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Church Music:
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

by Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B, Archbishop of Milwaukee
Continued from previous page

Vatican Council II

Pius X's Motu Proprio and the papal documents under Pius XII made it possible for the Council Fathers to issue as their very first statement the document on liturgy. Four interrelated concepts that were to affect the future of church music were emphasized in that conciliar document. Larry and Kathy White, Alberta, AL

1. Liturgy is the act of worship of the whole assembled community. Thus, liturgy is never a private act of devotion, but an expression of the faith of the Church and the faith of the worshiping group. Previously a server answered for the people in Latin; now the entire body was to respond. Previous practices, such as saying the rosary during Mass, distributing communion right after the Consecration, and so on, were seen to make no sense. Although the Church had never admitted the concept of a "private" Mass, the Mass with a participating congregation now became normative. It is as if the people before the Council watched a play, were absorbed by it, and responded as individuals. Suddenly the lights came on and they found themselves a part of the drama, where their communal response was integral to the whole.

2. Understanding text and sign now became paramount. This document on liturgy accentuated the need for the text, signs, and symbols to be understood by the people without the need for elaborate decodification. For this reason the switch to the vernacular came faster than even the Council Fathers anticipated. Noel Goemanne, Dallas, TX

3. A new regard for the texts, read and sung, became part of the liturgical transformation. So many hymn texts used at benediction and devotions were full of nonsensical phrases and pious, but empty, thoughts. The change to English brought about a consciousness of the meaning of the words, and often these were found to be archaic and/or meaningless.

4. As a consequence of all this, the congregation could no longer be silent; it had to sing. The people had not been trained to sing. The Catholic Church lacked that tradition of disciplined congregational singing characteristic of the Anglican and Lutheran Churches. How to change the portamenti and glissandi of the benediction Tantum Ergo into a crisp, convincing Now Thank We All Our God-that was the task.

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