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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Liturgy untouched by the deconstructionist critique


The Beautiful Persistence of Chant is a magnificent short essay by Jeffrey Tucker of the Chant Café on chant and deconstructionism.

In tracing briefly the history of setting music down in notation so that others could sing it even if they had not directly heard the music, he looks at the way in which digital media have now made it possible for us to hear (for example) a recording of monks from the 1950s singing chant. Even though most of the singers will probably now have gone to their eternal reward, we can imitate and interpret them, and build upon what they have left us.

In the second half of the essay, Jeffrey looks at the prevalent philosophy of deconstructionism and the claim that the meaning of any text is arbitrary, never-changing, and dictated by culture. He makes the point that even if we were to accept this in other fields (which of course we do not):
Liturgy is the great exception. It does not exist in time. It extends out of time into eternity. It touches a real outside of time and the material world. It points up and out of time. Through it we receive communication from God and find ourselves transported out of the limits of the physical and into communication to God to give praise. In sense this, and if this is true, the deconstructionist critique of the realm of time cannot touch it. We did not make up liturgy. The liturgy is a gift from all eternity to us.
I recommend the essay to you: it is well worth reading.

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