In our time the Supreme Pontiffs have issued three important documents on the
subject of sacred music: the Motu proprio Inter sollicitudines of St.
Pius X, Nov. 22, 1903; the Apostolic constitution Divini cultus of Pius
XI of happy memory, Dec. 20, 1928; and the encyclical
Musicæ sacræ disciplina of the happily reigning Supreme Pontiff Pius XII,
Dec. 25, 1955. Other papal documents have also been issued, along with decrees
of the Sacred Congregation of Rites in regard to sacred music.
As everyone realizes, sacred music and sacred liturgy are so naturally inter-
woven that laws cannot be made for the one without affecting the other. Indeed
in the papal documents, and the decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites we
find materials common to both sacred music, and sacred liturgy.
Before his encyclical on sacred music, the Supreme Pontiff, Pius XII, issued
another encyclical on the sacred liturgy, Mediator Dei (November 20,
1947), which very clearly explains, and demonstrates the relation between
liturgical doctrine, and pastoral needs. It has therefore been considered
appropriate to put together from the above documents a special instruction
containing all the main points on sacred liturgy, sacred music, and the pastoral
advantages of both. In this way their directives may be more easily, and
securely put into practice.
It is for this purpose that the present instruction has been prepared.
Experts in sacred music, and the Pontifical Commission for the General
Restoration of the Liturgy have given advice and assistance.
The organization of this instruction is as follows:
Chapter I: General Concepts (no. 1-10).
Chapter II: General Norms (no. 11-21).
Chapter III: Special Norms (no. 11-21).
- Principal liturgical functions in which sacred music is used.
- General principles regarding the participation of the faithful (no. 22-23).
- Participation of the faithful in sung Mass (no. 24-27).
- Participation of the faithful in low Mass (no. 28-34).
- Conventual Mass, or the Mass in choir (no. 35-37).
- Assistance of priests in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and so-called "synchronized" Masses (no. 38-39).
- Divine Office (no. 40-46).
- Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament (no. 47).
- Kinds of sacred music.
- Sacred polyphony (no. 48-49).
- Modern sacred music (no. 50).
- Hymns (no. 51-53).
- Religious music (no. 54-55).
- Books of liturgical chant (no. 56-59).
- Musical instruments and bells.
- General principles (no. 60).
- Classic organ, and similar instruments (no. 61-67).
- Sacred instrumental music (no. 68-69).
- Musical instruments, and mechanical devices (no. 70-73).
- Broadcasting, and television of sacred functions (no. 74-79).
- Times when the playing of musical instruments is forbidden (no. 80-85).
- Bells (no. 86-92).
- Persons having principal functions in sacred music and the sacred liturgy (no. 93-103).
- Duty to cultivate sacred music and sacred liturgy.
- Training of the clergy, and people (no. 104-112).
- Public, and private schools of sacred music (no. 113-118).
Chapter I explains a few general concepts; chapter II then takes up the
general norms for the use of sacred music in the liturgy. With this background
chapter III presents the entire subject of sacred music, and sacred liturgy in
detail. Each section establishes its own general principles, and then applies
them to particular cases.