Annus, qui hunc: On the organ (2)

There was a time when the virtues of the Roman Church inspired her daughter churches to follow her example. Though many chapels and cathedrals had already opened the gates of their chantries and quires to the music of the organ, many prominent sees in France, the so-called Ecclesiæ Primogenita Filia, still adhered to the age-old tradition of the choral office pristinely, exclusively, and purely vocal, a tradition that was confident of its repudiation of the organ, and all musical instruments, for that matter. One such see is the see of Lyon, which, despite its many peculiar customs that were not always honoured even by Rome herself, followed the example of the papal chapel in its non-admission of the organ.

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[Jean] Grancolas reports in the Commentarius historicus in Breviarium Romanum, ch. 17, that, even until now, in French territories, prominent churches, which do not employ the organ and polyphonic or harmonised music in the Sacred Mysteries, are found: Nevertheless, up to this day, there are great churches in France that disregard the use of the organ and of polyphonic music. The distinguished Church of Lyon, which indeed has always been opposed to novelties, having followed until this day the example of the Pontifical Choir, is resolved never to employ the organ: It is certain, therefore, from these that have been said that musical instruments were accepted neither immediately from the outset nor in all places: For even now in Rome, in the Chapel of the Supreme Pontiff, the celebration of the Office is always done without instruments; and the Church of Lyon, which has no knowledge of novelties, has always repudiated the organ and has not accepted it even to this day. These are the words of Cardinal [Giovanni] Bona in his treatise On divine psalmody, ch. 17, § 2, no. 5.

Refert Grancolas in Commentario historico de Breviario Romano, cap. 17, etiamnum in Galliis aliquas insignes Ecclesias reperiri, quae organum cantumque musicum seu harmonicum in sacris functionibus non adhibent : Sunt tamen ad hanc diem insignes in Gallia Ecclesiae, quae organorum et musices usum ignorant. Illustris Ecclesia Lugdunensis, quae quidem novitatibus semper adversata est, usque ad hunc diem exemplum Pontificiae Cappellae secuta, nunquam organo uti voluit : Constat igitur ex dictis, nec statim ab initio, nec ubique recepta fuisse musicalia Instrumenta : Nam etiam nunc Romae in Sacello Summi Pontificis semper sine instrumentis Officiorum sollemnia celebrantur ; et Ecclesia Lugdunensis, quae novitates nescit, semper organa repudiavit, neque in hunc diem ascivit. Sunt verba Cardinalis Bona in Tract. de Divin. Psalm., cap. 17, § 2, num. 5.

We are witnessing the passing of an age when trust in the pursuits of Rome, or in the people that wield power thither, is nearing its death. We are living the aftereffects of a Liturgy entrusted to curial personalities vested with an almost plenipotent authority to reform it. For a clew of yarn in the paws of a kitten does not stay intact for a long time. The efforts to distill clarity into the ambiguities of the Liturgy’s motley translations immediately entered liberalism’s lengthening list of anathemas. The painful dismantlement of the Liturgy gathers momentum in the gradual erosion of its sacrality, which means abandonment of hieratic language and banishment of sacred music, raising in their places inferior praxes that please or soothe performer and spectator, rather than instruct them on the true worship of Divine Majesty. Churches, incidentally, have discovered a new museifying zeal in the past decade to cope with the sudden surplus of useless trinkets, tossing everything that survived the great sacristy purges after the Council into a chamber of glamourised art, corralling true sacred music inside tantalising enclosures, converting sacred space into an aesthete’s salon. When the Liturgy will have been completely mired in this inherited mess, God forfend, as current events point to, hoping meanwhile that we are wrong, there would be no recourse for us but to uphold and defend Tradition.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Reference: Benedict Pp. XIV, Encyclical Letter Annus qui hunc, 3, near the middle.

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One thought on “Annus, qui hunc: On the organ (2)

  1. Pingback: Lent, Benedict XIV, and sacred music – Cappella Gregoriana Sanctæ Cæciliæ olim Xicatunensis

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