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Table of Contents
Table of ContentsIntroductionChapter II: General Norms

Chapter I: General Concepts

1. "The sacred liturgy comprises the entire public worship of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, Head and members" (Mediator Dei, Nov. 20, 1947: AAS 39 [1947] 528-529). "Liturgical ceremonies" are sacred rites instituted by Jesus Christ or the Church; they are carried out by persons lawfully appointed, and according to the prescriptions of liturgical books approved by the Holy See; their purpose is to give due worship to God, the Saints, and the Blessed (cf. canon 1256). Any other services, whether performed inside or outside the church, are called "private devotions", even though a priest is present or conducts them.

2. The holy sacrifice of the Mass is an act of worship offered to God in the name of Christ and the Church; of its nature, it is public, regardless of the place or manner of its celebration. Thus, the term "private Mass" should never be used.

3. There are two kinds of Masses: the sung Mass ("Missa in cantu"), and the read Mass ("Missa lecta"), commonly called low Mass.

There are two kinds of sung Mass: one called a solemn Mass if it is celebrated with the assistance of other ministers, a deacon and a sub-deacon; the other called a high Mass if there is only the priest celebrant who sings all the parts proper to the sacred ministers.

4. "Sacred music" includes the following: a) Gregorian chant; b) sacred polyphony; c) modern sacred music; d) sacred organ music; e) hymns; and f) religious music.

5. Gregorian chant, which is used in liturgical ceremonies, is the sacred music proper to the Roman Church; it is to be found in the liturgical books approved by the Holy See. This music has been reverently, and faithfully fostered, and developed from most ancient, and venerable traditions; and even in recent times new chants have been composed in the style of this tradition. This style of music has no need of organ or other instrumental accompaniment.

6. Sacred polyphony is measured music which arose from the tradition of Gregorian chant. It is choral music written in many voice-parts, and sung without instrumental accompaniment. It began to flourish in the Latin Church in the Middle Ages, and reached its height in the art of Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina (1524-1594) in the latter half of the sixteenth century; distinguished musicians of our time still cultivate this art.

7. Modern sacred music is likewise sung in many voice-parts, but at times with instrumental accompaniment. Its composition is of more recent date, and in a more advanced style, developed from the previous centuries. When this music is composed specifically for liturgical use it must be animated by a spirit of devotion, and piety; only on this condition can it be admitted as suitable accompaniment for these services.

8. Sacred music for organ is music composed for the organ alone. Ever since the pipe organ came into use this music has been widely cultivated by famous masters of the art. If such music complies with the laws for sacred music, it is an important contribution to the beauty of the sacred liturgy.

9. Hymns are songs which spontaneously arise from the religious impulses with which mankind has been endowed by its Creator. Thus they are universally sung among all peoples.

This music had a fine effect on the lives of the faithful, imbuing both their private, and social lives with a true Christian spirit (cf. Eph 5:18-20; Col 3:16). It was encouraged from the earliest times, and in our day it is still to be recommended for fostering the piety of the faithful, and enhancing their private devotions. Even such music can, at times, be admitted to liturgical ceremonies (This music had a fine effect on the lives of the faithful, imbuing both their private, and social lives with a true Christian spirit (cf. Eph 5:18-20; Col 3:16). It was encouraged from the earliest times, and in our day it is still to be recommended for fostering the piety of the faithful, and enhancing their private devotions. Even such music can, at times, be admitted to liturgical ceremonies (Musicæ sacræ disciplina, Dec. 25, 1955; AAS 48 [1956] 13-14)., Dec. 25, 1955; AAS 48 [1956] 13-14).

10. Religious music is any music which, either by the intention of the composer or by the subject or purpose of the composition, serves to arouse devotion, and religious sentiments. Such music "is an effective aid to religion" (Musicæ sacræ disciplina, idem.). But since it was not intended for divine worship, and was composed in a free style, it is not to be used during liturgical ceremonies.

Table of ContentsIntroductionChapter II: General Norms

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You are here: Documents > Sacred Music > Instruction On Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy  Back one page.

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All contents © copyright, 1998-2014
The Catholic Liturgical Library
http://www.catholicliturgy.com