Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Much has been done, but there remains much still to do"

Today in a press conference the Holy See announced the symposium
(Photo: Wikimedia)
"Sacrosanctum Concilium. Gratitude and commitment for a great ecclesial movement”, organized by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments which will take place five days from now, February 18-20, in Rome. The symposium will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Council Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,

Cardinal Canizares Llovera, who was appointed prefect of the CDWDS by Pope Benedict in 2008, was quoted heavily in the report:

Cardinal Canizares commented that the [Second Vatican] Council was “an invitation to the Church to be herself, as God wished her to be and created her, and to act in a manner coherent with her vocation and with the mission that God Himself has given her. … With this beginning, which focuses on the theme of the Liturgy, the emphasis is unequivocally placed on the primacy of God in the Church; God first of all. … When God is not in first place, everything else loses its way”. 
The Vatican Council II Fathers demonstrated this priority first by approving the Constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, clarifying that “worship comes first; God comes first. Therefore, beginning with the theme of the Liturgy, the Council explicitly turned attention to God's primacy and at the same time indicated it as a sure point of orientation for the path to be followed in the future”. 
With regard to “gratitude” and “commitment”, the prelate added, “We must, indeed, thank God for this first fruit of the Council … not only for the Constitution itself, but also for the renewing dynamism of the Church that it has given rise to, and continues to provide. At the same time, urgent commitment on our part to the continuation and deepening of the liturgical renewal hoped for by the Vatican Council II is now called for. It is true that much has been done, but there remains much still to do”. 
[Emphasis added]. The full report can be read here.

This news comes only two days after the new Vatican initiative "Sacred Music: Fifty Years after the Council" was first reported. It seems that the document [you can download it here], was first released on December 17, 2013. It is addressed to the Episcopal Conferences, Major Religious Institutes, and Theological Faculties of the world, and includes a 40-question survey on the state of sacred music in the past 50 years, followed by a profoundly rich theological framework for the proper understanding of the music of the liturgy. Responders have until April 30, 2014 to submit their response. 

The initiative, put forth jointly by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Pontifical Council for Culture, has the aim of "reflecting on the developments in the field of music and the desire to offer a contribution to the ministry of musicians for the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful."

Reading this document brings to mind a reorganization of the CDWDS by Pope Benedict in 2011 with the motu proprio Quaerit simper, which, according to a report at the time, had the aim of freeing up the congregation for a greater promotion of the sacred liturgy, particularly through the establishment of a "Liturgical Art and Sacred Music Commission". 

Many of us had high hopes for this commission, but no news ever came on any specific initiatives from it. And then we had the abdication of Pope Benedict a year later, followed by the election of Pope Francis, and a period of uncertainty as to nature the work of the Vatican in regard to the promotion of the liturgy.

That is, until now.

It now seems likely that this commission has been hard at work all along. And with Francis' emphasis on liturgical catechesis in these past few days, and now with the announcement the symposium on Sacrosanctum Concilium, it seems that the long-awaited work of the commission is finally taking flight. 

Sacred Music: Fifty Years after the Council is monumental, and it must be read by anyone who is concerned about the continued renewal of the sacred liturgy in the life of the Church. In particular, the "Accompanying Text" at the very end must be closely studied, even read before the questionnaire itself, which itself reads like a kind of examination of conscience for the Church universal after 50 years of experience following the Second Vatican Council.

The theological framework at the conclusion of this document, given in seven articles, is the most elaborate and articulate writing on the topic of sacred music given by the Church since Musicam Sacram of 1967.

It has no need to repeat the words of the Vatican documents of the 20th century, from Tra le sollecitudini to Sacrosanctum Concilium to Musicam Sacram to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and it doesn't repeat them.

This new initiative gets to the heart of the reason why, perhaps, the Church's vision for sacred music has not been more fully realized, even 50 years after it was concretely established in the Church's mind and teaching in ecumenical council.

The heart of the matter is the formation of liturgical musicians

I would like to put forth the following prediction: Following Sacred Music: Fifty Years after the Council the universal Church will receive a Roman document with concrete guidelines and expectations regarding the education and formation of liturgical musicians. This will include not only musical and artistic formation for those who plan to serve the liturgy in this capacity, but it will also include a deep theological, sacramental, and spiritual formation, as is required by anyone who seeks to be thoroughly imbued by the spirit of the liturgy.

What exactly will the "contribution to the ministry of musicians" by the CDWDS and Pontifical Council for Culture be? We will have to wait and see. There seems to be great hope, though, that the future of authentic liturgical is as bright as ever.

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