01 September 2010

Shock and Vulgarity

After reading Alice von Hildebrand's recent essay, I realized that many presenters of the theology of the body, however well meaning, are using a wrong, if not damaging, approach; myself included. This approach involves shocking the audience into paying attention and using vulgar language to help the audience relate.

It should be noted that the term vulgar here does not necessarily mean explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions, but simply a lack of sophistication or refinement. A horrific example of this was related to me of a priest saying that when he is distributing Holy Communion, he was, in essence, ejaculating into the congregation.

This story was related to me as a warning of what not to do. Oddly enough, the person that related it to me also criticized me for using the term marital embrace; suggesting that I should say "having sex." The idea being that it would be less confusing. After reading Alice von Hildebrand's essay, I see that my choice of words was the right one; at least, in this instance.

The correct approach should not be to bring the theology down to the language of the people, but to elevate the language of the people to the theology. This is the same approach that should be taken with liturgical music. Sadly, many times the music used in Roman Catholic liturgies is not truly liturgical, but vulgar.

Again, I admit, I am guilty here. Seventeen years ago, I played drum set once a month in my parish for what we called a "Youth Mass." Folk music, country and western, jazz, blues, and most especially rock music are not liturgical. Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Vatican Council II document on the Sacred Liturgy) actually says this:
116. The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should have the chief place in liturgical functions.

Other kinds of church music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from the celebration of divine worship, provided they accord with the spirit of liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.

When is the last time you sung Gregorian chant at Mass?

Sacrosanctum Concilium goes on to say:
119. In some countries, particularly in the missionfield, people can be found with a musical tradition of their own that plays an important part in their religious and social life. Due esteem should be had for this music and a fitting place found for it both in the moulding of these peoples' religious sense and in the adapting of the patterns of worship to their particular genius, as suggested in Art. 39 and 40.

Therefore, in the musical training of missionaries, great care must be taken to see that, in as far as possible, they may be made capable of furthering the traditional music of these people both in the school and in liturgical worship.

Rock music, as well as the other genres I mentioned above, was never an important part of any countries religious and social life. If anything, it developed out of rebellion to Christianity. The term Rock and Roll is actually a derogatory term for having sex.

Some may say that the use of this music in Mass brings the youth back to the Church, but in reality it just demonstrates how poorly the "Church" rips off secular music. It does not elevate one's mind to heaven as sacred music does, but lowers the mind to earthly and base enjoyment.

The same can be said for the language used to present theology, particularly when sexuality is being discussed. Using common and vulgar language debases what should have deep reverence. How can we help our culture see sexuality as God sees it if we use the earthly and base language of our culture? When our culture begins to use sophisticated and refined language when speaking of sexual matters, it will begin to give such matters the reverence they deserve.