Friday, February 10, 2006

Article on Latin and Chant in the Liturgy

by Nicholas F. Basehore, B.Mus

(as published in the Spring '06 edition of The Cathedral Chronicle, our quarterly newsletter)

Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.

These words, familiar to any former altar boys, are the opening lines of the Tridentine Mass: the order of Mass celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church for the 400 years between the ecumenical councils of Trent and Vatican II. Forty years ago, Vatican II allowed the Mass and other liturgies to be translated into the vernacular languages of each country. It did not, as some suggest, outlaw the use of Latin in our modern worship. On the contrary, Vatican II promoted the continued use of Latin in worship: “Steps should be taken enabling the faithful to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them.” [1]

During Lent, we will continue the cathedral parish’s tradition of singing major parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, as well as the Kyrie (which is actually Greek, not Latin). This practice not only responds to the call of Vatican II, it also connects us with Catholics around the world, and helps us pass the Church’s musical heritage onto the next generation of Catholics. No other form of music is better suited for the Roman liturgy than Gregorian chant[2]. We will use a collection of chants known as the Jubilate Deo, a Mass setting comprised of the simpler chants from the historical and modern chant books. The Jubilate Deo was compiled in the wake of Vatican II so that the “full, conscious, and active participation”[3] of the faithful could be achieved, and is considered the minimum repertoire of Latin chants for every Catholic parish. It was issued on April 14, 1974 as a “personal gift” from His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, to the bishops of the world and the heads of the religious orders. An online edition of Jubilate Deo can be found at

During Lent, we are asked by the Church to restrict the use of musical instruments. The human voice is the only required musical instrument in Christian worship; the pipe organ and other instruments are permitted as embellishments. (Our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches never use musical instruments in their worship at any time.) During Lent, however, we are restricted in the use of musical instruments: musical instruments are only permitted to support the congregational singing, and may not be played as a solo.[4] Consequently, there will not be preludes, postludes, or other instrumental music throughout most of Lent. The exceptions are the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday), solemnities, and feasts.[5] The stark simplicity of music during Lent is complemented by using the Latin chants, because we sing the chants a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment), and use the only musical instrument created by God: the human voice.

May God bless you as we enter the holiest time of the Christian year.

[1] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), #54.
[2] Ibid., #116; General Instruction of the Roman Missal (Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani), #41
[3] CSL, #14
[4] GIRM, #313
[5] Ibid.


Brian Michael Page said...

Nick, this ROCKS! Keep up the good work!


Cathy said...

Have you ever heard this?
It's from the Rome Report, and it's titled "What the EWTN weather forecast would sound like if Anglicans took over the station".
I've listened to it about five times, and it still cracks me up. :)

Brian Michael Page said...

That is a goof and a half LOL. I hear, through most of the first minute anyways, a psalm-tone-like adaptation from the tune ST. GEORGE'S WINDSOR (used often with "Come ye thankful people, come" and "Hail, Redeemer, King Divine").

Tonight's forcast: Dark! Continued mostly dark tonight, and turning to widely scattered light in the morning! (George Carlin, 1971)


Cathy said...

I shoulda known you'd be able to pick out the tune.. :)
"Scatter-ed showers".

PhiMuAlpha2681 said...

Thanks, Brian.

Off to check out the link....


Brian Michael Page said...

"I shoulda known you'd be able to pick out the tune...


Anonymous said...

That's hilarious. Good article by the way.

PhiMuAlpha2681 said...

Thank you, Andrew.

Are you the same Andrew who frequents the RPI boards?


Anonymous said...

"Are you the same Andrew who frequents the RPI boards?"

No. And I think y'all have asked me that before. Does this other Andrew agree or disagree with y'all?

PhiMuAlpha2681 said...

RPI Andrew tends to have similar views to that of the staff of this blog.

...if you care to drop by on the conversations there.


PhiMuAlpha2681 said...


the RPI website is

Argent said...

Woooo, Anglican chant, ma beck! "seet-you-way-tsee-yon" is right along the discipline of "sahl-vay-tsee-yon", "scat-ter-red in the imah-gee-nay-tsee-yon of their hearts". This sounds like it fits right into Evensong...between the Mag and Nunc, that is.