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Liturgical Singing and the Word of God

{ Tags: None \ Oct28 }

Last Friday (Oct. 26, 2007), the Worship Committee of the parish held a conference on liturgical singing. I was given the privilege to talk on the “doctrinal” aspect of liturgical singing. It wasn’t hard looking for materials on the topic. Sacramentum Caritatis and The New GIRM are posted in Catholic websites together with commentaries on them. There was one article however which made me change my talk from “doctrinal aspects of liturgical singing” to “the philosophico-theological principles of singing in the Eucharistic celebration”: an excerpt of a chapter from Card. Ratzinger’s book “The Spirit of the Liturgy”.

I found the excerpt in a Catholic resource website. It deals with the three-fold relationship of liturgical music to the Logos. The relationship is three-fold because of the three nuances of “Logos”, as event, as principle of rationality, and as arteficer of the Divine Artist.

Singing in the Liturgy

The article is very informative. Card. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, brings his culture as theologian, musician, connoisseur of the classics and ancient history into the article and explains why sacred music and liturgical singing should be understood within the life of the Christus Totus, the whole Christ. I especially found his historical narration of the development of music from the 19th century onwards has created a notion of singing as the subjective expression of will and desire. His narration is at the same time an evaluation of Hegel’s influence in the area of music which I didn’t know even existed. Interesting too is the reference to Plato’s differentiation between an Apollonian kind of music and a “Dionysian” one.

The discussion of Card. Ratzinger’s article somehow brought into perspective the guidelines on liturgical music that one finds in the new GIRM and in other documents on liturgical music (e.g. Musicam Sacram). Those who attended the conference — about fifty representatives from the different choirs of the parish — found the discussion interesting, judging from the questions and reactions that came after it. One of the fruits of the discussion, I think, is that now we have parishioners involved in music ministry who understand better why the Diocese of San Pablo favors the organ instead of the guitar (we have choirs using electric guitars) and why some priests don’t like the rock-and-roll music of some charismatic groups sung in the Mass.

I made digital copies of the lecture materials I used for the conference. They can be downloaded from here. The package is in a zipped archive.

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