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Church gives directives about liturgical music Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

To the editor:

On October 18,  Adam Lewandowski responded to the column on sacred music by Sr. Joan Roccasalvo, C.S.J., invoking the image from chapter 6 of 2 Samuel of King David dancing “with abandon” before the Ark of the Covenant as it was being moved.

Let’s review the account in 2 Samuel. Yes, David danced before the Ark in the liturgical procession as they went up to Jerusalem. However, in that procession, oxen and fatlings were sacrificed every six paces.

So, by all means, play whatever music you want. Dance, even! But keep it biblical and bring a really sharp axe. After Mass keep your eyes peeled for PETA.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, has precise directives about music for liturgical worship: Latin must be preserved (arts. 36 and 101), Gregorian chant has the first place (art. 116), and after chant, polyphony (ibid.), people must be taught to sing in Latin (art. 54), and the pipe organ is to be held in high-esteem (art. 120).

These are directives, not suggestions. To ignore them is contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the Council. To ignore these directives is itself serious liturgical abuse.

Returning to Mr. Lewandowski's 2 Samuel 6, when the cart hauling the Ark slipped, the well-meaning Uzzah touched the Ark with his hand to stabilize it. Uzzah was instantly struck dead by God.

The Ark was not supposed to be transported on a cart and it was not to be touched (cf Exodus 25, Numbers 4, Deuteronomy 10, 1 Chronicles 13 and 15). The cart and Uzzah’s well-meaning touch were a kind of liturgical abuse. God had made His will clear about the Ark.

Holy Church makes clear how we are to celebrate Mass and which sort of sacred music we should prefer. Liturgical abuses and the choice of bad and inappropriate music are usually well-meaning, of course. So, by all means, sing those ditties and lay hands upon sacred things any self-affirming way you think best. Dance, even! But think of Uzzah the next time the band strikes up with “Gather Us In.”

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf,