Saturday, April 01, 2006

No, “Dies iræ” is not licit at a NOM requiem Mass

Adoremus,, and others have tried to argue that “Dies iræ” (DI) is licit in Novus Ordo Masses, even though it’s not listed as a sequence in the liturgical books. Now, to my disappointment, the otherwise fine blog The New Liturgical Movement is reinforcing this claim. The reasoning goes like this:

a) DI is in the old rite, albeit having been rendered optional in 1967
b) the new rite is a reform of the old rite
c) nothing ever explicitly banned DI from the Mass

Adoremus talks a lot about how it is still in the current liturgical books as a hymn for the Office in the last week of the Church year - it’s an interesting observation, but it’s irrelevant. Lots of texts are hymns for the Office, but only 4 are given as sequences in the modern Roman Rite.

The trouble is that the norms - GIRM and Intro to the Lectionary mostly - spend very little time discussing sequences. Nothing talks about using texts that aren’t in the Lectionary as sequences; it is simply stated that the sequence is required on Easter and Pentecost, and optional otherwise. The norms take no time to say “only texts given as sequences are to be used as sequences”.

Through this loophole, well-meaning folks have sung “Dies iræ” at NOM funerals, with the justification that it is a traditional text etc.

The issue is that the same loophole fails to restrict the texts to be used as sequences. There’s nothing that says “only texts traditionally used in the Mass as sequences may be sung as sequences”. Therefore, I could, quite licitly, sing “Michael row the boat ashore” as a sequence. In fact, there’s nothing that says what the sequence is; therefore, I could quite reasonably get up and give an “extemporaneous sequence” that would, in effect, be a “pre-homily”.

It is the job of the norms to prevent bad ideas, be they held in good conscience or bad, from being implemented. If the intent of those who wrote the norms (ostensibly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) was for DI to be allowed, they would have written in something about it. Otherwise, I only pray certain dioceses don’t discover the same loophole! A “pastoral necessity” to have unrhymed, conversational “sequences” (lectures) given by lay people?

For the record, other than that it is not normatively permissible, I think “Dies iræ” should be sung at requiem Masses. A comparison of this text with Protestant funerals (i.e. Bach’s cantata BWV106, “Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit”) makes the doctrinal differences between Catholics and (most) Protestants concerning death and judgement strikingly apparent.

Also for the record, point b), about the new rite as a reform of the old rite. JP2’s letter that gave permission for bishops to give permission for the old rite explicitly forbade mingling of the old with the new rite. Fr. Joseph Gélineau went on record saying that the Roman Rite as it had been known was destroyed.


At Saturday, April 01, 2006 11:12:00 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

I've been waiting for someone to cite the "no mingling" rule in this context. What about the use of some reasoning here? This might be a fine rule to to keep the N.O. out of the old rite but it makes no sense to keep the Old out of the New, since the New does not emerge in a historical vacuum: if it best understood in light of the Old. For the same reason, the Dies Irae has a sound basis for being regarded as a Sequence, because it was one under the Old.

At Saturday, April 01, 2006 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

The text of “Quattuor Abhinc Annos” states that there is to be no “interchanging” of texts and rites - it doesn’t imply a direction.

No *norms* (or decrees etc.) tell me that the only source of sequences (other than the liturgical books) must be traditional sequences. Therefore, any other impositions placed upon my creativity as a liturgical artist (this is all tongue-in-cheek!) are manmade, and thus hold no force of law.

We’ve seen what happens when norms fail to fulfill their purpose of ruling out bad ideas....

At Saturday, April 01, 2006 11:26:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

In other words, I agree that, norms aside, DI is a good idea. But “norms aside” liturgy is, by definition, bad liturgy at best, invalid at worst.

At Sunday, April 02, 2006 11:56:00 PM, Blogger Daniel Muller said...

Actually, there may be some precedent for the "Dies irae" during the Liturgy of the Word in a Missa normativa. Apparently, Westminster Cathedral has been singing gradual hymns, which I thought were one of the few thoroughly Protestant quasiliturgical actions that cradle Catholics would never stoop to. And since the sequence now precedes (!!) the tract/Allel--- in the third edition and the gradual/psalm are optional when there is only one reading, it is really not such a reach.

Now I am not arguing for using "Dies irae" as a sequence in the Missa normativa. It is just not there. However, it certainly could be used in any of the four-hymn sandwich's "other suitable song" or "recessional." Before or after Mass. And it would be more appropriate than just about any other chant besides those in the Gradual.

At Friday, April 14, 2006 1:01:00 PM, Anonymous jeffrey said...

We all know that the norms on the N.O. are not entirely ironclad, and this one is a case in point. But let's be clear that nothing in the rubrics specifically abrogates the Dies Irae in the Requiem Mass.

On a related issue, traditionalist need to start checking their premises when they make arguments that are very similar to what we read on the liturgical left: the New Mass has nothing to do with the old, it is a completely new creation that requires completely new music and prayers, to add elements of the old in the new is contrary to the spirit of V2, etc. etc. Sometimes it seems that trads are just as interested as the Catholic left in cutting the post-V2 liturgy off from its roots.

At Friday, April 14, 2006 5:52:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


You are correct in that nothing in the NOM rubrics specifically mentions Dies Iræ. At the same time, nothing specifically abrogates the “Judica me” from the old Mass. It’s just not there, so we don’t do it. Nothing in the rubrics specifically disallows flipping the Body of Christ like a coin before handing it out to people, either. Canon Law is very clear on this point: nothing is to be added or subtracted from the rites as given in the documents of the Church. Ecclesia Dei set a precedent for considering the TLM and NOM as two different rites, whose books are not to be mingled.

I don’t claim, and I don’t think anyone else claims, that the NOM has no connection with the TLM. I certainly don’t claim that the NOM requires new music and prayers; it does retain a bounty of the traditional prayers. Obviously its essential form is still that of the TLM: Ordinary, Proper, Liturgy of Word vs. of Eucharist, etc.

As one of my latest posts asserts, the realities of the state of our liturgy today are, in some regards, here to stay. The NOM is not going away, to the chagrin of some. I believe it, and/or its implementation, will be modified to look and pray more like a TLM; I imagine that if enough people ask for it, Dies iræ will be specifically *allowed* in the rite - which I would regard as a good thing.

Is there anyone out there with a bishop who would be sympathetic to submitting a dubium to Rome? Someone ought to, given the amount of discussion there has been over this sequence.

At Monday, April 17, 2006 4:10:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

Bring back the sequence!!! ;P

Seriously, I don't see what's wrong with a sequence, as long as it's in good taste. Why should making the Mass longer be a bad thing? If you want to get all normative about it, you can restrict the texts to those with long liturgical precedent (if you want to give in to the Council of Trent's stompage of legitimate liturgical variation, you could restrict the sequences to those used in the Tridentine rite).

Of course a "sequence" wouldn't be a lay sermon. It's a musical and poetic meditation on the themes of that particular Mass. That much is clear from historical usage. As long as it doesn't become some fifty-year-old hippie lady in a tutu dancing around with streamers, why not do it? Furthermore, why not give individual dioceses or even parishes the right to include local variations in the liturgy, as long as those variations don't disturb the organic whole? Why shouldn't a parish be able to have a sequence for their patron saint's feast day, for example?

I remember at Newman watching a tape of a Mass in Africa. The Offertory included an extended dance in which the gifts were brought to the front. That dance is not specified in the norms; it takes more time than what would commonly be required in order to bring the gifts to the altar; and yet would you deny its proper place within that culture, as a dignified and beautiful way in which to express the liturgical action in the context of local customs? Similarly, the sequence allows the expression of local customs. The sequence format (as a kind of extended Alleluia) limits the scope of the expression, so we don't have to worry about it "taking over" the Mass.

Actually, if you think about it, the "guitar Mass" is much more disruptive to the liturgy than a standard sequence, because it changes the whole tone of the service from a specifically sacred and set-apart event to a specifically casual and "campfire"-like event. A sequence doesn't need to change the entire tone of the liturgy.

Ok, done with rant. Hope I stirred up a little controversy ;P

At Monday, April 17, 2006 11:33:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


I’m not against use of DI in the NOM (as a sequence) except for its not being in the liturgical books and, thus, not being the prayer of the Roman Rite.

I think giving such open freedom to sequences as you’re proposing would introduce a host of new problems. Would a wacky pastor of a parish named after St. Francis decide their patron would advocate for contraception, and weave that into a sequence?

In effect, we *do* already allow for complete openness of sequences, in that they can be sung as hymns during the Mass or as a recessional. (Notice how easily “Lauda sion” sings to either of the “Pange lingua” melodies - or, for that matter, PICARDY.)

“Getting all normative” is a good way - even the only way - to create a unity of prayer that expresses the ideas of one church, one Mass.

At Wednesday, April 19, 2006 4:11:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

Cantor wrote: "Would a wacky pastor of a parish named after St. Francis decide their patron would advocate for contraception, and weave that into a sequence?"

If the pastor defies Church teaching during the liturgy, the treatment is the same, whether the defiance comes during the Sequence, the Homily or any one of the hymns. (I'm sure you've heard some doctrinally iffy hymns in your time ;) )

Fact is, _any_ time _anybody_ has the chance to say or sing _anything_ during the Mass that's not prespecified in the Missal, there is an opportunity for doctrinal error. Does that mean you would restrict pastors from writing their own homilies, and constrain them to reading from a small body of texts hand-picked and approved by the Vatican?

You may also be confusing the idea of "one church, one Mass" with the view that there should only be one Rite. We are a _Catholic_ Church after all; we celebrate the same Eucharistic Sacrament in many Rites, and nevertheless (or rather, I would assert, _because_ of it) our prayer is one prayer. Would you argue that we didn't have that unity before the Council of Trent, just because the sequences varied from place to place? Are the Ukrainian Rite Catholics somehow not in union with the Church whose temporal head is in Rome?

I might assert also that the use of hymns during the Mass is a Protestant innovation that not even the Anglicans used in their liturgies until fairly late. There's nothing wrong with hymns, but replacing the traditional parts of the Mass with songs of variable texts that may only be loosely related to the liturgy of the day isn't a traditionally Catholic thing to do.

Furthermore, relegating the Sequence to a recessional, when most people are putting on their coats and getting watery mouths thinking about the roast they put in the oven earlier that morning, does the following:

1. Makes the Sequence nothing more than a good-bye melody to which few will pay any attention (especially if they aren't singing it themselves);

2. Tears the Sequence out of its traditional place. Remember that the Sequence is another kind of Lesson; Lessons belong properly to the Liturgy of the Word;

3. Downplays the role of the Gospel. The Sequence is a kind of extended Alleluia; the Alleluia is a preparation for the Gospel. The text of the Sequence typically prepares one for the Christian meaning of the Gospel of the day. When a Sequence is included, the Gospel is seen as the culmination of a long process which began in Old Testament times (the first reading) and was proclaimed by the Apostles and disciples of Christ (the Epistle). With the help of the Sequence, we are prepared _in_advance_ to understand the meaning and context of the sayings of Christ, and we see it as this incredible thing for which the world has been eagerly waiting.

Now, there is nothing wrong with blending the ideas of hymn and sequence, and letting the congregation sing the text of the sequence. The V2 fans can get all happy about increasing "audience participation" ;)

Please don't take anything I said personally -- I'm deliberately stirring up controversy in order to help us all understand more deeply what we believe about liturgy.

At Wednesday, April 19, 2006 4:42:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Hilbert - no biggie, except I think we’re the only ones arguing here. :)

I wouldn’t be opposed, in principle, to more sequences, but I think there would need to a STRONG, strictly enforced approval process. Given the frenzy of the aging clergy to “preserve the spirit of Vatican II” and the positions of influence these men hold, now is probably not the time to introduce further potential for abuse, which is what I can only see happening when we create an open field for innovation in the liturgy.

I don’t know much about this - did Trent justify their deletion of the sequences they axed?

Please see a post I’m about to make regarding hymns, V2, etc.

At Thursday, April 20, 2006 1:06:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

I'm poking around the Council of Trent documents and not finding anything about sequences -- want to help? I'm curious to see what justification they listed if any. Of course the Catholic Encyclopedia expresses its opinions bluntly, though it justly points out that Trent actually preserved the Mozarabic and Ambrosian traditions (too little too late, I might say however).

As far as introducing further potential for abuse, the solution is to restrict the texts of the sequences at first. A review process could be instituted if a diocese or parish wished to introduce another text.

At Thursday, April 20, 2006 3:12:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

HilbertAstronaut said: “As far as introducing further potential for abuse, the solution is to restrict the texts of the sequences at first. A review process could be instituted if a diocese or parish wished to introduce another text.”

You mean like the review process that was normatively stipulated from day 1 with the GIRM for hymns?

At Friday, April 21, 2006 3:02:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

Cantor said: "You mean like the review process that was normatively stipulated from day 1 with the GIRM for hymns?"

Heh ;P Sure, why not? It's just the same as if a parish wanted to compose a hymn for its patron saint.

At Friday, April 21, 2006 9:35:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

...and maybe this time around it would get its due attention, since there has been such attention lately on “doing it the right way”.

The idea that anything goes for the processional Propers has destroyed the sense of unity in the Mass and creates a sense that the music “punctuates” the Mass rather than integrating fully into it.


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