Ordinations sacerdotales à La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Hola a todos. Below is a Liturgy from 2013 of a nearly three-hour ordination of six Roman Catholic priests at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. It was a beautiful Liturgy, a major production and among the finest Liturgies I’ve seen from Notre-Dame.

Mi amigo/My friend often says about Notre-Dame, “They do put on a good show there,” and that’s meant respectfully. I had not seen a Roman Catholic Ordination Liturgy before and we found it very interesting. It’s a most elegant Liturgy, very High Church and very medieval Roman. It’s also quite spiritual, which is unusual for organised religion where many denominations just “go through the motions.”

The music for this Liturgy is excellent and this Liturgy is full of music. The Chorus consisted of choristers from Notre-Dame (they’re in the pretty blue robes) as well as a guest Chorus. There’s no way to see the service leaflet unfortunately so I have no information about them. Maybe they were a fine Choir from one of the Roman Catholic parishes in Paris. I thought I saw choral conductor, Lionel Sow, conducting the Chorus. He conducted the choristers at Notre-Dame back in 2013. He was then and still is (I think) Chorus Director for the Paris Philharmonic Chorus.

The Chorus for this Liturgy was quite good throughout and they led the music along with the very busy and superb Titulaire organist playing the Grand Orgue high up in the back of the Nave, as well as the Choir organist. Yes, they usually have two organists for their Messe/Mass Liturgies. The Choir organist accompanies the cantor and/or choristers and one of their three Titulaire organists playing the Grand Orgue accompanies the congregation and also improvises during the Messe and improvises for the procession as well as the Organ Sortie during the recessional.

Some of our favourite parts of this Liturgy:

The chanting during the ordaining of the priests where they were lying face-down in the Sanctuary area. The chanting begins at approximately 1.03.55 (it begins with the chanting of the names of the saints). It’s a very relaxing choral chanting. Mi amigo said: “It feels like one is getting a massage, it’s so relaxing.” He said this each time we’ve watched this. It is very relaxing and calming. This is one place where the organist has to be “spot on” because of the key modulations in the chant and they have to be correct because the Chorus responds to the excellent two male cantors.

Then before that — earlier in the Liturgy — was the very grand and glorious procession with incense for the reading of The Gospel which took place outside the cathedral (to make the congregation sitting outdoors feel a part of the Liturgy). That begins at 30.53 in the video. I heard a hint of Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No. 3 (“Organ Symphony”) in the organ improvisation as the acolytes were coming out of the cathedral.

This Liturgy required some major production skills because from what I can tell the congregation outside the cathedral was able to hear the cathedral organ easily outside without there being any delay in the sound. Notre-Dame puts on a superb Liturgy. It’s the best High Church Liturgies I’ve ever seen. Frankly, they put a cathedral that I used to write about — and which shall remain nameless — to shame.

There are other ordination Liturgies available from Notre-Dame, but from the ones I’ve seen they’re all a little different. Although the soothing chanting I mentioned earlier where the priests are lying down in the Sanctuary area is part of each one, but the quality of the chanting varies. From a choral perspective, this Liturgy (in the video below) is the best of the ordination Liturgies that I’ve seen.

On another topic, this is currently Lent 2017. I immediately noticed one difference between the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans during Lent. Lent is typically subdued and “toned-down” in the Anglican church. The Romans don’t shroud the processional crucifix during Lent the way the Anglicans do by covering it in a purple cloth for the 40 days until Pascua de Resurrección/Easter. Another difference is that during Lent at Notre-Dame, I’ve noticed that there’s also not been an over-saturation of organ music of J.S. Bach as there was (and I assume still is) at another cathedral church I used to write about of the Anglican Communion where it was predictable that the cathedral organist would be playing mostly Bach during Lent, which was a bit much and got a bit monotonous. I like some Bach organ works but don’t care to hear them nearly every Domingo/Sunday for the Organ Prelude and then again for the Organ Voluntary just because it’s Lent. There’s been a little bit of Bach or an improvisation or two in Bach-style at Notre-Dame but I wouldn’t say that the Titulaire Organists playing the Grand Orgue high up in the back of the Nave have toned-down their improvisations for Lent. No, not at all fortunately. Other than one Domingo/Sunday, where a small group of excellent choristers sang mostly Renaissance music, Lent hasn’t really been any different musically or liturgically speaking than any other season of the church year at Notre-Dame (that I’ve noticed), other than the colour of the robes that the priests have worn have changed according to the colours appointed for various Sundays of Lent.

For those wondering about the differences between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Liturgies, I can only speak about Notre-Dame de Paris, which I sense may be unique to Roman Catholics. Generally speaking, for the Messe/Mass on Domingo/Sunday at Notre-Dame that KTO TV provides, they don’t usually sing hymns at Notre-Dame, which I find refreshing. One of my complaints with the Anglican cathedral I was writing about was that they seem to sing the same hymns all the time (some of the most boring hymns) and they were usually the hymns I didn’t enjoy playing when I served as an Anglican organist/choirmaster. At Notre-Dame, they used The Doxology for a processional hymn on one occasion. That worked well. Over the time I’ve been watching their Liturgies, on two other occasions they used two Anglican hymns. At Notre-Dame, instead of hymns, they focus on the Mass setting (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, and so forth which is chanted in Latin) and instead chant the movements of the Mass setting using various musical setting with a cantor and the congregation alternating. And it’s so much nicer, musical and better to hear the Credo chanted than to hear Anglicans stand and mumble The Nicene Creed. At Notre-Dame, the exchange of peace is just before Communion whereas in the Anglican church the exchange of peace is before the announcements. At Notre-Dame, the announcements are at the end of the Messe which is a much better place for announcements. Their way of doing it, the Liturgy and the mood is not interrupted with irrelevant stuff not at all related to the Messe. At the Anglican cathedral I used to write about, their announcements were given in this rather formal but “happy” and smiling marketing-style about “the cathedral community.” Translation: Join us but don’t think that your opinion will matter and give us your dinero/money was the bottom line. Then they returned to the previous (and interrupted) mood of the Liturgy by saying, “Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself as a sacrifice…” At Notre-Dame, the Gospel is carried in the recessional (Anglicans don’t do that; the Gospel is only carried in the processional), the choristers may or may not be part of the procession (Anglicans usually have the choristers in the procession and recessional) and there’s no incense in the recessional at Notre-Dame, it’s only used in the processional. Anglican have incense in the recessional on the rare occasion they use incense at all, but at the cathedral I used to write about they rarely put anything in the thurible so there was rarely any smoke coming out of it. Their use of the thurible was mostly for show at that Anglican cathedral and most of the priests seemed completely disinterested in it almost as if incense was a bother for them. Most of their priests nearly jogged around the free-standing altar when censing the altar as if they wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. I often wondered if they were in the wrong Christian denomination/the wrong church. At Notre-Dame, the priests are very respectful of the incense. They take their time with it. Notre-Dame de Paris is a much better cathedral and Messe Liturgy. Chau.—el barrio rosa

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The Roman Catholic Atheist (formerly titled The Anglican Atheist)