CCTLS 6: Music in the Liturgical Reform

John Paul II offers a look at the intersection of liturgical music and conciliar reform in section 6 of this document. When he writes “music and song,” what does he mean, do you suppose? Accompaniment and melody? Music and text?

6. The music and song requested by the liturgical reform – it is right to stress this point – must comply with the legitimate demands of adaptation and inculturation. It is clear, however, that any innovation in this sensitive matter must respect specific criteria such as the search for musical expressions which respond to the necessary involvement of the entire assembly in the celebration and which, at the same time, avoid any concessions to frivolity or superficiality. Likewise, on the whole, those elitist forms of “inculturation” which introduce into the Liturgy ancient or contemporary compositions of possible artistic value, but that indulge in a language that is incomprehensible to the majority, should be avoided.

Note the “necessary involvement of the entire assembly.” I’ve seen one or two reform2 mumblings objecting to that term. If they didn’t know this was from the late Holy Father’s pen, I’m sure that “necessary involvement” would be suspect, too. For that matter, what do you make of “elitist”? And the indulgence in “incomprehensional” language? I wonder what he would say about MR3.

In this regard St Pius X pointed out – using the term universal – a further prerequisite of music destined for worship: “…while every nation”, he noted, “is permitted to admit into its ecclesiastical compositions those special forms which may be said to constitute its native music, still these forms must be subordinate in such a manner to the general character of sacred music, that nobody of any nation may receive an impression other than good on hearing them”[TlS 2]. In other words, the sacred context of the celebration must never become a laboratory for experimentation or permit forms of composition and performance to be introduced without careful review.

Original compositions should have something of a universal quality. This is an interesting insight from a globe-trotting pope, who certainly experienced more than any human being ever, the widest range of those “special forms.” That careful review sounds very much like the three judgments. CCTLS covered the musical and liturgical. Today’s section strongly implies the pastoral judgment: what will edify and be fruitful in the ears and on the lips of particular worshipers.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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