Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Battle Against Banality--Jos. Ratzinger

Robert Reilly, actual scholar, writes in Inside Catholic about what Benedict XVI/Jos. Ratzinger has been preaching and teaching for well over 20 years.

Reilly cites an article in The Australian, written by Christopher Pearson, here quoting Tracy Rowland:

Ratzinger has focused on practices (that) diminish the possibilities of the soul or the self, for its own transcendence. The marketing of vulgar art, music and literature and the generation of a very low, even barbaric, mass culture is seen by Ratzinger to be one of the serious pathologies of contemporary Western culture. By this reading, clerics who think that they will win young people to the church by adopting the marketing strategies of public relations firms and attempting a transposition of the church's cultural patrimony into the idioms of contemporary mass culture are only further diminishing the opportunities of youth for genuine self-transcendence.

Surprise! Dump "art," get omphaloskepsis (the practice of examining one's own navel...)

One immediate consequence of this position has been Benedict's insistence on music worthy of the liturgy, rather than "utility music" derived from 1960s youth culture. He says: "A church which only makes use of utility music has fallen for what is, in fact, useless. She too becomes ineffectual. For her mission is a far higher one. The church must not settle down with what is merely comfortable and serviceable at the parish level; she must arouse the voice of the cosmos and, by glorifying the creator, elicit the glory of the cosmos itself, making it also glorious, beautiful, habitable and beloved. Next to the saints, the art which the church has produced is the only real apologia for her history. The church is to transform, improve, humanise the world, but how can she do that if at the same time she turns her back on beauty, which is so closely allied to love? For together beauty and love form the true consolation in this world, bringing it as near as possible to the world of the resurrection."

So--what's the Pope actually proposing?

Surely, no one has spoken of music in a more exalted way than has this pope, who restores to art its hieratic purpose. Is this inclusive? Is the cosmos inclusive? Is Christ inclusive? As St. Clement of Alexandria taught, Christ is the "New Song" of the universe. "[It] is this [New Song] that composed the entire creation into melodious order, and tuned into concert the discord of the elements, that the whole universe may be in harmony with it." How is that for inclusive? That New Song is not played on bongo drums, as that would be exclusive -- in the sense that it would exclude the transcendent, which cannot be reached by any bongo drums I have ever heard.

What about the reality of "the Spirit of Vatican II" music?

My acid test for any part of the liturgy, including the music, is this: Would a complete stranger observing it believe that what is taking place is the most important thing in these people's lives? I cannot express how I have missed that sense of sanctity in the Mass with which I grew up. I am also a man of the theatre. I was an actor in my early professional life, so I understand the stage. That is what infuriated me about the "new" liturgy of the 1970s. Any competent stage director could have told the liturgical innovators that it did not convey the presence of the sacred. It was so obvious that the conclusion occurred that they must not think the sacred was present. Many parishioners got the message, as they stopped believing in the Real Presence.

When you wander into the Catholic parish which has a "contemporary" choir or ensemble, notice that this group is typically 'on stage.' So--what compels your attention? The "other Christ," who is the priest?---or the band?

If you actually believe that Christ is The Actor in the liturgy, what are all those other people DOING up there?

And do you really believe that 'the music of the cosmos' is what they are presenting?


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