Mungo Singers introduced his unpublished hymn for the Feast of St John Ogilvie to a new tune by Noel S Donnelly. Notably, at James’ funeral on the 15th April 2010 people sang his ‘Christ be beside me,’ ‘My shepherd is my Lord and God,’ ‘Now let all on earth fall silent,’ ‘Your body, Jesus, one for us was broken,’ ‘Jesus’ soul, make holy,’ ‘O white-robed King of Glory,’ ‘May God the Father look on you with love,’ and ‘Out of the depth of love.’ There is no doubt that he will retain a prominent place in our repertoire.
Other significant developments have included: the psalms of Joseph Gelineau which were such a powerful tool in re-introducing the psalms to popular liturgical use. For many of us Gelineau’s setting of Psalm 22 ‘The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want’ and his Psalm 135 ‘Give thanks to the Lord for he is good: great is his love, love without end’ were an accessible and inviting introduction to the vernacular psalms.
Our psalm repertoire has continued to expand, with the books of psalm tones produced by Mayhew and McCrimmon, then ‘Psalms for Parishes’ in 1975 produced by St Mungo Music and the St Thomas More Centre which combined psalm-tone settings and lyric or hymn-type settings, then the “Focus on Holy Week” and “Focus on Advent and Christmas” publications of Kevin Mayhew and on up to Psalms of the Seasons produced for St Mungo Music by Kevin Mayhew in 2005 and ‘Psallite,’ Sacred song for Liturgy and Life produced by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville in 2007. St Mungo Music has begun another series (Psalms and Songs of the Bible) with settings of psalms from 1 – 24 already available and another collection in the pipeline.
The thirst for participation was met at Taize with favourites such as: Eat this Bread; O Lord, hear my prayer; Jesus remember me; Ubi caritas; Wait for the Lord; Adoramus Te, Domine. . . . . . Similarly music from the Iona Community has been an invaluable aid in encouraging and empowering people at prayer: We cannot measure how you heal; Lord Jesus Christ, lover of all; Jesus Christ is waiting; Will you come and follow me; Christ’s is the world; God to enfold you; Ps 62: O God you are my God. . . . . . .
The reluctance of some congregations to sing has sometimes been partly overcome by the attractive quality of what they are invited to sing, and while there is undoubtedly some unevenness in the quality of popular hymns there have been many outstandinging contributions such as: Be thou my vision; Christ be our light; One bread, one body; One body, one faith, one Lord of all; You satisfy the hungry heart; Here I am, Lord; Seed scattered and Sown; I cannot tell; To Christ the seed; Though the mountains may fall; the Iona Boat Song; the Mallaig Sprinkling Song . . . . .
‘The Prayer of the Church’ has included biblical Canticles or songs for many years and recently we have managed to get versions of many of these into attractive hymn form. Canticles from the Prophecies of Ezechiel, from the Book of Wisdom, from the Letters to the Ephesians, to the Colossians and others have been made available with both new tunes and with alternative popular tunes.
We have also been able to integrate some of the finest hymns in the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian repertoire into our own, hymns such as Praise to the Lord; Now thank we all our God; Crimond; Be still my soul; Tell out my soul; How great thou art; Abide with me; For all the saints; For the beauty of the earth; Alleluia Sing to Jesus; Love divine; God is love; God we praise you; Be still for the presence; He is Lord, he is Lord; Christ the Lord is risen today; Dear Lord and Father; O love that will not let me go; . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In the Catholic liturgy hymns have traditionally been an extra, though in the aftermath of the 2nd Vatican Council they gained an importance hitherto denied them. The Council stressed the importance of full, conscious and active participation and emphasised that some parts of the Mass belonged to the congregation – i.e. The Kyrie and Gloria, the Sanctus and Memorial, the Great Amen and the Agnus Dei. Choirs were meant to lead and enrich the people’s song. However, until an adequate liturgical music repertoire could be created hymns were thankfully used as steps on the way. They have a valued place in our worship, but are not meant to displace the liturgical texts or to crowd them out. Whether they will retain the place in our liturgy which they have claimed in the past 40 years remains to be seen.
There have been countless settings of the liturgical texts by Paul Inwood, Chris Walker, Peter McCrail, Stephen Dean, Peter Jones, Bernadette Farrell, , . . . . . and in Scotland from Francis Duffy, Noel Donnelly, Martin Morran, Mary Dickie, Catherine Walker, David Harris, myself and now James MacMillan and others have been introduced. Martin Dalby and Tom Wilson wrote some fine music for the canonisation of St John Ogilvie, but it didn’t enter the repertoire – perhaps it was more sophisticated than was practical at the time! Arguably the most significant of the sung liturgical texts is the ‘Sanctus’ or the ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord’. It is good to see it re-claiming a place in the hymnbooks of the Reformed tradition as well as in our own, though I was disappointed not to see a greater number and variety of settings in the Church of Scotland’s CH4.
Our experience of music in the liturgy for the past 45 years should serve us well as we prepare for the New Missal. The new translations contain an invitation to us to renew our efforts. From the time when the New Testament was being created, through St Hilary of Poitiers and St Ambrose, then the time of the Reformation and the creativity of the 18th-19th centuries to the present day, the church’s life and liturgy has been fuelled by faith-filled creativity – there is no reason to suggest that it won’t continue, blending the well seasoned with the fresh!