Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Music for the soul part 1.

Dear friends,
It's great to be back. I felt the need to take a break from writing. I've been overwhelmed with things in my personal life, and I needed to just take a step back and take care of things. Anyway, I will be catching up on things.. (hopefully).
I have things planned. I want to do a 3 part series.

1. My personal view on gregorian chant.
2. The history of gregorian chant.
3. The Latin Mass.
This post will be about my person thoughts and feelings on gregorian chant, so I hope you enjoy it.

"These qualities [sacredness, beauty, universality] are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is, consequently, the Chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity

On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the

The ancient traditional Gregorian Chant must, therefore, in a large measure be restored to the functions of public worship, and the fact must be accepted by all that an ecclesiastical function loses none of its solemnity when accompanied by this music alone. Special efforts are to be made to restore the use of the Gregorian Chant by the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part in the ecclesiastical offices, as was the case in ancient times."
--St Pius X, Tra le sollecitudini paragraph 3

By now you should know that I am in love with Gregorian Chant. I love Gregorian Chant more than the food I eat, or the air I breathe. But, you're probably wondering: "why?"

Because, it's like how I titled this blog post. It's music for the soul. Chant goes beyond the human mind, where as regular music, our minds would respond to it and say: "hey, this sounds good." We may not understand Latin, but there is something about it that draws us in. And when I say "us", I don't just mean Catholics.

I watch many gregorian chant videos on youtube, and I always read comments like:"I'm not a strong religious man but when I hear monks sing like this I always feel the divine presence with me." or "I'm an atheist, but I love this." or "I love plainsongs. Forget rap!" These people, who have no Faith, or are simply not Catholic, know that there's something sacred and divine about Gregorian Chant.

I find it unfortunate, because chant is not easily accessed now. If protestants/atheists can see something divine in this music, then why aren't we (the Church) responding to the needs of the people? Many have left the Church because of what happened to the Mass after Vatican II.
If you ask me, if we restore tradition, it will lead people back home.

When I listen to it, I know the history behind it (I'll get into this in my next post). I feel closer to Heaven, when I listen to it. If you didn't know already, quite a few Saints have written hymns. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote "Pange Lingua" and "Sacris Solemniis", which happens to be two of my favorite hymns. And I can't help but wonder what they were thinking and feeling while writing these hymns. Their words leave me in awe.

Why do we feel something, when most of the time we don't even know what's being said?

Because, Gregorian chant is a form of expression, and meditation. It's the music of Saints, it reflects Heaven, and it's the Word of God. It truly becomes an emotional thing, especially for monks and nuns. They literally chant their hearts out. One can rejoice in God's name, or meditate upon Christ's passion while chanting certain psalms or The Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

And even if you do not understand the meaning of the words, for the time being
teach your mouth to say them, for the tongue is sanctified by the words alone
whenever it says them with good will.—St. John Chrysostom, On Psalm

And let me tell you something. For Lent, I gave up all music, except gregorian chant for 40 days. It was hard in the beginning, but by doing so, it helped me grow in my Faith.
I'm not saying you should go to the extreme like I did, but if you introduce yourself to gregorian chant! You won't WANT to listen to anything else. Gregorian chant allows your mind to be fixated upon God, which brings peace.
Try it.