Gregorian, boring?

It is very common to hear that Gregorian Chant is “boring”, that it is to be reserved for elderly per- sons or maybe times of deep depression. As the liturgical reform struck, along with the Mass of All Time, the old hymnals were put in an old box of memories and left in a corner of the attic. Is the “boring” Gregorian destined to be exposed in museums and heard in concerts among specialists as music of the past? Is this chant Saint Gregory the Great organized a wreck of a lost culture?

Gregorian chant is terribly modern in as much as it throws us in the future of eternity, based on the solid foundations of the past. The eternal Church.

The Church in time and over time. Gregorian Chant is the sacred music of the Church, the song of the Bride of our Lord, a melody that crosses centuries and cultures. To under- stand why Gregorian Chant can be perceived as boring, we need to first express what Gregorian Chant is, to see its place in the life of a man, or even its effects on a soul (1st part).

But we will also need to go over the lyrical aspect of music to see its social dimension and importance in the life of the Church, light of the world (2nd part).

What is Gregorian?

Gregorian Chant is sacred music and answers therefore to the definition given by Pius XII of such music in the Encyclical Musicæ Sacræ. Since the dawn of times, “sacred music is the projection in the world of sound of the deep life of the soul”. Music starts where the power of the words ceases. Singing expands and dilates the capacity of expressing a word. Sacred music tries to express what man feels in front of the infinite Sovereignty of His Creator. The specialists, among them Pope Pacelli, call this aspect “lyrical”.

Gregorian Chant will be the expression, the dilatation of the soul full of the Love of God, of a soul living in the life of God himself. Expressing perfectly the adoration and the sentiments of a soul in the front of his Creator and Saviour, it will as well open the heart of the faithful to the Word of God, with simplicity.

In its melody, in its phases of tension and repose, in its free rhythm, this unique way of singing is based on the texts of the Holy Scriptures, on the eternal prayer of the Church, especially the psalms. It gives to the words of Sacred Scripture, a musical expression that expands their power. Saint Augustine says that “to sing is to pray twice.

Having this supreme mission to put in the sound order the words of the Holy Ghost himself, how could we not believe in the inspiration of the genius Gregorian melodies? Saint Gregory the Great is often represented writing some of them having a dove on his shoulder, the Holy Ghost singing to him in the ear what to write on the musical scores. Music is an art combining sounds, especially the intelligent words of a rational being. This art is addressed mostly to the sense of hearing. In reason of the absence of images, it touches the soul more directly. As a matter of fact, the passions of the irascible or the concupiscible (sadness, hatred, delectation, fear,...) are better expressed by music than by a painting and also moved with more efficacity.

Gregorian, by the simplicity of its melody, away from “the tricks of harmony that change with time and the taste of men” is a music that “pleased, pleases and will always please.” These are the words of Don Pao- lo Ferreti who even qualifies the “genius Gregorian melody” to be “always fresh, young, eternal.” Balzac in his comment of the Moses of Rossini said that “it is melody and not harmony that has the power to cross the centuries.” Is there purer melody than the one the Holy Ghost inspired to enlighten Sacred Scripture?

The social dimension of Gregorian and its role on the side of the Liturgy

Music has a social and political dimension. Aristotle already affirmed its power over the soul and therefore its important role in education. 

But more than forming the individual soul to the reality of our Faith, the sacred music of the Church is an unity-builder and a symbol of unity. The Popes knew about this and it was one of their first preoccupations at the end of the persecutions to unify and promote the liturgical singing along with the laws concerning liturgy. All the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, saved by the same Blood, will unite their voices to signify the fusion of their hearts. And there again, the melody allows a more perfect fusion than the variants of harmony.

Gregorian chant speaks to every culture and many are the missionaries who could testify its apostolic efficacity. Father Anouilh in an article wrote: “The Japanese, very gifted for music, cannot remain insensitive to the so simple beauty of Gregorian.” The Gregorian Chant is intimately linked with liturgy and is a treasure we have to defend along with the Mass of All Time. It will certainly be a means to help souls discover the spirit of the Eternal Prayer of the Church, of the Sacrifice of the Cross renewed on our altars: the continual prayer of our Lord. Father Pichon note in 1958 from Cameroun “the importance of liturgy in the formation of Christianity” and how “the missionaries have worked unceasingly to make their faithful sing Gregorian melodies” which bore lots of fruit.


In short the Gregorian is a music that, coming from the heart, goes straight to the heart and elevates it towards heaven. It speaks directly to the intelligence, and the soul then carries the passions in its wake. There are many types of music (especially modern music) that cause a storm of the passion. Big waves raise over the soul but crash with noise against each other without leading to God. Saint Paul will be the one telling us why Gregorian Chant is boring: “the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined.” (1Cor 2:14)

Gregorian became so boring because of the complete loss of the supernatural dimension in the individual as well as in the society that is Church. Let us not be sensual and cherish this eternal treasure!