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Sacred Music in the Heart of the Church

Sacred music is a topic near and dear to my hear. More importantly, it is dear to the heart of the Church. Consider what the Second Vatican Council had to say:

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.  (Sacrosanctam Concilium, 112)

You may not be surprised to know that my tastes in liturgical music tend toward the more traditional.  I’m not disparaging contemporary religious music, in and of itself.  Honestly, I even like some of it. For instance, I have been known to play John Michael Talbot’s “Table of Plenty.” Not only that, I also have an abiding fondness for Dana Scallon’s “We Are One Body.  Really. These and many other songs are fine as expressions of religious devotion. Are they truly appropriate, though, for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Do they really capture the sacredness of the Miracle of the Holy Eucharist?

“The Most Beautiful Music I’ve Ever Heard”

      I was once discussing sacred music (specifically the work of Palestrina and Allegri) with a co-worker. This man was a very talented non-Catholic music teacher. “It’s some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard,” he said.  “I can’t believe they got rid of it in the liturgy.  I mean, I guess they had to, but It’s hard to believe.”  It’s understandable that he might think this. In fact, many Catholics do, too.  But as it happens, the Church itself says otherwise. For example, In the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium we read:

The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.  (Sacrosanctam Concilium, 116)

Set Aside For God

     The word sacred means “set aside”, as in set aside for God.  Sacred music, therefore, should be very special indeed.  The clip below, for instance, offers a sterling example, Gregorio Allegri’s “Adoremus in Aeternum.” Like his more well-known setting for the “Miserere,” it employs both Gregorian Chant and Polyphony. Nothing less could adequately express the beauty and wonder of Christ present in the Eucharist.

 

To read Sacrosanctum Concilium’s full discussion of sacred music, see HERE.

Sacred Music in Latin and English:

Adoremus in Aeternum   

Adoremus in aeternum Sanctissimum Sacramentum.

Laudate Dominum Omnes Gentes

Laudate Eum Omnes Populi

Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia eius

Et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.

Gloria Patri Et Filio et Spiritui Sancto

Sicut erat in Principio et Nunc et Semper

et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Adoremus in aeternum Sanctissimum Sacramentum.

 Let Us Adore for Eternity   

“Let us adore for eternity the most holy Sacrament.

Praise the Lord, all you nations:

praise Him all you peoples.

Because his mercy is confirmed over us:

and the truth of the Lord remains into eternity.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,

world without end. Amen.

We will adore for eternity the most holy Sacrament.

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