GILH 271-273: Progressive Solemnity

The concession of #271 assumes that daily singing is the ideal.

271. It is particularly appropriate that there be singing at least on Sundays and holydays, so that the different degrees of solemnity will thus come to be recognized.

Musicians are given two priorities:

272. It is the same with the hours: all are not of equal importance; thus it is desirable that those that are the true hinges of the office, that is, morning prayer and evening prayer, should receive greater prominence through the use of singing.

The principle of progressive solemnity is applied not only to liturgical items of greater or lesser importance, but also to practical or pastoral considerations:

273. A celebration with singing throughout is commendable, provided it has artistic and spiritual excellence; but it may be useful on occasion to apply the principle of “progressive solemnity.” There are practical reasons for this, as well as the fact that in this way the various elements of liturgical celebration are not treated indiscriminately, but each can again be given its connatural meaning and genuine function. The liturgy of the hours is then not seen as a beautiful memorial of the past demanding intact preservation as an object of admiration; rather it is seen as open to constantly new forms of life and growth and to being the unmistakable sign of a community’s vibrant vitality.

The principle of “progressive solemnity” therefore is one that recognizes several intermediate stages between singing the office in full and just reciting all the parts. Its application offers the possibility of a rich and pleasing variety. The criteria are the particular day or hour being celebrated, the character of the individual elements comprising the office, the size and composition of the community, as well as the number of singers available in the circumstances.

With this increased range of variation, it is possible for the public praise of the Church to be sung more frequently than formerly and to be adapted in a variety of ways to different circumstances. There is also great hope that new ways and expressions of public worship may be found for our own age, as has clearly always happened in the life of the Church.

GILH #273 covers a lot of ground, and its principles seem to fit the parish celebration of Mass.

– A full musical liturgy must have both “artistic and spiritual” quality. Though each quality builds on the other, one does not necessarily presume the other.

– The Liturgy of the Hours is not a museum for the display of musical treasures, but a living and changing part of a living and changing faith community.

– The principle of progressive solemnity also serves as a guideline for implementation, not just a fall-back for fatigued liturgists who don’t want to do it all.

– Even in 1971, there was a view that the liturgical reforms were incomplete without the local use and adaptation to elicit a deeper spiritual response from the people.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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