ROME, OCT. 7, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Sacred music cannot be limited to Gregorian chant, but it is chant that contains the key to renew liturgical song, according to a consultor for the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.
Father Uwe Michael Lang, also an official of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, made this observation Wednesday at a lecture at l’Accademia Urbana delle Arti in Rome.
Father Lang pointed to the 1749 encyclical “Annus Qui” by Pope Benedict XIV as the “most important papal pronouncement on sacred music” prior to Pope St. Pius X’s “Tra Le Sollecitudini.”
The 18th century encyclical “proposes the important criteria of sacred music that are valid beyond the limits of their historical context and resound also in our time,” the priest said.
Father Lang explained that the encyclical presents plainsong as normative for the Roman liturgy “while it approves unaccompanied polyphony and also permits orchestral music, though with certain conditions, in divine worship.”
He said this position of the Church is reflected in the constitution of sacred liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, which “exalts Gregorian chant as the ‘proper’ music of the Roman liturgy.”
“The pre-eminence of chant,” Father Lang further recalled, “was confirmed by Benedict XVI in his 2007 post-synodal apostolic exhortation ‘Sacramentum Caritatis.'”
Father Lang proposed that the value of Gregorian chant is “its profound relationship with the liturgical text, to which it gives musical form.”
“‘Annus Qui’ requests explicitly the integrity and intelligibility of the texts that are sung in the Mass and in the Divine Office,” the priest affirmed. “This concern was already debated in Trent, but not included in the council’s official documents.”
He added that though “sacred music cannot be limited exclusively to Gregorian chant, it has in itself, however, the keys for a true renewal of sacred music.”