Thursday, December 22, 2011
Singing the Mass: Bishop Olmsted
The new translation is a good start in terms of deepening our appreciation of the Mass. But if we only go as far as learning the new responses (which fit quite easily on that little pew card), and maybe truly listening to what the priest prays at Mass, we’re missing an opportunity to increase in our faith and in our actual participation in the Mass.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix understands this. He sees the importance of “singing the Mass”. His article Singing the Mass Part I: Liturgical Music as Participation in Christ is well worth reading in its entirety. Here is an excerpt:
The Mass itself is a song; it is meant to be sung. Recall that the Gospels only tell us of one time when Jesus sings: when he institutes the Holy Eucharist (Cf. Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26). We should not be surprised, then, that Christ sings when he institutes the sacramentum caritatis (the Sacrament of love), and that for the vast majority of the past 2,000 years, the various parts of the Mass have been sung by priests and lay faithful. In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council strongly encouraged a rediscovery of the ancient concept of singing the Mass: “[The musical tradition of the universal Church] forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium,112). The Mass is most itself when it is sung.
This recent rediscovery of “singing the Mass” did not begin with the Second Vatican Council. Following a movement that stretches back at least to Pope Saint Pius X in 1903, Pope Pius XII wrote in 1955, “The dignity and lofty purpose of sacred music consists in the fact that its lovely melodies and splendor beautify and embellish the voices of the priest who offers Mass and of the Christian people who praise the Sovereign God” (Musicae Sacrae Disciplina, #31).
In the years immediately following the Council, there arose the need to highlight and clarify the Council’s teaching regarding the importance of liturgical prayer in its native sung form. In 1967, The Sacred Congregation for Rites wrote:
“Indeed, through this form [sung liturgical prayer], prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the Liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly Liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem.” (Musicam Sacram, #5).
In other words, sung liturgical prayer more effectively reveals the mystery of the Liturgy as well as more easily accomplishes its heavenly purposes. In this way, sung liturgy is a revelation of Christ as well as a vehicle for profound participation in His saving work.
Read the rest here.