Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Music and Liturgy

Before Vatican II there was no doubt about what kinds of music were appropriate during the Mass. The only things allowed were a Capella and pipe organ. With Vatican II (1962-1965) came abuses, they "renovated" and deformed our Churches and they also renovated the liturgy. But that was not what Vatican II was about. If the documents are read it can be seen that many abuses were done in the name of Vatican II but with nothing from the documents backing them up.

After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition. . . . The greatness of the liturgy depends - we shall have to repeat this frequently - on its unspontaneity (Unbeliebigkeit).Cardinal Ratziner, Spirit of the Liturgy

If we read Vatican II documents on the Liturgy we find:

pg 33

116. The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. There fore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. Other kinds of sacred music especially polyphony *, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action as laid down in Article 30

* polyphony def:
In music, polyphony (from the Greek πολύς /po΄lis/ many and φωνή /fo΄ni/ voice) is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice (monophony) or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chordshomophony).

120. The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, for it is the traditional musical instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up men's minds to God and higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship in the judgement and with the consent of the competent territorial authority. This may be done however only on condition that the instruments are suitable or can be made suitable for sacred use, that they accord with the dignity of the temple and that they contribute to the edification of the faithful.

pg 97

63 In permitting the using of musical instruments the culture and traditions of the individual people must be taken into account.

from the Encylcical on Sacred Mucic 1955 :

21. Certainly no one will be astonished that the Church is so vigilant and careful about sacred music. It is not a case of drawing up laws of aesthetics or technical rules that apply to the subject of music. It is the intention of the Church, however, to protect sacred music against anything that might lessen its dignity, since it is called upon to take part in something as important as divine worship.

58. These norms must be applied to the use of the organ or other musical instruments. Among the musical instruments that have a place in church the organ rightly holds the principal position, since it is especially fitted for the sacred chants and sacred rites. It adds a wonderful splendor and a special magnificence to the ceremonies of the Church. It moves the souls of the faithful by the grandeur and sweetness of its tones. It gives minds an almost heavenly joy and it lifts them up powerfully to God and to higher things.

59. Besides the organ, other instruments can be called upon to give great help in attaining the lofty purpose of sacred music, so long as they play nothing profane nothing clamorous or strident and nothing at variance with the sacred services or the dignity of the place. Among these the violin and other musical instruments that use the bow are outstanding because, when they are played by themselves or with other stringed instruments or with the organ, they express the joyous and sad sentiments of the soul with an indescribable power. Moreover, in the encyclical Mediator Dei, We Ourselves gave detailed and clear regulations concerning the musical modes that are to be admitted into the worship of the Catholic religion.

I want to talk about this quote from Vatican II

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.

in our society that LOVES music, if you can call it that. What instruments are secular in our musical world? guitar and drums and two that spring instantly to mind. There is a difference between religious music and sacred music.........sacred music is music for the Mass.
"Thus, at the instance and under the sponsorship of the Church, sacred music, through the course of centuries, has traversed a long road by which, though sometimes slowly and laboriously, it has finally reached the heights: from the simple and natural Gregorian modes, which are, moreover, quite perfect in their kind, to great and even magnificent works of art which not only human voices, but also the organ and other musical instruments embellish, adorn and amplify almost endlessly. Just as this progress in the art of music shows clearly how dear to the heart of the Church it was to make divine worship more resplendent and appealing to Christian peoples, so too it made clear why the Church also must, from time to time, impose a check lest its proper purposes be exceeded and lest, along with the true progress, an element profane and alien to divine worship creep into sacred music and corrupt it." Pope Pius XII

Religious music can be anything with a religious verse, but religious music isn't for the Mass or to be played in Church. Play it in your car or your home. Only Sacred music is for the Mass.

We live in a time where just about anything goes in our Churches. Things that were never meant to be. We now have girl "alter servers" communion in the hand and yes guitar and drum sets in Church. These are an abuse, plain and clear. We will not attend a Mass in which the guitar or drums are being played. We've walked out of many and will continue to do so until the proper sacred atmosphere of the Mass is restored.


  1. OH my goodness you are scratching me where I itch, girl! Communion on the tongue? Guitars in Mass? Dressing modestly? Clapping for choirs? THANK YOU for addressing these topics so thoroughly!!! You have done a BEAUTIFUL job here! I'm so glad to have this information at my fingertips! THANK YOU!

  2. So check out today's blog post- I think you'll get a kick out of the discussion. And check out this awesome article: http://www.magisterium.net/lament.htm Love his step by step plan! :) Wish we could get him at our Church!

  3. Totally LOVE these posts! This is a huge reason why we are parishioners at our Church. It goes without saying that the Latin Mass always has Sacred Music, but it is nice that the English Masses are our Church also follow this and only use an organ and we don't even have "Glory and Praise" hymnals.