Friday, January 6, 2012

Of wineskins and song

It has now been about six weeks since we launched this amazing new adventure called the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. For the first few weeks of this period I was here at Notre Dame, working with our students and residence halls on the implementation of all the new music into our thirty residence halls, the Basilica, and various other communities associated with the academy.

But about mid-December, the students headed home, and my wife and I had the chance to head out into various parishes, both here in the South Bend area, and while visiting family and friends around the country. And that meant – attending mass with many different assemblies.

And I've got to say, after experiencing the old rewrites and some of the completely new settings, my unqualified vote at this point is a vote to be "out with the old." Perhaps it's because I visited a great parish at Christmas, one that had a wonderful tradition of participation, but still was surrounded by a lot of stumbling when it came to old versions in a new rewrite. But my intuition has now been verified by several experiences. It's time to change.

I was preparing a liturgy here at Notre Dame for all our returning resident assistants, a week from now here at Notre Dame. The gospel passage for this Monday celebration goes as follows:
"No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.
If he does, its fullness pulls away,
the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and both the wine and the skins are ruined.
Rather: new wine is poured into fresh wineskins."

This is the philosophy I've taken toward the implementation of new music in the liturgy: old wine, old wineskins. New wine – new wineskins.

There are several mass settings that have well served the church over the years. And we can, with delight and gratitude, now say to those settings, "well done, good and faithful setting!"

But now, it's time to put new words to new songs. Let the words, their inflections, their implied nuances and the tunes that spring from them – let these new ideas come forward, not just be forced into old tunes. They deserve more. And we're smart enough to learn new ones.

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