I hesitated for a bit on this. I’m not sure I want to get into the side battles in the liturgy wars that are still relived a century later: women and pianos aren’t permitted, and such. But I think reading Pope John Paul II on liturgical music will give us some important insights into the contemporary situation. I’d really like to tackle Dies Domini, his 1998 pastoral letter on the Lord’s Day. That holds a little more interest for me. Maybe another month.
Meanwhile, let’s delve into the first of fifteen numbered sections of what we’ll reference by the acronym, CCTLS:
1. Motivated by a strong desire “to maintain and promote the decorum of the House of God”, my Predecessor St Pius X promulgated the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini 100 years ago. Its purpose was to renew sacred music during liturgical services. With it he intended to offer the Church practical guidelines in that vital sector of the Liturgy, presenting them, as it were, as a “juridical code of sacred music”[Pii X Pontificis Maximi Acta, Vol. I, p. 77]. This act was also part of the programme of his Pontificate which he summed up in the motto: “Instaurare omnia in Cristo“.
The centenary of the Document gives me the opportunity to recall the important role of sacred music, which St Pius X presented both as a means of lifting up the spirit to God and as a precious aid for the faithful in their “active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church”[Pii X Pontificis Maximi Acta, Vol. I, p. 77].
The holy Pontiff recalls that the special attention which sacred music rightly deserves stems from the fact that, “being an integral part of the solemn Liturgy, [it] participates in the general purpose of the Liturgy, which is the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful”[Pii X Pontificis Maximi Acta, Vol. I, p. 78]. Since it interprets and expresses the deep meaning of the sacred text to which it is intimately linked, it must be able “to add greater efficacy to the text, in order that through it the faithful may be… better disposed for the reception of the fruits of grace belonging to the celebration of the most holy mysteries”[Pii X Pontificis Maximi Acta, Vol. I, p. 77].
If sacred music was judged in need of renewal a century ago, it’s not likely the preconciliar era was as golden as some seem to think.
John Paul II seemed to take less stock in providing a new “juridical code” and more a focus on the end of sacred music, namely the “lifting up” of the spiritual lives of the laity.
“Active participation” seems to have been the intent of Pope Pius X. Early and frequent communion. Engagement in the public rites of the Church through singing. Participation in sacred music aims the worshiping assembly at cooperation with God’s grace: giving glory to God in public prayer, and the sanctification of the Body.
Other thoughts from you readers?