Music in Liturgy: Harmony of God and Church
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” - Alduous Huxley
Music’s expressive nature, as both art form and communication mode, is unparalleled. It possesses the ability to move us both physically and emotionally. Though intangible and invisible, music evokes feeling and paints imagery. This notion of expressing the inexpressible is at the core of Christian worship. For instance, the liturgy is charged with communicating the concept of anamnesis, or “making known God’s salvific event in the present”. Anamnesis entails not only remembering God’s saving actions throughout history, but also considering the ways in which God is saving us here and now. Such a weighty truth is not easily brought to light; however such revelation is made possible via music’s liturgical functioning. This paper will serve to examine music’s irreplaceable role in worship, which I argue is primarily three-fold as: (1) a symbolic catalyst, (2) a participatory agent, and (3) a communal adhesive. My study will employ perspectives from liturgical authorities, the Bible, and Church doctrine. Lifting Mind and Text: A Transcendent Catalyst
The Church has long-recognized music’s unique, innate ability to function as a catalyst capable of altering one’s mindset. The 1975 Congregation of Rites, General Instruction of the Roman Missal promotes liturgical music that places “the assembly in the proper frame of mind for listening to the word of God”. In a liturgy so heavily embedded with meaning, achieving this focus and concentration is crucial. Music has the ability to grab the attention of the gathered faithful, “Yet the function of music is ministerial; it must serve and never dominate…” There is a fine line between a performance and what is expected of liturgical music. The music should never distract from the liturgical message.
Achieving proper emotional tone is also crucial to effective...
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