Sunday, August 27, 2006


One thing I've reflected on the past is the use of the term "relationship" with regards to how we relate to God.

Don't get me wrong, I am not denying our relationship with God with what I am about to say, only that what we have with Him goes far beyond the idea of relationship. It includes it, but goes beyond it. Let me explain.

I am going to look at this as a hierarchy, one in which the higher involve the lower.

The lowest in the hierarchy is the idea of a simple relationship. It is a truth that we do have a relationship, but it's not the be all and all, it does not connote the reality that we live. To have a relationship with Christ only expresses love in the way of philia, in the familial type of love. We see Christ simply as a member of the family and thus have a natural affection of love towards Him. This is indeed the case, but it is not the fullness.

The next is an intimate relationship with Christ. This goes up a notch. Not only does this include everything from pure relationship, but it adds the idea of yearning. We experience Christ intimately and thus move closer towards Him and yearn for Him. This is the relationship of eros, of yearning and wanting. We see that Christ can give us truth, beauty, and happiness, and we want to accept that and ask it of Him. For the first time, we seek Christ out as the woman seesk out her love in the Song of Songs. We know that we have experienced true love, and we want more of it. But this also is not the fulfillment.

I would like to argue that we have an intimate communion with God. It involves the first two things which I already mentioned, but it is no longer a seeking, but a willing to give our entire seslves over to Christ and to conform ourselves to His will. We are no longer self-seeking, but are seeking that which pleases our beloved. Communion entails agape love, that is, love that is totally self-giving. In other words, an intimate communion with Christ is an involvement in the Trinitarian exchange of love. By giving our selves completely to Christ, we thus image the exchange of self-giving love that is a reality in the Blessed Trinity. And what is the Trinity? It is a communion of love, the most intimate. There is relationship there, and there is seeking, but it is realized fully in the self-giving of self. Eros and philia realize their true nature in the self-giving love of the Trinity.

And thus, by our giving of self to Christ, we experience that Trinitarian exchange of love in its fullness. It is something that is worked at throughout our lives as we grow closer to Christ. But Christ already gives us that foretaste through the Eucharist.

When Christ says in John 6 that "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you" He means it! By receiving the Eucharist, we receive that spiritual food that gives us the strength to love Christ as He loves us. What is our life? To grow in Holiness by imitating Christ? How do we imitate Christ? By being a sign of love to the world. Thus, by receiving the Eucharist, we receive the love of Christ which is the heart of our life. Without Christ's love, communicated to us through the Eucharist, indeed, we have no life, because we do not find the fulfillment of the desires of our heart in things of the world, but only in the love of Christ. But we only experience the love of Christ through the reception of Him in our lives. We receive Him in Baptism when we enter the Church, but we receive Him intimately in the Eucharist. Christ gives Hiimself to us, who are we to refuse His gift?

*sidenote* I realize that I had a post on personal and intimate relationship of Chirst, but when one prays and ponders thelogical things, one can move further on and beyond.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Role of Music in Liturgy

It's been a while, but I've got too much to say, so I figured I ought to post something :).

It's about the role of music in the liturgy. It's been the fruit of discussion I've been having with many people for the past few days and so I figure I'd share it with you all, plus dilixitprior's post on George Weigel's article inspired me to finally post something.

As we all know, there is some...well....junky music out there for liturgy. Now, let me say this first, and I very much want to qualify this, that other forms of music are not bad or anything, and they can indeed be Christianized and have been in many ways, but they don't have a role in liturgical celebration. Sing praise and worship, but I find it's role in liturgy to not be fitting (I will explain this later).

So, I argue that the music we ought to sing at Mass is in accordance to that which has been part of the constant tradition of the Church. There are 2 streams of tradition in the Church with regards to music, the Eastern stream and the Western stream.

In the history of the existence of the Church, the Eastern Church's roots are probably the most visible. It's roots are the longest lasting and perhaps even the least changing from my bits and pieces of knowledge about the history of liturgical music.

The Western Church, to my knowledge (and am willing to be corrected), did not have any real musical tradition until the entrance of Gregorian Chant. It is Gregorian Chant that is the finalization of the tradition of music for Western Liturgies.

Now, people argue that the Mass has been changed in order to bring us into a more modern period. This is true, there is less or no Latin (which is fine) in order to adapt to the fact that Latin is not as accessible for people to learn as it once was as well as other changes. Some are unfortunate and will be changing to a more legitimate translation with the new Roman Missal that is due out soon. Others are accidental and will probably not change because they are not of a huge theological concern. One of these is the facing East for Mass. This has changed universally pretty much, but Ratzinger, before he was Pope, said that though this is unfortunate because of the reasons, it is such a major change that it is not something that is essential to the liturgy (he says this in Feast of Faith and Spirit of the Liturgy).

So, people argue, because the Mass has changed to bring the Church into the Modern era to make it a better tool of evangelization to the modern man, so too ought the music to change.

I argue differently, however. Yes, there has been changes in order to make the Church accessible to the modern person. The music is something that ought not to change. The reason for this is the constant tradition of the Church. As we can see, the Mass has changed throughout the history of the Church, yet it's essence has always remained. With these changes in the Mass, however, there have not been much if any, at least up until these more current days, change in the music. The church's tradition is firmly rooted in music that leads one's focus onto God.

Many people feel music that is more rock orientated and more uplifting and feel good ought to be the main course of music for mass. Chant is old school and went out with the old mass. I disagree.

The mass is not there to be noisy, it is there for silence. It is there for us to bring praise to God, to truly worship Him. This is why we were created, so that we may worship Him out of love for the love He has shown us. So, though rock orientated music (I use this only as one example) is not meant for Mass.

Now, people would immediately interject "But one of the great things the Church does is that it takes what is good from non-Christian art forms and worship and incorporate it into the life of the Church, why can we not contain praise and worship music in liturgy using this reason?"

I answer that indeed praise and worship music is good and is a sincere way of praising God, but not in liturgy. The liturgy is a community event in that we are there to grow closer to God, and, through that growing closer to God, growing closer to our neighbour. We indeed do have many ways of praising and glorifying God, but the Mass is wholy seperated from individualism but is built upon the idea of building community. And that community is not just parish based but is indeed a universal community, a communion of Saints! And so, our praise ought to be unified in a manner that leads one to silence so as to properly focus on the praising and worshiping of God.

This is why I argue in favour of the music that is more rooted in the tradition of the Church. It is something that wistands the test of time, that is always there. It leads you to a silence while singing. When I hear Gregorian Chant (I only use it as just one example) it leads me to silence and thus to a greater love fo the communial embrace God and I are having. When there is more noisy music, it is very much harder to express that silence that we yearn for because one begins to be entertained. It becomes about the parishioner and not God.

I remember on Holy Thursday this past year, our Bishop was processing through the Cathedral with the Eucharist one final time before Christ went into the tomb before His resurrection. The chant the whole time was the Pange Lingua. How beautiful it was! There was such unison and peace, there was singing, but there was silence, the great paradox of music realizing it's function in liturgy.

Now, I'm not saying all the music has to be in Latin, but it has to have the heart of the role of music in liturgy. Ratzinger and many other theologians have said this as well.

St Augustine once said that "singing is praying twice". He is right indeed, because there is the outward praise one has towards God, but there is also the interior silence, which the Catechism calls "the language of God."

One final note for now. The Mass is, as Vatican II said, ought to be accessible to all people. But it never asked for us to remove the mystery of what is happening at Mass. Singing music that focuses on emotional highs is not conducive to this spirit, it does not lead one to a sense of mystery, but to a sense of entertainment, into getting caught up into emotions, there is little room for silence.

And so, if the Mass is also to connote a sense of mystery, we ought to have music and a language that expresses this. This is why music such as Gregorian Chant is great, it leads one to the sense of mystery, the "I see the beauty in all it's uncomprehensability". There is a role a language as well, but that's another post.

Again, I am not dealing with just Gregorian Chant or Praise and Worship here, I only use them as examples because they are the two most common ones I could think of.

This is just the tip of the ice berg, but my initial thoughts on the role of music in Liturgy.