21 May 2007

Huzzah! I'm Minimal!

I finally got around to looking up and printing out a copy of Jubilate Deo. In a sense, this should have been part of the by book meme below, under the heading "Non-fiction books everyone should read." Jubilate Deo was published back in '74 by Paul VI in an effort to bring Chant back into the Mass. It was his free gift to the Catholic World, and could be reproduced without charge. The author of the introductory letter to the Bishops asks: "Would you therefore, in collaboration with the competent diocesan and national agencies for the liturgy, sacred music and chatechetics, decide on the best ways of teaching the faithful the Latin chants of "Jubilate Deo" and of having them sing them, and also of promoting the preservation and execution of Gregorian chant in the communities mentioned above." The way that desire of the Pope was carried out, perhaps I should put this in the "Fiction everyone should read." The way the bishops handled it indicates they put it under "Books no one should read."

The Mass in Jubilate itself is cobbled together from other Latin Masses. It seems as though the framers of the little book went through the Kyriale looking for a simple Kyrie, a simple Gloria, and so on, to get a Mass that would be fairly easy yet still beautiful for the people. They put in a few other songs for the parts of Mass where hymns are required or at least acceptable. Altogether, this amounts to what the introductory letter, Voluntati Obsequens, calls the "minimum repertoire of Gregorian Chant."

To be fair, the standard hymnal of the CCCB, the CBW III contains the Mass setting in total, and some of the other hymns. It is there waiting, waiting, oh so patiently waiting, for someone, anyone, anyone at all, to pick it up and use it. I have never heard that setting used, and I have missed few Sundays since the book came out. Instead, week in, week out, it's Marty Haugen and The Mass of Creation. As far as I know, no Pope has asked us to learn Haugen, nor asked all the English speaking Bishops to teach it, but it spread anyway. Perhaps Paul VI should have gathered these works together and buried it under a rock. More people may have noticed it.

Jubilate Deo is more than a mere curiosity. Voluntati Obsequens' identification of these works as "a minimum repertoire" makes this book the core hymnody of the Catholic Church. Personally, I knew most of the hymns before I picked up the book. I can learn the rest pretty quickly, and intend to do so. I imagine many of the readers of this blog know these works as well. But we're something of an oddity. I know these songs not because I sing in a choir for the Pauline rite, but because I joined a choir for the Tridentine rite. The intended target was missed almost completely.

For anyone interested, here's a link for printing up your own copy.


Trust me, it won't kill you to be minimal.

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