Mediator Dei 192

Pope Pius XII cites his predecessor in a long quote to suggest that first, lay people should be more active in worship. And I don’t think they mean active in a passive sort of way:

192. Besides, “so that the faithful take a more active part in divine worship, let Gregorian chant be restored to popular use in the parts proper to the people. Indeed it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers, but let them fully appreciate the beauty of the liturgy and take part in the sacred ceremonies, alternating their voices with the priest and the choir, according to the prescribed norms. If, please God, this is done, it will not happen that the congregation hardly ever or only in a low murmur answer the prayers in Latin or in the vernacular.”[Pius XI, Constitution Divini cultus, 9]

Exactly right. This model of liturgical conversation, often overlooked by reformers and those in the retrenchment camp, suggests that “dialogue” is indeed an appropriate and worthy model. Not letting the pros do it. Not slinging everything to the pews.

A congregation that is devoutly present at the sacrifice, in which our Savior together with His children redeemed with His sacred blood sings the nuptial hymn of His immense love, cannot keep silent, for “song befits the lover”[Saint Augustine, Serm. 336, n. 1] and, as the ancient saying has it, “he who sings well prays twice.” Thus the Church militant, faithful as well as clergy, joins in the hymns of the Church triumphant and with the choirs of angels, and, all together, sing a wondrous and eternal hymn of praise to the most Holy Trinity in keeping with words of the preface, “with whom our voices, too, thou wouldst bid to be admitted.”[Roman Missal, Preface]

Probably the most stirring reform-minded material I can remember in this long document. What do you think? Any reform2 folks like to comment on what Pius XII meant by “active participation” in this context?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Mediator Dei 192

  1. Liam says:

    This was the passage, IIRC, that inspired Theodore Marier and Msgr Hickey, longtime pastor of St Paul’s in Cambridge, to immediately begin a multi-year program of fostering active musical participation in the Mass. It was not easy. It required perseverance, experimentation, observation, and distillation. (It probably helped that Hickey was pastor for decades; one of the features of the 1917 Code of Canon Law…) You see some initial fruits in Marier’s editorial involvement in the Pius X Hymnal; then in Cantus Populi just before Vatican II, then the first edition of Hymns Psalms and Spiritual Canticles in the mid-70s and the second (and last edition*) of the same in the mid-80s. Marier, unlike many of his confreres, did not stomp away in anger about the conciliar reforms and take his toys with him, as it were, nor did he try to create a liturgical museum. The emphasis was on singing the Mass, not sprinkling the Mass with occasional singing.

    * Word is that the current pastor and MD at the parish has decided to finally euthanize the use of HP&SC at the end of the current choral season and produce his own hymnal. (The MD’s not a fan of Marier’s psalter; never quite interesting in understanding why anyone else loved it. The MD prefers Anglican plainsong in monody, since that’s what he grew up on, so that’s what the parish is getting.) Very very sad, but entirely predictable.

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