Monday, December 24, 2012


I just saw this at the Chant Cafe and think it is one of the best apologetics for what the Church actually desires for Liturgical Sacred Music. How many church musicians are telling us just the opposite and forcing us into thinking that what most parishes have for music featuring guitars, pianos, drums, tambourines and the like is actually what Vatican II desired. Think again!

What About 1967´s "Musicam Sacram"? Well, it is still in force. But would you know it by the following recommendations? How would you interpret the following authoritative norm from Muscam Sacram on the use of appropriate instrumentation at Mass?

VI. Sacred Instrumental Music

62. Musical instruments can be very useful in sacred celebrations, whether they accompany the singing or whether they are played as solo instruments.

"The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, since it is its traditional instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lift up men's minds to God and higher things.

"The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful."43

63. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions.44

Any musical instrument permitted in divine worship should be used in such a way that it meets the needs of the liturgical celebration, and is in the interests both of the beauty of worship and the edification of the faithful.

64. The use of musical instruments to accompany the singing can act as a support to the voices, render participation easier, and achieve a deeper union in the assembly. However, their sound should not so overwhelm the voices that it is difficult to make out the text; and when some part is proclaimed aloud by the priest or a minister by virtue of his role, they should be silent.

65. In sung or said Masses, the organ, or other instrument legitimately admitted, can be used to accompany the singing of the choir and the people; it can also be played solo at the beginning before the priest reaches the altar, at the Offertory, at the Communion, and at the end of Mass.

The same rule, with the necessary adaptations, can be applied to other sacred celebrations.

66. The playing of these same instruments as solos is not permitted in Advent, Lent, during the Sacred Triduum and in the Offices and Masses of the Dead.

67. It is highly desirable that organists and other musicians should not only possess the skill to play properly the instrument entrusted to them: they should also enter into and be thoroughly aware of the spirit of the Liturgy, so that even when playing ex tempore, they will enrich the sacred celebration according to the true nature of each of its parts, and encourage the participation of the faithful.46

-- Extract from the General Instruction of the 2012 Roman Missal --

How many parishes actually following the following?

The Importance of Singing

39. The Christian faithful who gather together as one to await the Lord\´s coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (cf. Col 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart\´s joy (cf. Acts 2:46). Thus Saint Augustine says rightly, \"Singing is for one who loves.\"1 There is also the ancient proverb: \"One who sings well prays twice.\"

40. Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.

In the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.2

41. All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.3

Since faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord\´s Prayer, set to the simpler melodies.4


Ted said...

"Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy."

The translation should be "Gregorian chant has first place...." This follows the somewhat official English translation of SC 116. I wonder if these English translations were meant to tone down the wishes of the Council Fathers so as to be in the 1960's "spirit of the council"?

Giving Gregorian chant first place in the liturgy, by the way, assumes that Latin would be retained in the Roman liturgy, as SC 36 and SC 101 stated. Indeed, SC 54 states: "Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass that pertain to them." This is what Pius X meant by "participatio actuosa"

Henry Edwards said...

116. Ecclesia cantum gregorianum agnoscit ut liturgiae romanae proprium: qui ideo in actionibus liturgicis, ceteris paribus, principem locum obtineat.

Indeed, there is no word in this sentence that connotes "pride" in anyway about anything. The relevant phrase is principem locum, that is, first or principal place.

It's hard to seen how the circumlocution "pride of place" could have been anything other than deliberate obfuscation.

Just like the mistranslation of GIRM 299, which even in the new translation says the altar should be free standing so Mass can be celebrated versus populum if possible.

Whereas the CDW has long since, in answer to a dubium, answered explicitly that the Latin says it's desirable that the altar be free-standing, NOT that it's desirable that Mass celebrated facing the people. About this, Father Z says

The continual mistranslation of GIRM 299 is troubling because, even after an explanation from the Congregation for Divine Worship and a certain passage of time guaranteeing the dissemination of information, the powers-that-be in the Anglophone world haven’t made a change. I can only surmise that they are doing this because they are pushing their own agenda instead of what GIRM 299 really says. They don’t like ad orientem worship and are publishing a flawed translation in order to defend versus populum celebration of Holy Mass.

Anonymous 2 said...

Father, you ask an important question: “How would you interpret the following authoritative norm from Muscam Sacram on the use of appropriate instrumentation at Mass?” As a Vatican II related document, Musicam Sacram does indeed lay down an authoritative norm. I am glad we are focusing on the language of the relevant authoritative text. The linked video seems to give one interpretation of that norm. However, I am still perplexed and would welcome some further guidance.

Specifically, the document clearly envisages the use of other musical instruments in addition to the pipe organ “provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.” What would be examples of such instruments, including those that, as the document states, “can be adapted to [sacred use].” On the other hand, what would be examples of “instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music_only_” [emphasis added]?

Presumably, in answering these questions, it is necessary to distinguish, as the document does, between appropriate and inappropriate use of permitted instruments, so that one cannot reject an instrument just because it _can_be used inappropriately (which is also true of the pipe organ I suspect).

I ask these questions as someone who loves Gregorian chant, pipe organ, and a range of other instruments as well.

Merry Christmas to you and to all!