Monday, December 19, 2011

About Sacred Music

An essay which still resonates after fifteen years.  It's still important to know what's what.

...It is a fact that every liturgical celebration, “because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of His Body, which is the Church,” is a sacred action surpassing all others. Hence liturgical music, including that provided for the congregation, must be holy. As Pius X phrased it, sacred music must be “free from all that is profane, both in itself and in the method of performance.”

 ...Philosophers, anthropologists, and sociologists would probably agree with Rudolf Otto that the sacred involves the expression and attestation of reverence for something deserving respect and veneration. The conviction underlying this universal human attitude is that there exist certain pre-eminent times and places distinguished from normal life due to their exceptional dignity. Josef Pieper has reminded us that such dignity quite rightly demands from men special forms of respect because certain specific objects, spaces, times, and actions are ordered to the divine sphere. Thus we can comprehend the boundary separating the sacred from the profane. Profane simply means the unexceptional, that which belongs to the realm of the normal, the average, the everyday.

A “preeminently sacred action,” then, will be simply the accomplishment of an action, performed by a community in a nonordinary way. Let us be very precise: We are speaking here of celebrating the eucharistic mysteries during which there occurs the Exceptional par excellence — God’s physical presence among men under the forms of bread and wine. Nothing could be more obvious to a man of faith than to act differently within such a circumscribed context, differently than he acts, for instance, on the tennis courts or at the supermarket. One speaks a language that is obviously human, yet different – in delivery, in style, in diction and grammar, in vocabulary.

Fr. R. Skeris goes on to mention a few hymnals of note.  At that time, however, the CMAA's Vatican II Hymnal had not been published, and it should be first on the current list.

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