What is Liturgy? universal, transcending time and space

In the Catholic Church we often talk about something we call “liturgy.” The question is: what is “liturgy?” Our new Director of Liturgical Music has extensively studied the liturgy and music and so will be sharing bits of her learning with the parish in several bulletin articles. I hope this can help us all to deepen our participation in the Holy Mass.-Fr. Patrick

We have mentioned that the three criteria given by the Catholic Church for liturgical music are that it be (1) holy, (2) possess a beauty that reveals God, and (3) universal, transcending time and space. This article will delve a little deeper into what it means for music to be universal and transcending time and space.

The Second Vatican Council tells us that sacred music should foster “oneness of spirit” amongst the faithful (Sacrosanctum Concilium #112). There is a certain level of unity achieved through the faithful collectively participating in the dialogues of the Mass through spoken responses.

However, by adding music to the text, there comes a unification of breathing and singing that exceeds the unification of speech. Breathing and textual rhythms become unified in a way that surpasses spoken dialogue. Further, the singing of the Ordinaries of the Mass in Latin, as called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, can foster oneness of spirit not only within an individual congregation, but with the universal church around the world.

One of the reasons that the various antiphons (Introit, Offertory Antiphon, and Communion Antiphon) are so important is that they use texts, given to us by the Church herself, which have been chanted or sung over the course of hundreds of years. In this way, when we chant the antiphons, we not only unite ourselves with churches around the world in our own time, but we also are uniting ourselves with Catholics throughout all of history. Thus, our Mass is joined more closely to the other Masses being celebrated throughout all of history – past, present, and future – in the Catholic Church.

Until next time, keep on singing!

~ Susan DeMarco, Director of Liturgical Music