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

Table of Contents
Table of ContentsChapter I: General ConceptsChapter III-1. Principal liturgical functions in which sacred music is used.

Chapter II: General Norms

11. This instruction is binding on all rites of the Latin Church. Thus, what is said of Gregorian chant applies to all the chants which are used in other Latin rites.

Sacred music is to be taken generally in this instruction as embracing both vocal and instrumental music. But at times it will be limited to instrumental music only, as will be clear from the context.

A church ordinarily means any sacred place; this includes a church in the strict sense, as well as public, semipublic, and private oratories; again the context itself may restrict the meaning to a church in the strict sense.

12. Liturgical ceremonies are to be carried out as indicated in the liturgical books approved by the Holy See; this applies to the universal Church, to particular churches, and to religious communities (cf. canon 1257). Private devotions, however, may be conducted according to local or community customs if they have been approved by competent ecclesiastical authority (cf. canon 1259).

Liturgical ceremonies, and private devotions are not to be mixed; but if the situation allows, such devotions may either precede or follow a liturgical ceremony.

13. a) Latin is the language of liturgical ceremonies; however, the liturgical books mentioned above, if they have been approved for general use or for a particular place or community, may make use of another language for certain liturgical ceremonies, and in such cases, this will be explicitly stated. Any exceptions to the general rule of Latin will be mentioned later in this Instruction.

b) Special permission is needed for the use of the vernacular which is a word-for-word translation in the celebration of sung liturgical ceremonies (Motu proprio Inter sollicitudines AAS 36 [1903-1904] 334; Decr. auth. S.R.C. 4121).

c) Individual exceptions to the exclusive use of Latin in liturgical ceremonies which have already been granted by the Holy See still remain in effect. These permissions are not to be modified in their meaning nor extended to other regions without authorization from the Holy See.

d) In private devotions any language more suited to the faithful may be used.

14. a) In sung Masses only Latin is to be used. This applies not only to the celebrant, and his ministers, but also to the choir or congregation.

"However, popular vernacular hymns may be sung at the solemn Eucharistic Sacrifice (sung Masses), after the liturgical texts have been sung in Latin, in those places where such a centenary or immemorial custom has obtained. Local ordinaries may permit the continuation of this custom 'if they judge that it cannot prudently be discontinued because of the circumstances of the locality or the people' (cf. canon 5)" (Musicæ sacræ disciplina: AAS 48 [1956] 16-17).

b) At low Mass the faithful who participate directly in the liturgical ceremonies with the celebrant by reciting aloud the parts of the Mass which belong to them must, along with the priest and his server, use Latin exclusively.

But if, in addition to this direct participation in the liturgy, the faithful wish to add some prayers or popular hymns, according to local custom, these may be recited or sung in the vernacular.

c) It is strictly forbidden for the faithful in unison or for a commentator to recite aloud with the priest the parts of the Proper, Ordinary, and canon of the Mass. This prohibition extends to both Latin, and a vernacular word-for-word translation. Exceptions will be enumerated in paragraph 31.

However, it is desirable that a lector read the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular for the benefit of the faithful at low Masses on Sundays and feast days.

Between the Consecration, and the Pater noster a holy silence is fitting.

Sacred Processions

15. In sacred processions conducted according to the liturgical books, only the language prescribed or permitted by these books should be used. In other processions, held as private devotions, the language more suited to the faithful may be used.

16. Gregorian chant is the music characteristic of the Roman Church. Therefore, its use is not only permitted, but encouraged at all liturgical ceremonies above all other styles of music, unless circumstances demand otherwise. From this it follows that:

a) The language of Gregorian chant, because of its character as liturgical music, must be exclusively Latin.

b) The priest and his ministers must use only the Gregorian melodies given in the standard editions when they sing their parts according to the rubrics of the liturgical ceremonies. Any sort of instrumental accompaniment is forbidden.

This is binding also on choir, and congregation when they answer the chants of the priest or his ministers according to the rubrics.

c) Finally, if a particular indult has been granted for the priest, deacon, subdeacon, or lector to read solemnly the Epistle, Lesson, or Gospel in the vernacular after they have been chanted in their Gregorian melodies, they must be read in a loud and clear voice, without any attempt to imitate the Gregorian melodies (cf. no. 96e).

17. When the choir is capable of singing it, sacred polyphony may be used in all liturgical ceremonies. This type of sacred music is specially appropriate for ceremonies celebrated with greater splendor, and solemnity.

18. Modern sacred music may also be used in all liturgical ceremonies if it conforms to the dignity, solemnity, and sacredness of the service, and if there is a choir capable of rendering it artistically.

19. Hymns may be freely used in private devotions. But in liturgical ceremonies the principles laid down in paragraphs 13-15 should be strictly observed.

20. Religious music should be entirely excluded from all liturgical functions; however, such music may be used in private devotions. With regard to concerts in church, the principles stated below in paragraphs 54, and 55 are to be observed.

The Sacred Text

21. Everything which the liturgical books prescribe to be sung, either by the priest and his ministers, or by the choir or congregation, forms an integral part of the sacred liturgy. Therefore:

a) It is strictly forbidden to change in any way the sung text, to alter or omit words, or to introduce inappropriate repetitions. This applies also to compositions of sacred polyphony, and modern sacred music: each word should be clearly, and distinctly audible.

b) It is explicitly forbidden to omit either the whole or a part of any liturgical text unless the rubrics provide for such a change.

c) But if for some reason a choir cannot sing one or another liturgical text according to the music printed in the liturgical books, the only permissible substitution is this: that it be sung either recto tono, i.e., on a straight tone, or set to one of the psalm tones. Organ accompaniment may be used. Typical reasons for permitting such a change are an insufficient number of singers, or their lack of musical training, or even, at times, the length of a particular rite or chant.

Table of ContentsChapter I: General ConceptsChapter III-1. Principal liturgical functions in which sacred music is used.

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

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

Home | New | FAQ | Search | Forum | Links

All contents © copyright, 1998-2017
The Catholic Liturgical Library