Friday, November 12, 2010

Pope Benedict: improving the celebration of the Word of God, during and outside Mass

Pope Benedict has issued a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation entitled Verbum Domini - Word of the Lord.

Among other things the Holy Father referred to the need for a sense of recollection and inner repose:
Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. [...] Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence.

He deals also with the question of music. This is very important because music can promote recollection and inner repose, or it can destroy it. Some of the words, melodies, arrangements and instruments used at Mass do precisely that: just when one needs some peace a responsorial psalm arrangement that shatters that peace, or a communion reflection that is a total distraction during that most sublime moment intrudes upon the sacred rites being celebrated.

Pope Benedict says:

As part of the enhancement of the word of God in the liturgy, attention should also be paid to the use of song at the times called for by the particular rite. Preference should be given to songs which are of clear biblical inspiration and which express, through the harmony of music and words, the beauty of God’s word. We would do well to make the most of those songs handed down to us by the Church’s tradition which respect this criterion. I think in particular of the importance of Gregorian chant.

Good Holy Father! He wouldn't be Benedict if he did not find an opportunity to promote Gregorian chant. How sublime these settings are at precisely those points when the Word of God can enhance that spirit of recollection and inner repose: the entrance antiphon which prepares the heart and mind, the responsorial psalm (or Gradual) to assist us in our response to the first reading, the Alleluia that prepares our hearts to hear Christ in the Gospel, the Offertory Antiphon that accompanies the offering of the bread and wine and of our own selves, the Communion Antiphon that is peacefully rising to God.

All these are so far superior to the inane songs that are sung at most of our Masses.

In my recent visit to Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, I was most impressed by the simplicity and sobriety of the liturgy. The Masses I attended were in English, but the antiphons were sung in a gregorian style manner, and the psalm in a chant like tone. There was the perfect balance of silence and song, with every opportunity for recollection and inner repose.

Acknowledgement to Zenit.

1 comment:

  1. "All these are so far superior to the inane songs that are sung at most of our Masses."
    I agree absolutely. Why do we almost invariably substitute the reflections of some individual - for that is what hymns frequently are - for the words of sacred scripture from which the various antiphons at mass are selected?


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