I’ve had some good questions about the Medieval Church resulting from my recent article on medieval hymnody. I’d like to make a few short observations in response and explanation:
- I am certainly not implying that everything about the Church during the Middle Ages was good; it certainly was not. However, we must allow some leeway considering that many of the major doctrines were still being clarified during this time.
- We find our roots in this Church, no matter how you cut it.
- The Roman Catholic Church did not full become what it is today until the Counsel of Trent (1554-1563). It wasn’t until this counsel that the deuterocanonical books were confirmed to be on par with Scripture, church tradition was established as a rule of faith, justification was officially declared to be offered upon the basis of faith and works, the seven sacraments were reaffirmed and the Eucharist was pronounced as a true propitiatory sacrifice, the practice of withholding the cup from the laity was confirmed, and other doctrines such as purgatory and the invocation of saints were reaffirmed.
- Church leaders and theologians prior to Trent were a mixture of truth and error. And while some of their errors were certainly gross, their overall values and worldview was biblical. This is what would have influenced musical forms. Veneration of Mary, the papal system, and other gross errors would not have affected musical form in any way. Values affect form.
- Our ability to discern their errors today is a result of the struggles they endured to define and systematize biblical doctrine.
- The Reformers retained from the Roman Church that which was biblical, including their musical forms and liturgical structure.
I plan to post more on this issue tomorrow.