PS 17-20: Decorations, Music, and Devotions

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check the full document Paschale Solemnitatis, on this site, among many on the internet. Many parish musicians know the prescription for no instrumental music during Lent:

17. “In Lent the altar should not be decorated with flowers, and musical instruments may be played only to give necessary support to the singing”; (Ceremonial of Bishops, 252) this is in order that the penitential character of the season be preserved.

Most ignore it. Flowers are a non-starter for sure. But the deletion of instrumental music can be a head-scratcher.

This is the universal music signature of Lent:

18. Likewise from the beginning of Lent until the paschal Vigil, “Alleluia” is to be omitted in all celebrations, even on solemnities and feasts. (Cf. General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 28)

Keep with the spirit of baptism, penance, and the Paschal Mystery:

19. The chants to be sung in celebrations especially of the Eucharist, and also at devotional exercises should be in harmony with the spirit of the season and the liturgical texts.

In my own programming, I lean to psalms and hymn texts that speak of Christ.

And a word on devotions:

20. Devotional exercises which harmonize with the Lenten season are to be encouraged, for example, “The Stations of the Cross”; they should help foster the liturgical spirit with which the faithful can prepare themselves for the celebration of Christ’s paschal mystery.

The Way of the Cross is nearly universal, I’d say. Nothing else really comes close.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to PS 17-20: Decorations, Music, and Devotions

  1. Liam says:

    In terms of instrumental music, preludes and postludes are typically rationalized as being outside the Mass properly speaking, with preludes seeming to be more common (the excuse being that preludes help dampen the effect of verbalized noise while people are praying before Mass begins). That said, fwiw, instrumental interludes during Mass properly speaking appear to be relatively rare.

    • Todd says:

      I’ve heard the rationalization, but strictly speaking, PS doesn’t seem to recognize the distinction. That said, there are instrumental pieces that probably assist in the spirit of the season and a lot of others that detract from Lent.

      And yes, I would agree that instrumental music during Mass–pieces for their own sake–are rare across the board.

      • David D. says:

        Where I attended Mass for many years, there was always an organ prelude and postlude that accompanied the procession and recession. These were dropped during Lent with Parce Domine replacing the former and, I believe, silence the latter. The various organ interludes (between the Gospel and homily, after the offertory and motet, and following communion) were of course also dropped. The effect was certainly consistent with the other changes in the Lenten liturgy. .

  2. charlesincenca says:

    My bishop has (ahem) legislated that “instrumental music only” will be heard during the laying on of hands at Confirmations. When his secretary sent out a liturgical order form to be filled, I high-lighted the Missal/GIRM that, uh jeez, appropriate songs may also be sung before sending it back. Oh, and I inserted the 1974 Latin proper processionals in the ordo before the congregational hymns. Think they’ll notice?

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