Tag Archives: liturgy

Music at liturgy: full expression of faith

Credit: Pexels

In a recent US Catholic survey, eighty percent of those questioned said that music at Mass was very important to them. However, only thirteen percent were totally satisfied with the music that they have and actually sing. The music at Mass is important, very important! It is not simply a performance by a soloist or choir, a background to accompany our prayer, a means to create a mood, or an incentive to shout and clap our hands. Music is integral to our liturgical worship.

Pope Francis has clearly defined the purpose of music at Mass. He said that it is “first of all a matter of participating intensely in the mystery of God, in the ‘theophany’ that takes place in every Eucharistic celebration, in which the Lord makes himself present among his people, who are called truly to participate in the salvation realized by the crucified and risen Christ” (Homily at Santa Marta, December 12, 2013). The Second Vatican Council called for full, active and conscious participation of the laity at Mass. Like the introduction of the vernacular in liturgy, music is meant to foster this participation.

However, Pope Francis has noted that the very “introduction of vernacular languages into the liturgy has raised many issues: of language, form and musical genre. At times, a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of the liturgical celebrations” (Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the International Conference on Sacred Music, March 4, 2017). Good liturgical music should be both aesthetically pleasing and theologically correct. For example, any song that refers to the Eucharist as bread and wine has no place in Catholic worship. The Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus and the songs we sing should express this reality.

Lifting our hearts to God in liturgy always goes beyond the boundaries of human speech. Thus, liturgy, by its very nature, calls upon the help of music and song to praise to God. Music varies from culture to culture. And so do the musical instruments. In liturgy, it is possible to enculturate the many types of songs and instruments in as much as they enhance the celebration and lead us to focus on God.

When it comes to the musical instruments that are played at liturgy, the pipe organ holds a primacy of place in the Latin Church among all other musical instruments. Like no other musical instrument, it can express the full range of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to sorrow. Invented in the 3rd century BC, by the Greek engineer Ctesibius of Alexandria, the pipe organ was introduced into our churches in the 10thcentury. It has become the desired instrument for sacred music. With its variety of sounds and tones, it reminds us of the immensity of God. The pipe organ has the ability to surround us with the beauty of music that leads us to experience the presence of God who holds us in the embrace of his love, bringing harmony and joy into our lives.

Music plays such an important role in our worship of God because we are both body and soul. Prayer rises from the depths of our heart. Words alone do not suffice to express all that we wish to say. But, music has the power to communicate the messages and emotions that words cannot capture. Music is a bridge between the world of matter and the realm of the spirit. It transforms our life path into a conscious spiritual path. Music takes us out of ourselves and opens us up to God. Sound liturgical music, therefore, never centers on the community. Liturgy is not about what we want. Liturgy is, first and foremost, praise and worship of God and our entering into what the Lord himself wants for us.

Many great composers, such as Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Brahms recognized that their musical talent was not enough to produce good music. They needed divine inspiration. God himself loves music! After all, the Book of Psalms is a song book. Music comes from God, and when we participate in it – whether by writing, performing, or even just listening – we are receiving a gift from God.

At Mass, there are times when we may choose to simply listen to the music and let our hearts rise in praise of God. But, moments of silently listening to music and song at Mass should be rare. Not joining in the songs of the congregation limits and diminishes our participation in the liturgy. The walls of our churches should reverberate with the sound of our singing at liturgy. In the words of the Letter to the Ephesians, we should “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Ephesians 5:18-19). – Bishop Arthur Serratelli, CNA, 2 May 2018 

Pope Francis stresses on moments of silence during Mass

Pope Francis speaks during the general audience on 10 Jan 2018. Credit: Daniel Ibez, CNA.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis said Wednesday that moments of silence in the Mass should be intentional times of prayer, recollection, and communion with God, rather than being viewed as times to just be quiet or not speak.

“Silence is not reduced to the absence of words, but (is) the availability to listen to other voices: that of our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope said on 10 Jan 2018.

In silence, then, we discover “the importance of listening to our soul and then opening it to the Lord.”

Continuing his general audience catechesis on the topic of the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the nature of the different moments of silence found within the celebration, especially in the recitation of the collect.

The collect, which is prayed after the Gloria, or if the Gloria is omitted, following the Penitential Act, is a short prayer which goes from praise to supplication, and is generally inspired from the day’s Scripture passages, the Pope said.

This prayer, which varies according to the day and time in which the Mass is being said, begins with the priest saying to the people, “Let us pray,” followed by a brief silence.

“I strongly recommend priests observe this moment of silence, which without wanting to, we risk neglecting,” Francis noted.

In this moment the congregation is exhorted to come together in silence, to become aware of the presence of God, and to bring out, “each one in his own heart, the personal intentions with which he participates in Mass.”

“Perhaps we come from days of toil, of joy, of sorrow, and we want to tell the Lord, to invoke his help, to ask that he be near us; we have family members and friends who are ill or who are going through difficult trials; we wish to entrust to God the fate of the Church and the world.”

“For this we need the brief silence beforehand, that the priest, gathering the intentions of each one, expresses in a loud voice to God, in the name of all, the common prayer that concludes the rites of introduction, making, indeed, a ‘collection’ of individual intentions.”

These silences are written right into the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Pope pointed out. There it says that in the Penitential Act and again after the invitation to pray, everyone is supposed to spend a moment in recollection.

And in the silences following a reading or the homily, everyone is called to meditate briefly on what they have heard. After Communion they should praise and pray to God in their hearts.

The Gloria, another kind of prayer, is either recited or sung before the collect on Sundays – except during Lent and Advent – and on feasts and solemnities.

Here, “the feelings of praise that run through the hymn are intertwined with the confident pleading of divine benevolence, to end with the Trinitarian doxology, which characterises the whole liturgical celebration,” he said.

The recitation or singing of the Gloria, the Pope emphasised, “constitutes an opening of the earth to heaven.”

By meditating on the prayers of the Mass, the liturgy can become for us, the Pope concluded, a “true school of prayer.” – CNA/EWTN News

Why there is no renewal of marriage vows

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university Rome.

Q: In the Order of Celebrating Matrimony there is a “Blessing of a Married Couple within Mass on the Anniversary of Marriage.” That blessing invites the couple to renew their commitment quietly, but also allows for a public commitment, but does not allow for the renewal of the wedding vows themselves. Many couples ask for a renewal of vows — why is this not permitted? Why would that be any different than those in religious or monastic vows celebrating jubilees who often renew their vows? Why then would not wedding vows be allowed to be renewed? Likewise, in the Roman Missal there is a renewal of priestly promises at the Chrism Mass. — LP, Tampa, Florida

A: The Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonium, editio typica altera (1991), includes in Appendix III the: “Ordo benedictionis coniugum intra Missam, occasione data anniversarii Matrimonii adhibendus” (Rite of blessing the spouses during Mass on occasion of the anniversary of marriage). This appendix allows for a special remembrance of marriage to be held on the principal anniversaries of the celebration such as the 25th, 50th or 60th.

In this ritual, the universal Church has proposed a renewal of commitment to married life, though the terms “renewal of vows” is avoided.

Even before the publication of this universal rite, however, several bishops’ conferences had included in the Ritual for Marriage a rite for the renewal of marriage commitment for use on special anniversaries. It is probably possible to use these texts on other anniversaries, for good pastoral reasons. The Book of Blessings also provides texts that are suitable for other circumstances, such as retreats, especially geared for married couples.

All of these rites make a slight but significant distinction between the original vows and the renewal of the ongoing marriage commitment. There are also different moments for the renewal. In some countries the renewal on jubilee anniversaries is done after the homily; in others, it follows the Prayer after Communion.

In the United States the formula is slightly different from the original formula for the vows, in order to reflect a spiritual renewal.

In the Canadian Marriage Ritual, Appendix IX, “The Celebration of Wedding Anniversaries,” on the other hand, the term renewal of vows is used, and it is the priest’s introduction that explains the meaning and reasons for the renewal of the original formula. To wit:

“My dear N & N,

you have come here with your family and friends

to celebrate your faithfulness to each other

and to thank God for the years he has given you to live in mutual love.

Through the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and trials of life,

God has been with you.

“The Church shares your joy today

and is thankful to you

for being such a powerful sign of God’s loyal and faithful love for the world.

(*God has enriched and strengthened you over the years by the sacrament of marriage.)

In renewing your vows today, you give witness once again to God’s love.

“You have proven your devotion to each other by your life together.

Now join your right hands and renew your consent before God and his Church.”

The ritual then refers the priest back to the original wedding vows. The text of the vows remains unchanged.

One of the more recent texts, which basically follows that of the Roman Ritual, is that of the bishops of England and Wales. The whole rite can be found at: https://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resources/Marriage/OCM-Anniversary.pdf:

“275. Then, in these or similar words, the Priest invites the couple to pray in silence and to renew before God their commitment to live their Marriage in holiness.

“N. and N., on the anniversary of that celebration at which you joined your lives in an unbreakable bond through the Sacrament of Matrimony, you now intend to renew before the Lord the promises you made to one another. Turn to the Lord in prayer, that these vows may be strengthened by divine grace.

“276. Then the couple renew their commitment quietly.

“277. If, however, the couple, taking circumstances into account, wish to renew their commitment publicly, the form provided here is used:

“The husband: Blessed are you, Lord, for by your goodness I took N. as my wife.

“The wife: Blessed are you, Lord, for by your goodness I took N. as my husband.

“Both: Blessed are you, Lord, for in the good and the bad times of our life you have stood lovingly by our side. Help us, we pray, to remain faithful in our love for one another, so that we may be true witnesses to the covenant you have made with humankind.

“The Priest:

“May the Lord keep you safe all the days of your life. May he be your comfort in adversity and your support in prosperity. May he fill your home with his blessings. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

There follows the Blessing of Rings and the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful in the form usual at Mass, or prayer in common in the form provided in the rite. After the Our Father, the prayer Deliver us, is omitted. The Priest, facing the couple, with hands extended, says:

“We praise you, O God, we bless you, Creator of all things, who in the beginning made man and woman that they might form a communion of life and love. We also give you thanks for graciously blessing the family life of your servants N. and N., so that it might present an image of Christ’s union with the Church. Therefore look with kindness upon them today, and as you have sustained their communion amid joys and struggles, renew their Marriage covenant each day, increase their charity, and strengthen in them the bond of peace, so that (together with the circle of their children that surrounds them,) they may forever enjoy your blessing. Through Christ our Lord.

“All reply: Amen.”

The reason for these slight but significant changes is because in an essential way there is no such thing as the “renewal of the marriage vows.” The exchange of vows is seen as the sacramental form and is thus essentially unique for the same couple. Through their consent the spouses mutually give and accept each other through an irrevocable and perpetual covenant in order to establish marriage (see Canon 1057.2 of the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism, No. 1638).

It is precisely the strength of the indissoluble bond created by the celebration of marriage that makes the Church somewhat hesitant to permit a simple renewal of the marriage vows. One cannot renew a valid marriage in the sense of restart or resume.

However, the ongoing commitment of marriage may be celebrated, blessed and renewed in the sense of revitalised or reinvigorated.

It is true that Catholics annually renew their baptismal promises, priests their ordination commitments and many religious their vows.

But these promises, unlike the marriage vows, are complementary to the sacrament and do not constitute the sacramental form itself.

Thus, although we all renew our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil and priests renew their promises on Holy Thursday, the actual baptismal or ordination formula is never repeated.

Likewise, religious profession is a sacramental and not a sacrament. But even in these cases religious who have the custom of making a devotional renewal of their profession of vows every year will sometimes make slight adjustments to the rites and formulas to underline the different situation.

For example, they may omit the reference to the superior receiving the vow, as technically, nobody needs to receive a devotional renewal of a profession that has already been publicly declared and received by the proper authority. In a similar manner, they may also all face in the same direction as, once more, all the religious, including the superior, is renewing his or her vows and nobody necessarily receives them. – zenit.org

Benedict XVI is right to worry about the liturgy, says moral theologian

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in 2012 (AP)

Alexander Lucie-Smith is a Catholic priest, doctor of moral theology and consulting editor of The Catholic Herald. Below is his reflection posted on The Catholic Herald, 5 Oct 2017.

Benedict XVI, the Pope Emeritus, has written a very short foreword for the Russian edition of his book The Spirit of the Liturgy. It is short but eloquent and full of meaning.

Is Benedict right? Of course he is. He is completely correct to point out that the purpose of the Church is the worship of God, and when the liturgy becomes secondary, then clearly the Church is not functioning as it is intended to, and neither are the people in it. This analysis is simple, but not simplistic. It is, rather, the simple truth.

Consider the life of a typical parish. How much time is spent on the Liturgy? How much effort goes into liturgical preparation? Are the social and educational activities of the parish all geared to the great end of enabling people to take part in the Liturgy? Or is the Liturgy something that feels “tacked on” or even worse, something that almost interferes with the other parish activities? Parish activities are a good thing, but they should only happen for one reason – to build up the Body of Christ, the Body which takes part in the Liturgy.

Again, consider the life of a typical priest. Is he in the sacristy ready for Mass in good time? Or does he rush in at a minute or two before Mass is due to begin, out of breath and distracted? Does he spend far too much of his time dealing with invoices about double glazing, and fielding phone calls from photocopying companies, rather than celebrating the Liturgy, planning the celebration, making sure everything is ready for the celebration, and talking to his parishioners about the importance of the celebration, as well as, of course, perhaps most importantly of all, preparing himself in prayer for the celebration?

Again, are the people of the parish, encouraged by the priest, aware that Liturgy is addressed to God and God alone, rather than to the congregation, and that Liturgy is a language, and that every language makes sense because it has its own grammar? Are priest and people aware that certain practices, rightly called abuses, destroy the meaning of the Liturgy from within? Have they imbibed the teaching of Redemptionis Sacramentum the 2004 instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship, which lays out what is to be done and what is to be avoided, in order to protect the integrity of the liturgy? One hopes they are, though there is always work to be done in this field, as evidenced by some continuing practices in some parts of the world.

Benedict XVI has done us all a great service, reminding us that in the end, the Church’s chief function is the Liturgy. Get that right, and everything else follows. Get it wrong, and everything falls apart.

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