The Pope on Sacred Music

When the Holy Father was in Germany recently, on 13 September he dedicated a pipe organ in Regensburg. At that occasion the Pope said (my emphasis):

In the constitution on sacred liturgy of the Second Vatican Council ("Sacrosanctum Concilium"), it is emphasized that the "combination of sacred music and words … forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy" (No. 112). This means that music and song are more than an embellishment of worship; they are themselves part of the liturgical action. Solemn sacred music, with choir, organ, orchestra and the singing of the people, is not an addition of sorts that frames the liturgy and makes it more pleasing, but an important means of active participation in worship.

When the undersigned was in Camden (NJ) for the Feast of the Assumption sponsored by the Mater Ecclesiae community, I said in my sermon:

The Second Vatican Council observed that sacred music is an integral part, even an integrating part, pars integrans, of the liturgy (SC 112). Sacred music, such as we are blessed with this evening, is not an add-on or a mere ornament. Sacred liturgical music truly is liturgy itself. It is prayer. This is why music for Mass must be the best we can provide. For it to be suitable for worship, however, it must be truly sacred, that is focused on sacred subjects, even the words of Scripture themselves; it must be art truly suitable for use in church, and it must be performed with all the skill and artistry we can muster. We can participate in this liturgical prayer, which is musical, by our attentive and careful listening and reflecting. We cannot be distracted from prayer during Mass by appropriate sacred music. We cannot be distracted from prayer by prayer. Just as we participate fully, consciously, actively in the reading of Holy Scriptures by our listening, so too we are active when we listen to sacred liturgical music as part of Holy Mass. Listening is not passive. It is action of the mind and heart.

One of the powerful influences in my conversion to Catholic Christianity and my reception into the Church Christ founded was the beauty of reverently celebrated liturgy according to the Church’s mind and traditions graced with unparalleled sacred music, both instrumental and choral.  The experience of beauty in that context brings the soul into contact with the Truth, which is beauty’s other face.

It is of vital importance that those in charge of the liturgy in parishes everywhere come to understand the basic principles the Church has laid down concerning sacred music and liturgy.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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