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Guidelines:

The U.S. bishops will vote to establish norms for hymns at Mass during their annual November meeting in Baltimore, November 13-16.

The new norms, which will require a two-thirds vote by the bishops and subsequent recognitio by the Holy See, are to ensure that liturgical songs will be doctrinally correct, based in the scriptural and liturgical texts and relatively fixed.

The norms are part of a new “Directory for Music and the Liturgy for Use in the Dioceses in the United States of America.” The directory responds to a recommendation of Liturgiam authenticam, the fifth Vatican instruction on correct implementation of liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council.

Specific norms state that :

I’ve moved the rest of this post to after the jump, just so I can make one small point.

Hymns are here to stay, as we discussed at length a couple of weeks ago, but it would be nice, even if it not the direct focus of these norms, if a mention could be made – at it could be done in a couple or three paragraphs – of the fact that what has come to be called the 4-hymn sandwich is an  option that falls last in the Church’s directives. Even a few words of encouragement for parishes to explore the possibilities of the Church’s central documents on Church music. As it says in Sacrosanctum Concilium:

"116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30."

Not to speak of other recent Church documents on music – like Paul VI’s letter that accompanied the chant collection Jubilate Deo in 1974:

At the same time, the liturgical reform does not and indeed cannot deny the past. Rather does it "preserve and foster it with the greatest care."[7] It cultivates and transmits all that is in it of high religious, cultural and artistic worth and especially those elements which can express even externally the unity of believers.
This minimum repertoire of Gregorian chant has been prepared with that purpose in mind: to make it easier for Christians to achieve unity and spiritual harmony with their brothers and with the living traditions of the past. Hence it is that those who are trying to improve the quality of congregational singing cannot refuse to Gregorian chant the place which is due to it. And this becomes all the more imperative as we approach the Holy Year of 1975, during which the faithful of different languages, nations and origins, will find themselves side by side for the common celebration of the Lord.

Our previous discussions here and here.

And do check out (this is a new link) this article from the Adoremus Bulletin on "A Liturgy Without Hymns:"

Once again I was blessed with the opportunity to live in the city of Venice for five months from July through December 2005 as director of an off-campus study group sponsored by Colgate University, where I normally teach. Since my last tour in 1994, a new director of music had arrived at the city’s most famous church, the basilica of St. Mark’s, burial place of the Evangelist and home to the Patriarch of Venice. Wondrous improvements had occurred in the liturgical music there. The new way of conceiving the musical programs challenges the American way of thinking about liturgical music in particular, because, you see, there are no hymns at all.

Look at the suggested programming and advice given in our liturgical “trade” magazines. Listen to people when they express their opinions and preferences, or to pastors or liturgy committees when they plan the music for their liturgies. In America, certainly, and likely elsewhere too, we fixate on “the four”: the songs sung at the beginning of Mass, at the offertory procession, after the reception of Communion, and at the very end.

This peculiarity derives from a mostly German pre-conciliar tradition of singing congregational songs and hymns at a “low Mass”, that is, a Mass entirely spoken with no music, at those points where Mass Propers would ordinarily be chanted by the choir at a more solemn liturgy. The celebrant would say the prescribed texts while the congregation sang a versified paraphrase in the best conditions, or just a familiar devotional song otherwise. The tradition, dating from the 18th century at least, was an outlet for the natural desire of congregants to sing in praise of the Most High at Mass. The Second Vatican Council, in the interests of such “active participation”, charged the congregation with singing the actual liturgical texts, but Proper chants are not easy, and so bishops seized upon the more elastic clauses in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and its subsequent instructions and allowed easier and by now much more familiar hymns to substitute.

As I said, these norms are related to hymns. But an introductory recognition that "singing the Mass" not "singing at Mass" is the ideal would be…helpful.

Guidelines:

The U.S. bishops will vote to establish norms for hymns at Mass during their annual November meeting in Baltimore, November 13-16.

The new norms, which will require a two-thirds vote by the bishops and subsequent recognitio by the Holy See, are to ensure that liturgical songs will be doctrinally correct, based in the scriptural and liturgical texts and relatively fixed.

The norms are part of a new “Directory for Music and the Liturgy for Use in the Dioceses in the United States of America.” The directory responds to a recommendation of Liturgiam authenticam, the fifth Vatican instruction on correct implementation of liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council.

Specific norms state that

  1. The approval of liturgical songs is reserved to the Diocesan Bishop in whose diocese an individual song is published. He is supported in his work by this directory and by the USCCB Secretariat on the Liturgy.
  2. The Diocesan Bishop is assisted in his review of individual texts through the formation of a committee for the review of liturgical songs consisting of theologians, liturgists, and musicians. The committee shall assure that each text is suitable for liturgical use based on the principles articulated in this directory.
  3. Within three years, the Committee on the Liturgy will formulate a Common Repertoire of Liturgical Songs for use in all places where the Roman liturgy is celebrated in the United States of America. While songs outside the core repertoire may also be used in the Liturgy, this core repertoire will be included in all worship aids used in the dioceses of the United States of America.

The directory is to serve not so much as a list of approved and unapproved songs as a process by which bishops might regulate the quality of the text of songs composed for use in the liturgy.

According to the proposed directory, theological adequacy may be judged in two ways:

  • Individual songs should be consonant with Catholic teaching and free from doctrinal error
  • The repertoire of liturgical songs in any given place should reflect a balanced approach to Catholic theological elements.

The directory warns of doctrinal compromise. For example, it notes:

  • Liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about the faith which are untrue
  • The doctrine of the Trinity should never be compromised through the consistent replacement of masculine pronominal references to the three Divine persons
  • Any emphasis on the work of the members of the Church should always be balanced by an appreciation of the doctrine of grace and our complete dependence of the grace of God to accomplish anything
  • The elimination of archaic language should never alter the meaning and essential theological structure of a venerable liturgical song.

The document also emphasizes that care should be taken that hymns and songs should take their inspiration and vocabulary chiefly from the Scripture and Liturgy.

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