Wednesday, October 24, 2012


You can read the full text of Musicam Sacram by pressing this sentence. Evidently this instruction is still in force, but I don't know about that but it certainly makes good sense except for number 36 below which corrupted the whole thing and from which we have yet to recover!


28. The distinction between solemn, sung and read Mass, sanctioned by the Instruction of 1958 (n. 3), is retained, according to the traditional liturgical laws at present in force. However, for the sung Mass (Missa cantata), different degrees of participation are put forward here for reasons of pastoral usefulness, so that it may become easier to make the celebration of Mass more beautiful by singing, according to the capabilities of each congregation.

These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led toward an ever greater participation in the singing.

29. The following belong to the first degree:

(a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.

(b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.

(c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's Prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

30. The following belong to the second degree:

(a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;

(b) the Creed;

(c) the prayer of the faithful.

31. The following belong to the third degree:

(a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;

(b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;

(c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;

(d) the song at the Offertory;

(e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.

32. The custom legitimately in use in certain places and widely confirmed by indults, of substituting other songs for the songs given in the Graduale for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion, can be retained according to the judgment of the competent territorial authority, as long as songs of this sort are in keeping with the parts of the Mass, with the feast or with the liturgical season. It is for the same territorial authority to approve the texts of these songs.

33. It is desirable that the assembly of the faithful should participate in the songs of the Proper as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.

The song after the lessons, be it in the form of gradual or responsorial psalm, has a special importance among the songs of the Proper. By its very nature, it forms part of the Liturgy, of the Word. It should be performed with all seated and listening to it -- and, what is more, participating in it as far as possible.

34. The songs which are called the "Ordinary of the Mass", if they are sung by musical settings written for several voices may be performed by the choir according to the customary norms, either a capella, or with instrumental accompaniment, as long as the people are not completely excluded from taking part in the singing.

In other cases, the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass can be divided between the choir and the people or even between two sections of the people themselves: one can alternate by verses, or one can follow other suitable divisions which divide the text into larger sections. In these cases, the following points are to be noted: it is preferable that the Creed, since it is a formula of profession of faith, should be sung by all, or in such a way as to permit a fitting participation by the faithful; it is preferable that the Sanctus, as the concluding acclamation of the Preface, should normally be sung by the whole congregation together with the priest; the Agnus Dei may be repeated as often as necessary, especially in concelebrations, where it accompanies the Fraction; it is desirable that the people should participate in this song, as least by the final invocation.

35. The Lord's Prayer is best performed by the people together with the priest.22

If it is sung in Latin, the melodies already legitimately existing should be used; if, however, it is sung in the vernacular, the settings are to be approved by the competent territorial authority.

36. There is no reason why some of the Proper or Ordinary should not be sung in said Masses. Moreover, some other song can also, on occasions, be sung at the beginning, at the Offertory, at the Communion and at the end of Mass. It is not sufficient, however, that these songs be merely "Eucharistic" -- they must be in keeping with the parts of the Mass, with the feast, or with the liturgical season.


John Nolan said...

Father, I'm glad you've picked up on Musicam Sacram, but it's not only para 36 that is a problem. The first sentence of para 28 is held by many to have been abrogated by the introduction of the NOM in 1970. Para 32 legitimizes the replacing of the Propers with hymns. Para 33 is obviously contradictory; how are we supposed to simultaneously sit and listen to something and also to participate in it? An analogy might be; listen to this Beethoven quartet but feel free to join in! If it is desirable for the people to join in the singing of the Propers, it follows that it is undesirable for these to be the preserve of the schola, which surely puts the kybosh on the Graduale Romanum.

It gets worse. The first sentence of para 34 says in effect "by all means have a setting of the Ordinary by Palestrina or Haydn as long as the congregation are not excluded from the singing". Nonsense on stilts!

There are indeed some good things in MS but overall it is an ambiguous, confused and confusing document which, together with the GIRM, needs to be scrapped and rewritten.

Vox Cantoris said...

The document is indeed everything Mr. Nolan states and worse.

I also think it is irrelevant for the purposes of the EF rendered that way, thankfully, by Universae Ecclesiae. It is the one document responsible for the mess of the Ordinary Form.

Steven Surrency said...

I wish that this whole mess could be solved by legislation. Unfortunately, I don't think it can. I think that the right way to fix the mess is slow, gradual, return to tradition. It is already underway. As tradition is recognized, as the propers are rediscovered, as chant is reintroduced, legislation can reinforce the trend. I think that is what happened with the new Missal. I think that will happen again with the next missal (whenever it comes). I expect that with the next missal, we might see some new rubrics, perhaps a few returns to older practice, maybe a few mandates regarding singing propers. Slowly and surely, it will come. The gates of Hell, as you know, will not prevail against Her!