Cantate Domino Canticum Novum Introduction

Cantate Domino Canticum Novum is subtitled “A Statement  on the Current Situation of Sacred Music.” None of the published versions I’ve seen identify the “undersigned” referenced in the pre-introduction paragraph. They do note their “great love for the Church’s treasury of sacred music and our deep concerns about its current plight.”

The title comes from Psalm 96, modern numbering, “Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth.” You might expect church musicians to stress “a great love for the beauty and power of music in the worship of Almighty God.” Interesting that they title their statement the same as the 2007 USCCB document, and more, they cite “a new song.”

No argument with this:

(A) good liturgy allows for splendid music, but a low standard of liturgical music also tremendously affects the liturgy.

Nor with ecumenism:

(W)e know that other Christian traditions—such as Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Eastern Orthodox—have high esteem for the importance and dignity of sacred music, as witnessed by their own jealously-guarded “treasuries.”

Though I think the signatories meant zealously, not jealously.

The text cites the half-centenary of Musicam Sacram as an opportune time to offer this statement. Let’s look carefully at the rest of the rest of the introduction:

Re-reading the document today, we cannot avoid thinking of the via dolorosa of sacred music in the decades following Sacrosanctum Concilium. Indeed, what was happening in some factions of the Church at that time (1967) was not at all in line with Sacrosantum Concilium or with Musicam Sacram.

Looking for extremes, I think this can be fairly said. We know there was both resistance to the Council as well as efforts here and there to move beyond the mid and heart of the Church. I’d remind my colleagues in music ministry, however, that Vatican II was not the end of liturgical reform, only the beginning. Musicam Sacram was a document released before the GIRM and the Roman Missal. Like other documents cited earlier in the introduction, liturgical particulars may come and go. Not everything written about sacred music is still in force. Even in 1967. Post-conciliar documents like Comme le Prevoit or Liturgiam Authenticam can and do come and go.

Certain ideas that were never present in the Council’s documents were forced into practice, sometimes with a lack of vigilance from clergy and ecclesiastical hierarchy. In some countries the treasury of sacred music that the Council asked to be preserved was not only not preserved, but even opposed.

My colleagues seem to minimize that music serves the liturgy. A musical treasury has no theological value apart from how it can be utilized to further the Church’s mission and support the liturgy. Many ideas were developed post-1963 that were not envisioned by the Council bishops. But the conciliar documents were not intended to be the final word on Church legislation. Bishops were charged with implementing reform. This happened in liturgy.

Both good and poor ideas were endorsed by the Magisterium. Implementation of either could be well done or blundered. SC 112 is quoted:

The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song, and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord. Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship. (SC 112)

Liturgical “action” continued to be refined after 1963 and after 1967. Some aspects of earlier church documents are simply no longer in force because the liturgy itself has been reformed.

Thoughts? Anybody reading have a chance to read through this statement?

The full document may be found here.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Cantate Domino Canticum Novum, Liturgical Music. Bookmark the permalink.

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