Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Aquinas vs. Sacred Music

Interesting post here. The author read Tracy Rowland's Ratzinger's Faith.

The second problematic aspect of the Thomist tradition in regard to liturgy, according to Ratzinger, has to do with a pragmatic understanding of the role of music in liturgy. This understanding of liturgical music goes back to Thomas himself. It is not just a product of his later followers. In question 91, article 2, of his Summa Theologica, Thomas said that it is justifiable to use music in liturgy because “the minds of the weak are more effectively summoned to piety” by it. Ratzinger (according to Rowland) takes this to mean that, for Thomas, church music has nothing more than a pedagogical function and is subject to the standards of utility: it is reduced to its utilitarian function - it must be a popular form of music and usefulness for instruction. In fact, Karl Rahner and Herbert Vorgrimler had used this very notion of Thomas’s to defend the replacement of “sacred music” with “utility music” (folk music, pop music, etc.).

I suppose that it's really gebrauchtmusik that TA favored.

As you might guess, Papa Ratzinger doesn't agree wholeheartedly.

The movement of spiritualization in creation is understood properly as bringing creation into the mode of being of the Holy Spirit and its consequent transformation, exemplified in the crucified and resurrected Christ. In this sense, the taking up of music into the liturgy must be its taking up into the Spirit, a transformation which implies both death and resurrection. That is why the Church has had to be critical of all ethnic music; it could not be allowed untransformed into the sanctuary. The cultic music of pagan religions has a different status in human existence from the music which glorifies God in creation. Through rhythm and melody themselves, pagan music often endeavors to elicit ecstasy of the senses, but without elevating the sense into the spirit; on the contrary, it attempts to swallow up the spirit in the senses as a means of release. This imbalance toward the senses recurs in modern popular music: the ‘God found here, the salvation of man identified here, is quite different from the God of the Christian faith.

Not too different than his critique of rock music, by the way--but he was much more harsh in his judgment of that stuff than this 'ethnic' music to which he refers--which includes 'folk' and to an extent, all hymnody.

Interestingly, Rowland, in her concluding chapter, shows that John Paul II and Benedict XVI, for all of their profound sympathies with one another, differ on precisely this issue. John Paul II took a more pragmatic, Thomist view of Christianity in relation to the culture: because beauty did not have the same importance for him as it does for Benedict. Benedict takes a more Augustinian view (I would broaden the category and refer to it as a more “Christian Platonist” view).

CosmosLiturgy wonders whether Thomists make bad liturgists...

And provides the answer to his own question (see the combox):

Ratzinger never bought into “Thomism” precisely for the reasons that you state: its penchant to detach philosophy from theology and to absorb itself in a post-Enlightenment, rationalist dialectic.

This penchant among Thomists was embodied in Karl Rahner and is precisely why Ratzinger once famously said that he realized, around the time of the Council, that he and Rahner lived in different mental universes

....which is to say, "some of them would be horrible."

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