Sacrosanctum Concilium 121

Finishing up Vatican II’s ten-section look at sacred music, we turn to one of the most maligned groups, composers:

Composers, filled with the Christian spirit, should feel that their vocation is to cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures.

A two-fold purpose, rather than blank stares as to why anyone could think to build upon chant and polyphony.

Let them produce compositions which have the qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not confining themselves to works which can be sung only by large choirs, but providing also for the needs of small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful.

Composers producing for the “active” participation of the “entire” faithful. I suppose some traditionalists would still see that as liturgical muzak to be enjoyed in an interior way. Even after about a dozen mentions in this document which would seem to point otherwise.

The texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; indeed they should be drawn chiefly from holy scripture and from liturgical sources.

Texts drawn from the Bible are no guarantee in today’s climate of criticism. The problem publishers and composers often have in a literal setting of Scripture is the loss of royalties to the USCCB. As one publisher put it to me once, change a few words here and there, so then you can call the text your own. The alteration of Scripture for liturgical music can be more of an economic decision than an ideological one.

Any last thoughts on music before we turn to the visual arts?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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