There is only one inner direction of the Eucharist, namely, from Christ in the Holy Spirit to the Father. The only question is how this can be best expressed in liturgical form.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1986
There continues to be considerable misunderstanding of ad orientem worship by many Catholics, which is unfortunate, because there is so much depth of meaning and rich theology involved in the simple gesture of the priest facing the same direction as the people during Mass.
One of our goals at St. Mark has been to gradually restore Gregorian chant to its rightful place in the sacred liturgy. This is specifically in response to the call of Vatican II: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specifically suited to the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (Sancrosanctum concilium, 116).
One might be tempted to think that there was an unbroken tradition of Gregorian chant in the Roman liturgy right up until the 1960’s, when “everything changed.” But that’s not quite right. It turns out that Gregorian chant fell on hard times from the about the end of the Middle Ages up until the mid-19th century. It’s ironic that it was that other venerable liturgical musical form, polyphony, that worked to undermine the purity of chant and initiate its decline.
Here’s an another great example, by the way of the Liturgical Arts Journal, of how restoring color to our Catholic churches can make such a big difference. This is from St. Patrick’s Oratory in Green Bay, Wisconsin. As we’ve learned watching the videos by Denis McNamara, returning beauty to our church buildings is not just about making things pretty—it helps churches fulfill their role of making Heaven present to us.
All things are set apart for use in divine worship should be truly worthy, becoming, and beautiful signs and symbols of heavenly realities.
Sacrosanctum concilium, 22
In this tenth and final episode, Dr. McNamara looks back at the Second Vatical Council and makes a claim that may surprise many people (except those who follow this blog!). Namely, that a careful reading of the documents of Vatican II reveals the traditional nature of the Council.
Children are naturally interested in making art, and of course this should be encouraged. In fact, basic art skills such as drawing should be a part of a well-rounded education. Many well-known artists first learned to draw in school.
Catholic artist David Clayton provides a valuable perspective on art education for kids (or anyone, for that matter):
The Communion meditation sung by our choir this Sunday was the motet Ave Verum Corpus by English composer William Byrd. This is a Eucharistic hymn that is also very fitting for the Transfiguration and the season of Lent. Listen to a recorded version below.
In this ninth video in the series, Dr. McNamara describes how a church building should be a reflection of Heaven, a foretaste of our future in Glory in the presence of God. He paraphrases an unnamed saint who said something to the effect of, “A church is an earthly Heaven, where Christ walks about with us.” But what does this look like?
For something a little different, here is a link to an article in the Liturgical Arts Journal on hand-made altar cards, created by Pelican Printery House in Lincoln, Nebraska. For those not familiar with altar cards, these are the cards that are framed and placed on the altar, containing some key Mass texts for the priest to refer to during the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. It’s wonderful to see this kind of art still being made today.
If you were at our beautiful Ash Wednesday Mass, you heard the choir perform a setting of Anima Christi by Fr. Marco Frisina (listen to a recording below). You don’t find many contemporary composers of classical sacred music, much less priest-composers. Read more about him here and check out the rest of his website (he also does opera and film scores!).