Monday, January 30, 2012

Echos of Ecclesiastical Ecstacy

If anyone is aware of any sacred songs or sacred texts that are written by women, please let me know. I became intrigued with this topic when a couple of my close circle of commentators on this blog answered my question about what The Holy Spirit looks like to them. A professional singer, who not only performs, but teaches classical voice said this:

"My experience differs, and I hope none will take offence at my divergent viewpoint.  I feel deeply and viscerally and spiritually the joys, communion, contentment, wonder and peace of which you speak, and can add to that the transcendent joy I feel at singing great music with great musiciians, music specifically written for the glory of God and/or the Holy Spirit and/or whatever else.  I feel ecstasy and amazement at the capability of the human soul to transcend itself, but I feel no attachment to "another" in it, except to any "other" who experiences the same joy in her soul." She recommended Carl Maria Widor's "Organ Toccata" for perhaps a very different experience of joy -- or the finale of Benjamin Britten's Sea Symphony.

Another beautiful soul who was my first friend ever who could actually play music on a piano responded, " your joy is clearly expressed and it does not seem to differ so much from mine.  Different words, same joy, I think.  “How Great Thou Art” always brings me to tears."  Another soul sister who is a professional interviewer for a television station and focuses on sharing positive input into society by people over the age of 50, responded, "The Widor is a magnificent work, which always inspires deep joy.  I was so pleased to be invited by my daughter to plan the music used in her wedding so that I could suggest the Toccata as her recessional.  It was glorious, thanks to a marvelous organist!"

One thing these pieces of ecstatic expression have in common is that they were all written by males, so I wondered if there was any of what is called "sacred music" written by sisters in salvation. I was absolutely amazed when I couldn't find any references to any of these woks, given how females are so often criticized for our overly-emotional natures.

But the thing that brought me to tears of frustration was a website of the Catholic Encyclopedia, which stated this, " the presence of women in choirs is excusable under certain circumstances, although choirs composed of men and boys are for many reasons preferable. It is true that an inquiry about this point received an apparently negative answer on 18 Dec., 1908, but this was in regard to the conditions described in the inquiry (prout exponitur), and it is added that the Decree is to be understood in the sense that the women must be kept entirely separate from the men, and every precaution taken to render impossible all conduct unbecoming to the sacred edifice. From these clauses it appears that, in principle, choirs composed of men and women are not inadmissible; however, the desirability of banishing every possible occasion of indecorousness from the church renders it preferable to employ boys, rather than women in choirs. The employment of women as soloists is all the more questionable, since solos in church are admissible only within certain limits (Motu proprio). A choir composed of women only is not forbidden (Decree of 17 Jan., 1908). To employ non-Catholics in church as singers and organists is only tolerated in case of urgent necessity, because they neither believe nor feel the words which they sing."

I know that we are not all Catholic, but all the Abrahamic religions are based on the sacred scriptures that are in the bible.

Can it be true that the only the sacred song "written"  by a female is "The Magnificat?" Even this was set to music by a male. Are women only allowed to express their ecclesiastical ecstasy in echoing that which men contend a male God has spoken to them alone? Or are we to confine our sacred selves to the co-production of the children brought forth from our bellies by man's seed?

Sisters who have sacred songs in their souls, please heed the words of a Sesame Street ditty: "Sing; Sing a song. Sing out loud; Sing out strong." Surely there is at least one who has a sacred symphony in her soul, waiting to be celebrated.