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Musical Musings: Miscellaneous

Not Everything Lawful or Valid

by Pope John Paul II

The following is an excerpt from a homily Pope John Paul II delivered to 20,000 musicians celebrating the first centenary of the Italian Saint Cecilia Association.

The Church has stressed and stresses, in her documents, the adjective "sacred," applying it to music intended for the Liturgy. This means that, through her centuries-old experience, she is convinced that this description has an important value. In music intended for sacred worship -- Paul VI said -- "not everything is valid, not everything is lawful, not everything is good; but only what, in union with artistic dignity and spiritual superiority, can fully express ... faith, for the glory of God and for the edification of the Mystical Body." It cannot be said, therefore, that all music becomes sacred from the fact and at the moment in which it is inserted into the Liturgy; in this attitude there is lacking that sensus Ecclesiæ, "without which, song, instead of helping to merge hearts in charity, may on the contrary be a source of uneasiness, dissipation, and flaws in the sacred, when not of division in the very community of the faithful."

It is well known, furthermore, that the conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy requires new compositions to have "the qualities proper to genuine sacred music" (Sacrosanctum concilium, n.121). And today, for the dignity of the Liturgy, I appeal, with esteem and respect, to all musicians, because they too are among those "friends of true art" whom the Church has declared that she needs and to whom she has addressed, in the name of the beauty inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit, the invitation not to drop the very fruitful alliance between herself and true art. You, O musicians, who have the wonderful and mysterious gift of changing man's feeling into song, of adapting the sound to the words, give the Church, the Liturgy, new compositions, in the wake of so many musicians who have succeeded in keeping their artistic inspiration in perfect and fruitful harmony with the high purposes and requirements of Catholic worship.

Music intended for the liturgy must be "sacred."

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