THE CHURCH AT PRAYER (4)

Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

SINGING BY HEART: Have you wondered why we read anew some pieces of music each week, and why some we sing all of the time. The document Sing to the Lord, and the Archdiocese of Omaha Core Repertoire provide guidance for us:

27. So that the holy people may sing with one voice, the music must be within its members’ capability. Some congregations are able to learn more quickly and will desire more variety. Others will be more comfortable with a stable number of songs so that they can be at ease when they sing. Familiarity with a stable repertoire of liturgical songs rich in theological content can deepen the faith of the community through repetition and memorization.

THE CHURCH AT PRAYER (3)

Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

Have you wondered why, at mass, we take time to learn music before we sing it? Or why the Cantor sings (intones) something first, to give an example for all to sing? The cantor’s gesture of invitation is not “empty” but a cue for all to do their part. Intoning is an ancient custom, by which the simplest refrains are “taught by ear” so that we all can join together. Are you picking up your cue? The document Sing to the Lord guides us:

26. Singing is one of the primary ways that the assembly of the faithful participates actively in the Liturgy. The people are encouraged “to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons [and] hymns. . . .” The musical formation of the assembly must be a continuing concern in order to foster full, conscious, and active participation.”

THE CHURCH AT PRAYER (2)

THE CHURCH AT PRAYER

Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

The Gathered Assembly: What does “COLLECT” mean? Liturgically, when a priest prays a prayer, he is “collecting” the prayers of all gathered. His words are our words. The mass is a dialogue – the words exchanged are rich, poetic, and distilled to their most intense and economical form. This is why it is helpful, before mass begins and in preparation for full participation in it, that we can examine and digest the words through the resources in the pews – (St. Michael Hymnal – Lumen Christi Missal) and numerous other printed and online resources to be ready. It is not a trivial or simple thing to attach our thoughts and intentions to that of another. In the Collect this is what we are doing – submitting our own will and joining with that of all present to pray to God with one voice. This is an intentional action and requires our full attention.

From Sing to the Lord : 24. “In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a people, a people whom God has made his own, a royal priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the spotless Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, and so that they may learn to offer themselves.” This is the basis for the “full, conscious and active participation” of the faithful demanded by the very nature of the Liturgy.

THE CHURCH AT PRAYER

THE CHURCH AT PRAYER

Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

15. The Church is always at prayer in her ministers and her people, and that prayer takes various forms in her life. Authentic sacred music supports the Church’s prayer by enriching its elements.” Authentic music takes us beyond ourselves, and helps us to unite with others to lift our common voice. In contrast to secular culture’s music, which personalizes our choices sometimes to the point of isolation, communal music joins us together with the person in the pew next to us, to the person who is not very much like us, and to the saints and angels across time. Liturgical Music is a universal expression by which we sacrifice in order to join with the eternal sacrifice of Christ to the Father.

WHY WE SING (9)

WHY WE SING – Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

13. Participation must also be external, so that internal participation can be expressed and reinforced by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes, and by the acclamations, responses, and singing. The quality of our participation in such sung praise comes less from our vocal ability than from the desire of our hearts to sing together of our love for God. Participation in the Sacred Liturgy both expresses and strengthens the faith that is in us.

14. Our participation in the Liturgy is challenging. Sometimes, our voices do not correspond to the convictions of our hearts. At other times, we are distracted or preoccupied by the cares of the world. But Christ always invites us to enter into song, to rise above our own preoccupations, and to give our entire selves to the hymn of his Paschal Sacrifice for the honor and glory of the Most Blessed Trinity.

WHY WE SING (8)

WHY WE SING – Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

11. Within the gathered assembly, the role of the congregation is especially important. The full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.”

12. Participation in the Sacred Liturgy must be “internal, in the sense that by it the faithful join their mind to what they pronounce or hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace.” Even when listening to the various prayers and readings of the Liturgy or to the singing of the choir, the assembly continues to participate actively as they “unite themselves interiorly to what the ministers or choir sing, so that by listening to them they may raise their minds to God.” “In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.”

WHY WE SING (7)

WHY WE SING – Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

Participation – 10. Holy Mother Church clearly affirms the role within worship of the entire liturgical assembly (bishop, priest, deacon, acolytes, ministers of the Word, music leaders, choir, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and the congregation). Through grace, the liturgical assembly partakes in the life of the Blessed Trinity, which is itself a communion of love. In a perfect way, the Persons of the Trinity remain themselves even as they share all that they are. For our part, “we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.” The Church urges all members of the liturgical assembly to receive this divine gift  and to participate fully “depending on their orders [and] their role in the liturgical services.”

WHY WE SING (6)

WHY WE SING – Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

9. Charity, justice, and evangelization are thus the normal consequences of liturgical celebration. Particularly inspired by sung participation, the body of the Word Incarnate goes forth to spread the Gospel with full force and compassion. In this way, the Church leads men and women “to the faith, freedom and peace of Christ by the example of its life and teaching, by the sacraments and other means of grace. Its aim is to open up for all men a free and sure path to full participation in the mystery of Christ.”

WHY WE SING (5)

WHY WE SING – Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

7. The primordial song of the Liturgy is the canticle of victory over sin and death. It is the song of the saints, standing beside “the sea of glass”: “They were holding God’s harps, and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” “Liturgical singing is established in the midst of this great historical tension. For Israel, the event of salvation in the Red Sea will always be the main reason for praising God, the basic theme of the songs it sings before God. For Christians, the Resurrection of Christ is the true Exodus. . . . The definitively new song has been intoned. . . .”

8. The Paschal hymn, of course, does not cease when a liturgical celebration ends. Christ, whose praises we have sung, remains with us and leads us through church doors to the whole world, with its joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties. The words Jesus chose from the book of Isaiah at the beginning of his ministry become the song of the Body of Christ. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

WHY WE SING (4)

WHY WE SING – Series drawn from the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (2007).

6. “In human life, signs and symbols occupy an important place. As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. . . Inasmuch as they are creatures, these perceptible realities can become means of expressing the action of God who sanctifies men, and the action of men who offer worship to God.” This sacramental principle is the consistent belief of the Church throughout history. In Liturgy, we use words, gestures, signs, and symbols to proclaim Christ’s presence and to reply with our worship and praise.