Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Pope's Letter on Sacred Music

Pope Benedict XVI invokes the Second Vatican Council regarding the restoration of sacred music to our liturgies. Most people do not realize that Vatican II reaffirmed the primacy of Gregorian chant and said nothing about guitar masses. In the words of the Holy Father:
To understand clearly the identity and mission of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, it is opportune to recall that Pope Saint Pius X founded it eight years after having issued the Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini, of Nov. 22, 1903, with which he carried out a profound reform in the field of sacred music, returning to the great tradition of the Church against the influences exercised by profane music, especially operatic. This masterful intervention needed, for its realization in the universal Church, a center of study and teaching that could transmit, in a faithful and qualified way, the lines indicated by the Supreme Pontiff, in keeping with the authentic and glorious tradition that goes back to St. Gregory the Great. Hence, in the span of the last one hundred years, this institution has assimilated, elaborated and transmitted the doctrinal and pastoral contents of the Pontifical Documents, as well as of Vatican Council II, concerning sacred music, so that they can illumine and guide the work of composers, of chapel maestros, of liturgists, of musicians and of all formators in this field.

In this connection, I wish to highlight a fundamental aspect that is particularly dear to me: how the essential continuity of the teaching on sacred music in the Liturgy has been perceived since St. Pius X up til today, despite the natural evolution. In particular, the Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II, in the light of the conciliar constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium," wished to reaffirm the end of sacred music, namely, "the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful" (No. 112), and the fundamental criteria of Tradition, which I limit myself to recall: the sense of prayer, of dignity and of beauty; the full adherence to the texts and to the liturgical gestures; the involvement of the assembly and, finally, the legitimate adaptation to the local culture, preserving at the same time the universality of the language; the primacy of Gregorian chant, as supreme model of sacred music, and the wise appreciation of the other expressive forms which form part of the historical-liturgical patrimony of the Church, especially but not only, polyphony; the importance of the "schola cantorum," in particular in the cathedral churches. They are important criteria, which must be considered carefully also today.

At times, in fact, these elements, which are found in "Sacrosanctum Concilium," such as, in fact, the value of the great ecclesial patrimony of sacred music or the universality that is characteristic of Gregorian chant, were considered expressions of a conception that responded to a past to be overcome and neglected, because it limited the liberty and creativity of the individual and the communities. However, we must always ask ourselves again: Who is the authentic subject of the liturgy? The answer is simple: the Church. Not the individual or the group that celebrates the liturgy, it is first of all the action of God through the Church, which has her history, her rich tradition and her creativity. (Read entire article.)
Fr. Mark has some commentary, HERE. Share

1 comment:

MadMonarchist said...

Guitar masses -cause for a [facepalm] if ever there was one. But of course, where I live, we have to top anything anyone else does so we don't just have 'guitar masses', oh no, we have 'mariachi masses'! [facepalm]

Why can't people just do what the Pope says? Didn't St Joan say something to the effect of 'what could be more simple than just doing what you're told'?