DPPL 17: Song and Music

STA altar at night smallSinging our spiritual life: a reality that sparks much heat, and even a little light now and then.

Revised or new music might be needed:

17. Song, a natural expression of the soul of any nation, plays an important role in popular piety(Cf. SC 118). The conservation of the received corpus of traditional songs must be linked with a biblical and ecclesial spirit which is open to the possibility, where necessary, of their revision or to the composition of new songs.

External expressions of joy are conceded as part of the devotional landscape in some places. But the diagnosis here strikes me as a bit too dour:

Among some peoples, song is instinctively linked with hand-clapping, rhythmic corporeal movements and even dance. Such are external forms of interior sentiment and are part of popular traditions, especially on occasions such as patronal feasts. Clearly, such should be genuine expressions of communal prayer and not merely theatrical spectacles. The fact of their prevalence in one area, however, should not be regarded as a reason for their promotion in other areas, especially where they would not be spontaneous.

The reality is that much visual art is also an external form of interior sentiment. And for that matter, music likewise. We have the translated words from the Hebrew and Greek, but the music they are set to, even when it’s chant, is still an external form of an interiority.

There is nothing wrong with external expressions, I would want to shout. The incarnation itself is an external manifestation of the great love of God for people. Rhythm and dance may not be spontaneous in uptight cultures, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be fruitful.

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

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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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