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Why chant?

posted Aug 19, 2017, 12:39 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Aug 19, 2017, 12:39 PM ]
For the past month, we’ve been chanting the Ordinary, the chants that are constant and don’t change from Mass to Mass. But why learn them?

In his 1903 motu proprio Inter Sollicitudines, St. Pius X wrote: “Special efforts are to be made to restore the use of chant by the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part, as was the case in ancient times.” Chanting is easier than singing, so it should pose less of an obstacle to people who “don’t sing”, and allow more of us to participate.

Pope Pius XI says in his 1928 encyclical Divini Cultus: “Voices, in preference to instruments, ought to be heard in the church: the voices of the clergy, the choir, and the congregation; for no instrument, however perfect, can surpass the human voice in expressing human thought, especially when it is used by the mind to offer up prayer and praise to Almighty God… It is most important that when the faithful assist at the sacred ceremonies… they should not be merely detached and silent spectators, but, filled with a deep sense of the beauty of the Liturgy, they should sing. If this is done, then it will no longer happen that the people either make no answer at all to the public prayers … or at best utter the responses in a low and subdued manner.” It should be easier to add more personal vocal expressions and dynamics when chanting than when singing a composed melody.

In his 1955 encyclical Musicae Sacrae, The Venerable Pius XII added: “It is the duty of all those to whom Christ the Lord has entrusted the task of guarding and dispensing the Church’s riches to preserve this precious treasure of chant diligently and to impart it generously to the Christian people.” We need to pass on and teach sacred chants to ourselves and the next generation.

The conclusion we can learn from these and many more papal documents, is that “we the people” are repeatedly and directly asked to SING THE MASS. Are we?