Friday, September 4, 2015

Praise But Not Worship

Recently, I came upon a blog post by Christopher Smith, a Roman Catholic priest, entitled Let’s Revisit “Praise and Worship Music Is Praise But Not Worship,” in which he revisits to his blog post written four years prior critiquing and comparing Praise & Worship (P&W) music in relation to the liturgy.  I was fascinated by the enumerated points, because they gave more light to the problem of a P&W steady diet.  Here are his observations:
  1. P&W music assumes that praise is worship.
  2. P&W music assumes that worship is principally something we do.
  3. P&W music assumes as its first principle relevance.
  4. P&W music assumes as its second principle the active participation of a certain age group.
  5. P&W music self-consciously divides the Church into age and taste groups.
  6. P&W music subverts Biblical and liturgical texts during the Mass.
  7. P&W music assumes that there can be a core of orthodox Catholic teaching independent of the Church’s liturgical law and tradition.
  8. P&W music consciously manipulates the emotions so as to produce a catharsis seen as necessary for spiritual conversion.
  9. P&W music confuses transcendence with feeling.
  10. P&W music denies the force of liturgical and musical law in the Church in favor of arbitrary and individualist interpretations of worship.
  11. P&W music prizes immediacy of comprehension and artistic ease over the many-layered meaning of the liturgy and artistic excellence.
In order to understand his points more fully, you need to read the original post which fleshes out each point.  (Those of my readers firmly ensconced in Evangelicalism will look at this list in befuddlement, wondering what it has to do with them since they do not have a liturgy.  Of course, they do not realize that they actually do have one, however informal it might be, and things are communicated by the type of liturgy used.  But I digress.)  Do you notice the pattern?  P&W music is shown to be either an incomplete expression of worship or something antithetical to the purpose of worship.

He ends with a list of corrective to be remembered:
  1. The Church’s musical and liturgical tradition is an integral part of worship, and not a fancy addition.
  2. While Praise is a high form of individual and small group prayer, it is not Worship as the Church understands the corporate public prayer of the Liturgy.
  3. Worship is not principally something that we do: it is the self-offering of Jesus Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit, the fruits of which are received in Holy Communion. Worship is Sacrifice and Sacrament, not Praise.  
  4. Relevance is irrelevant to a liturgy which seeks to bring man outside of space and time to the Eternal.
  5. Participation in the liturgy is principally interior, by the union of the soul with the Christ who celebrates the liturgy.  Any externalizations of that interior participation are meaningless unless that interior participation is there.
  6. The Church’s treasury of sacred music is not the province of one social-economic, age, cultural, or even religious group.  It is the common patrimony of humanity and history.
  7. The Church must sing the Mass, i.e., the biblical and liturgical texts contained in the Missal and Gradual, and not sing at Mass man-made songs, if it is to be the corporate Worship of the Church and not just Praise designed by a select group of people.
  8. Orthodox Catholic teaching on faith and morals must always be accompanied by respect for the Church’s liturgical and musical teaching and laws.
  9. The deliberate intention to manipulate human emotions to produce a religious effect is abusive, insincere, and disrespectful of God’s power to bring about conversion in the hearts of man.
  10. While music does affect the emotions, sacred music must always be careful to prefer the transcendent holiness of God over the immanent emotional needs of man.
  11. The Church’s treasury of sacred music inspires and requires the highest attention to artistic excellence.  It is also an unfathomable gift to the Church, and must be presented to the faithful so that they may enjoy that rich gift.
My readers will balk at number three and rightfully so.  Jesus is not being presented once again as an offering: that work is done. However it is useful to point out that where Evangelicals will see worship as one way (us to God), the historic view is that of dialogue.  Worship begins with God’s revelation of Himself in His Word, and we respond, then more revelation, then more response, back and forth throughout the service.

Read both posts.  You may not understand the terminology or moving parts of liturgy, but consider the points mentioned in view of what your local assembly practices.  Maybe something will shake loose in a good way.


Stephen Pohl said...

Well presented.

Steve Bricker said...

Stephen, sorry I'm late acknowledged your comment. I thought Fr. Smith's posts were quite good in pointing out the obvious weaknesses when trying to use music designed to appeal to believer and unbeliever alike within the framework of historical worship practices. What were we thinking?