The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will vote at their annual Fall General Assembly on the approval of the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, a revision of the guidelines for music at Mass.
The document “represents a significant rethinking of the structure and substance of what needs to be said about this important aspect of the liturgical renewal,” said Bishop Donald Trautman, outgoing chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, in the documentation sent to the Bishops for their review.
The document retains and refines some of the more important elements of the original document, including the “three judgments” (liturgical, pastoral and musical appropriateness) applied in consideration of the use of music in the Liturgy. “The revised text is of significantly greater length than the original and benefits from the various new Church documents, as well as from the experience of thirty-five years since its original publication,” said Bishop Trautman.
The draft articulates more clearly a theology of the liturgical celebration and includes a reflection on Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 116, the latest Vatican document related to the issue. It incorporates the concept of “progressive solemnity” to outline the process of choosing what to sing from among the various parts of the Mass. The text also explores the role of the composer, music in the celebration of sacraments, instrumentation, language and cultural issues, technology, copyrights and participation aids.
The original document was published in 1967, and then revised and reissued in 1972. In line with the liturgical reforms called forth by the Second Vatican Council, it sought to provide basic principles for understanding the role of music in the Liturgy while highlighting its ministerial function. The new text is twice the length of the original and came about after extensive consultation with musicians, composers and others involved in liturgy and music from throughout the United States.
Other worship-related items on the Bishops’ agenda for November include the approval of the new liturgical book, Weekday Celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word, which provides guidelines for proper use and a simpler form of the rite than the one contained in the Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, and a revision of the present translation of the Sunday and weekday Mass readings for Lent. The revision does not change the choice of texts but rather addresses the suitability of texts for liturgical proclamation.