Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Introit

Jeffrey Tucker at The Chant Cafe posted an excellent article on January 12 entitle “The Entrance to the Mass”. It is, in part, a review of a new book on liturgical music (by Jason McFarland,  Announcing the Feast (Liturgical Press, 2011), but it’s an excellent “tutorial” of sorts, in and of itself.  Read the whole article for the full effect – it’s a very compelling case for the importance of the introit.
Mr. Tucker writes:
Every Mass has an appointed entrance chant - and these chants have been largely stable since the end of the first millennium.
…The entrance chant is not there merely to foreshadow the readings of the day; it is there to build a theological and aesthetic foundation for the entire liturgical experience of the particular Mass that is being celebrated.
Instead, though, many parishes select an opening song that merely seeks to put everyone in a good mood – sort of like an ice-breaker at a social gathering.
…A poorly chosen “gathering song” only says to the congregation: hey, don’t worry about it. Nothing here is really different. This is pretty much the same kind of thing that has happened to you all week. This is more of the same: just another meeting, just another thing to do, just another place to be…
If we want Mass to be more like…well…Mass…we will almost certainly do better by using the “appointed chant”– the introit – to properly introduce the liturgy:
It seems that there is wisdom in the Church’s idea to the introit. From the very outset, we hear the words of Christ in the Psalms proclaimed to us. From the Sunday forthcoming: “Let all the earth worship you and praise you, O God. May it sing in praise of your name, Oh Most High.” Then the Psalm verses follow. “Cry out with joy to God, all the earth; O sing to the glory of his name. O render him glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How awesome your deeds!’ “Because of the greatness of your strength, your enemies fawn upon you. Before you all the earth shall bow down, shall sing to you, sing to your name!”

Now imagine this text set to chant so that the text is very clear, proclaimed with confidence. No mixed messages, no yadayada about the community, no dance beats, no forced rhythms. Now, that’s an entrance. Does it produce some degree of discomfort? Probably it does. Thinking about God and eternity tends to do that. But it works as a kind of stimulus to the spiritual mind and to the soul. It gets us on the right track. It prepares us to understand and be changed by what follows. Why would we ever decline to open Mass with this goal in mind?
Jeffrey Tucker’s article has much more to say on this subject, and is well worth reading – please do!

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