Letters to the Editor

Timeless Gregorian Chant

Dear Editor: I disagree with opinions expressed (Readers’ Forum, Oct. 22) concerning the use of so-called contemporary music in the Catholic Mass.

To start, both letters refer to going “backwards” when celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. This is not correct. The Mass is timeless, and contrary to the views expressed does not “evolve” in a historical time line.

Indeed, composers such as Mozart marveled at the use of Gregorian Chant during the Baroque era. The Church uses chant for its qualities to transport us from the temporal to the eternal.

Second, and more importantly, the sole use of contemporary music was clearly not the intention of the Second Vatican Council, see specifically, “The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” Paragraph116, Sacrosanct Concilium, Dec. 4, 1963.

Thus, Gregorian Chant is not the “past” but as per the Second Vatican Council should be a major part of our prayer lives. While one letter writer says she is “sick and tired” of recommendations to return to pre-Vatican II forms of worship,” many more of us are extremely concerned with those Catholics who continue to ignore the instructions to maintain and honor our Church’s wonderful traditions in chant and polyphony.

Third, I disagree with the idea that Gregorian chant is somehow “lofty” or heard on “WQXR” because its basic form is no more difficult than the 1970s-inspired music found in most Catholic churches today, and our grandparents (and down through over a thousand years) had no trouble with it.

Finally, although as reader Richard Hutter points out, there are many rites of the Mass. The idea that the Mass through the centuries reflected in significant part local cultures is not correct. The Mass in 1960 would have been very recognizable to a Mass hundreds of years before it. The problem with the overuse of so-called contemporary music is that the Mass can become person-centered and lose its sense of the sacred.


Windsor Terrace

One thought on “Timeless Gregorian Chant

  1. Great letter Mr. Gange. Other than the sin of pride, I have difficulty understanding why there is so much difficulty among some Catholics putting into practice actual respect for the communion of saints which would obviously include respecting timeless liturgy.