This is bad, very bad. It’s now official: no pointing of orations in the new English missal. I’ll say more below about what pointing is and what orations are. But first some background.
In 1963 the Second Vatican Council said, Sacrosanctum concilium no. 112, “sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action,” and “liturgical worship is given a more noble form when the divine services are celebrated solemnly in song.” Here’s the point: don’t just sing any old ditty, sing the liturgy. Sing the ritual texts. Think High Mass.
The first Roman instruction on sacred music after the council, the 1967 instruction Musicam Sacram, says at no. 7, “in selecting the parts which are to be sung, one should start with those that are by their nature of greater importance, and especially those which are to be sung by the priest or by the ministers, with the people replying, or those which are to be sung by the priest and people together.” Here’s the point: don’t just have the people sing any ditties while Father says Mass. Sing the Mass. Sing the parts where the people reply to the priest or minister. Some examples: The Lord be with you./And with your spirit. We ask this through Christ our Lord./Amen. The Word of the Lord./Thanks be to God. Go, the Mass is ended./Thanks be to God.
The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal says at no. 40: “In the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.” Here’s the point: we still agree with the Second Vatican Council and the 1967 instruction. Sing the liturgy.
The U.S. bishops make the point even more clearly in their 2007 guidelines, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, when they write at no. 19, “The priest sings the presidential prayers and dialogues of the Liturgy according to his capabilities,” and at no. 115a: “Every effort should therefore be made to introduce or strengthen as a normative practice the singing of the dialogues between the priest, deacon, or lector and the people.” They treat the Collect (opening prayer), Prayer over the Offerings, and Prayer after Communion at nos. 151, 175, and 197 – in all cases with wording which encourages, or even suggests as normative, singing these orations. No. 197, for example, though providing for reciting or singing the Prayer after Communion, seems to suggest that singing is normative when it states, “At the conclusion of the prayer, the entire assembly sings the Amen as a sign of assent.”
The national conferences and ICEL have been working together the last couple years to make it possible for priests to carry out these directives and chant the orations – i.e., the Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, and Prayer after Communion. The idea was that these three orations would be “pointed” – i.e., marked to indicate where the priest changes pitch by going down or up a pitch. The US liturgy office and the FDLC have been giving workshops all over the US explaining to priests how to chant the orations with the pointing of the new missal.
Pointing had already been done in the first missal after Vatican II, the partially vernacular 1966 missal. It looked like this:
The priest would chant on C (or a lower pitch, just transpose the whole thing down), and at the first underlining he would chant this simple cadence formula: B A C. Then back to C, and at the second underlining drop a minor third, down to A for the final cadence. Quite simple, yes? Works well, yes?
At the ICEL website there is an explanation of how the pointing was to work in the new missal. If you’ve been tracking the occasional changes to the music posted here, you know that previously it said “All the presidential prayers in the Missal are pointed… according to the following formula.” This was when we all thought that all the prayers in the English missal would be pointed. But at some point ICEL changed the wording to “may be pointed…” This was when word started to come down that pointing might not be permitted. I hope poor ICEL doesn’t have to make more changes, or pull this post.
And now the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome has confirmed that it will not permit the orations to be pointed in the English Missal. Why? It deviates from the 2002 Latin missal. That would be, I guess, Febronianism or Josephinism. If national conferences began to act in such subordinationist disobedience, it would be only a small step further to nationalist neo-Gallican liturgies, such as the French bishops countenanced until they finally implemented the 1570 missal of Paul V (the “Tridentine” missal) in the second half of the 19th century. The grave and acute marks look small, but they represent an ominous precedent. Best to nip this in the bud.
On August 27 I posted the following on Pray Tell:
It is hard to imagine that there would be any objections to the addition of pointing marks to the English-language Missal. To prohibit pointing because such is not in the Latin Missal would be a new high-water mark of Pharisaic legalism in our Church. One hopes that the Roman authorities will give their warm support to the proposed pointing system. Even more, one hopes that the pointing will help priests in the spirited and reverent chanting of the orations.
I already knew then that the Roman authorities had prohibited pointing, but I still had hope that appeals from national conferences would be effective. I refused to believe that the Roman authorities would really hold to their position. But they have.
It feels funny to criticize the Holy See, although I will do so very strongly on this point. The funny feeling is that I’m on their side. I’m the one who supports singing the Mass, singing the dialogues and responses, singing the orations. I’m the one who supports chant, in Latin or English. I’m a liturgical traditionalist, and I follow the ideals of the Roman documents. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship is now thwarting those very ideals.
Legalistic? Overly centralized? Abusive of authority? Pharisaic? Idolatrous toward the 2002 Latin missal? Incoherent? Philistine? Incomprehensible? Idiotic? Take your pick. None of those seems strong enough to me.
This is bad, very bad.