VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2003 ( John Paul II called for an examination of conscience on the beauty and dignity with which Catholic communities should celebrate the liturgy, particularly in regard to music.

"It is necessary to constantly discover and live the beauty of prayer and of the liturgy. One must pray to God not only with theologically precise formulas, but also in a beautiful and dignified way," the Pope said during today's general audience.

"In this connection, the Christian community must make an examination of conscience so that the beauty of music and song will return increasingly to the liturgy," he added.

The Pope made his request when commenting before 10,000 pilgrims on Psalm 150, a poetic invitation to praise God as the People of Israel did, with musical instruments and dance.

The papal meditation began with a reference to God "transcendent" and "mysterious" yet at the same time "near to us."

"The liturgy unites the two sanctuaries, the earthly temple and the infinite heavens, God and man, time and eternity," he explained.

"During prayer, we begin a kind of ascent toward the divine light and at the same time we experience a descent of God who adapts himself to our limitation to hear us and to speak to us, to meet us and save us," the Pope continued.

To make this encounter more profound, Psalm 150 suggests recourse to music. It was at this point that the Pope emphasized the need for an examination of conscience on the way music is used today.

"It is necessary to purify worship of deformations, of careless forms of expression, of ill-prepared music and texts, which are not very suited to the grandeur of the act being celebrated," the Holy Father stressed.

John Paul II concluded quoting St. Augustine of Hippo: "The highest music is the one that arises from our hearts. It is precisely this harmony that God wants to hear in our liturgies."

The Pope's commentary was a continuation of the meditations he has been offering on the Psalms and canticles of the Old Testament. The commentaries may be consulted in the "Wednesday's Audience" section of ZENIT's Web page.