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50th Anniversary of De Musica Sacra

10/9/2008 - 7:47 PM PST

Catholic PRWire

CHICAGO, IL (OCTOBER 9, 2008) - On Oct. 9th we observe the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII. Just a month before his untimely death he issued "De Musica Sacra."


Sacred Music of the Liturgy from Pius XII to the Present Day

Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC
Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, Chicago, Illinois

Published in Challenge Magazine, September, 2008

In September 1958, at the close of his pontificate and with the history book of the Church about to turn to a new chapter entitled "Vatican II," Pope Pius XII issued "De Musica Sacra et Sacra Liturgia." Pius XII's instruction on sacred music and liturgy would consolidate the pastoral vision and liturgical teaching of Pius X's "Inter sollicitudines" (1903), Pius XI's "Divini cultus" (1928) and his own "Musicae sacrae disciplina" (1955). "De Musica Sacra" would canonize many important principles of the liturgical movement, and lay the groundwork for Vatican II's "Sacrosanctum Concillium."

In September 2008, as we celebrate its 50th Anniversary, it is useful to revisit "De Musica Sacra," due to the recent reintegration of the Classical form of the Roman Rite in the Church today achieved through Benedict XVI's "Summorum Pontificum," which took effect September 14, 2007.

Catholics have a special opportunity today to celebrate the Roman tradition of Liturgy in two forms. Both forms share elements that come from a common patrimony, yet each liturgical form expresses sacredness and beauty in different modalities. "Summorum Pontificum" desires that both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Liturgy be celebrated with equal reverence, devotion and honor, so that the faithful will come to understand the inherent sacredness of Catholic Liturgy, in all her splendid variety.

As regards sacred music, "De Musica Sacra" establishes principles that are upheld in Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and so Pius XII's document is a viable reference point for sacred music in the post-Vatican II liturgy. But with the reintroduction of the Classical Roman Rite, "De Musica Sacra" provides an invaluable synthesis of musical and liturgical customs, as well as rubrics, and shines forth as brilliant foundational liturgical document, relevant for our day.

Today Benedict XVI, like Pius XII, teaches us

" authentic updating of sacred music can take place only in the lineage of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony."

The recent Synod of Bishops stated

"the faithful need to know the standard Gregorian chants, which have been composed to meet the needs of people of all times and places, in virtue of their simplicity, refinement and agility in form and rhythm."

In the celebration of the Roman Rite, the treasury of Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony, thus, becomes a factor of unification between the Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form.

Church Musicians, formed by the pastoral vision of "De Musica Sacra," must labor in seminaries, parishes, dioceses, and religious communities, to ensure that Catholics are not deprived of those parts of our musical and liturgical heritage that the Church treasures as a rightful inheritance.
In seeking to reintroduce sacred Catholic music into the Roman Liturgy, one must face the stark reality that the Roman heritage of Latin liturgical music has been jettisoned. Generations of Catholics have been robbed of any contact with the Roman musical tradition.

How many Easters have passed in this parish or that without the chanting of the "Exsultet" or the "Victimae Paschale Laudes"? If Catholics know any chant, it is only the simple "Salve Regina" or the "Sanctus" of the Requiem Mass. What was once common ground has now become foreign territory to most Roman Catholics.

In stark contrast, Catholics who primarily attend the Ordinary Form of the Mass have been schooled in popular contemporary religious songs. Pius XII recognizes the value of such religious music, which is usually set in the vernacular and composed according to a popular, contemporary style. But he insists that such religious music not be admitted to liturgical services, such as Mass or Vespers, but that it be fostered in devotional services, youth rallies, concerts and the like.

John Paul II, echoing Pius X, stated:

"A composition for the Church is all the more sacred and liturgical the more its development, inspiration, and flavor approaches the Gregorian melody, and the less worthy it is the more it distinguishes itself from that supreme model".

And thus, popular religious music, a supplement to ...

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