Propers of Saint Tharsicius

Saint Tharsicius, or, more commonly, Saint Tarcisius, is the patron saint of altar servers. His lipsanotheca prominently features in the page the Cœtus Internationalis Ministrantium dedicates to its patron saint here. (As an aside, we register that the correct Latin term for altar server is ministrans, as opposed to the affected calque others are wont to employ, servus altaris.) While the difference in onomastic spelling may seem negligible, it can divide etymologists. Some trace his name from the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia, rendering it in Greek as Ταρσίκιος. Others trace it from the place called Tharsis in Holy Writ, rendering it in Greek as Θαρσίκιος. In terms of pronunciation, the difference is practically imperceptible in the West, for while τ and θ are pronounced differently in Koine Greek, t and th are pronounced the same in Ecclesiastical Latin.

Tarcisius, martyr chrétien | Alexandre Falguière | 1868

That said, both East and West venerate Saint Tharsicius as a martyr. Western hagiography designates him an acolyte, one of the minor orders, based on a sixth-century legend about the martyrdom of Pope Saint Stephen I. Eastern hagiography, meanwhile, sometimes registers him a deacon, one of the major orders, which somehow agrees with the epigraph Pope Saint Damasus I wrote. The Roman Martyrology lists Saint Tharsicius under 15 August, which is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, having suffered martyrdom on this day in 257 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Valerian. As such, his feast is perpetually impeded.

In the Vetus Ordo, therefore, (click on the thumbnails below to open the files for his proper Mass and Office, as well as the chant our Choir set for the Mass propers), his feast is properly kept on 25 November, which is probably the date: either when his relics were transferred from the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus to the Basilica of San Sisto e Santa Cecilia, and thither reposed in the tomb of Pope Saint Zephyrinus; or when Pope Saint Paul I transferred his relics, together with the relics of other martyrs, from the Basilica of San Sisto e Santa Cecilia to the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite, where they remain today. However, celebrating his feast closer to 15 August is permitted, provided that it is assigned on an unimpeded day.

Pope Saint Damasus I, who laboured to promote devotion to the martyrs, often writing epigraphs in their honour, dedicated one such poem to the child martyr, equating his resistance to deliver the Eucharist to pagans with the abnegation that Saint Stephen the Protomartyr displayed when the Jews brought him out to be stoned. He caused this inscription to be placed on the tomb of the martyr.

Par meritum, quicumque legis, cognosce duorum,
quis Damasus rector titulos post præmia reddit.
Iudaicus populus Stephanum meliora monentem
perculerat saxis, tulerat qui ex hoste trophæum,
martyrium primus rapuit levita fidelis.
Tharsicium sanctum Christi sacramenta gerentem,
cum malesana manus premeret vulgare profanis,
ipse animam potius voluit dimittere cæsus,
prodere quam canibus rabidis cœlestia membra.

Whosoever readest, know ye the equal merit of the two
to whom Pope Damasus dedicated epitaphs for their deeds.
The Jewish people had taken away and smitten with stones
Stephen foretelling better things, the faithful deacon
who first obtained martyrdom and memorial from the foe.
When an unsound rabble pressed Saint Tharsicius
to display the sacraments of Christ he was carrying,
he, being slain, instead willed to give up his soul,
than to show the heavenly particles to the raging dogs.

Saint Tharsicius is the altar server par excellence. His example stands in stark contrast to the indiscretions of today’s altar servers, who participate in acts of wanton abandon, running the gamut from prancing like perfumed ponces in video-sharing social networking platforms, to signalling forbearance of other people’s defects with an almost constipated constitution, from pining for the validation of their peers and the attention of prospective opportunistic sponsors in local iconocamerariat circles, to retelling their sacristy-profaning unchaste encounters (aberrant or not) in online freedom walls. Let us, therefore, pray that Saint Tharsicius’ great suffering, for which he received the glory of heaven, may obtain from God forgiveness for our sins, and our Lord’s sacred Body and saving Blood, which he defended until death, may fortify our life on earth and profit us unto life everlasting.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Happy 1988th anniversary!

A blessed Pentecost to everyone! Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the 1988th anniversary of Her beginning, having been founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who ordained thus that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.

Pentecôte | Jean II Restout | 1732


Vivat Sancta Mater Ecclesia !

Epiphany announcement 2021

Today, the twenty-fifth of December, the eighth calends of January, the tenth moon of the month, we celebrate the solemn feast of the Nativity of the Lord. In short, we are twelve days away from the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord next year. For that, a Merry Christmas to everyone! This year, Epiphany fell on the first Monday of January. Next year, Epiphany will be on the first Wednesday! Traditionally, the dates of the movable feasts are announced at Mass on the Epiphany. This seems pointless now with the plethora of liturgical calendars, but there is something ecclesiological we can appreciate from the practice, as we have explained here.

Burne-Jones - The Star of Bethlehem
The star of Bethlehem | Edward Burne-Jones | 1887–1891

This means that it is time for our priests and deacons to brush up on the Epiphany announcement, a parallelising misnomer (we will be having the Christmas proclamation this Christmas) for the rather cumbersome announcement of movable feasts. Unlike the Christmas proclamation, this one does not have any stymieing elogium (say, for the phase of the moon), apart from the synodal elogium, which we have omitted, since our local ordinary has not issued an indiction for a diocesan synod anytime this coming 2021. And, unlike the Christmas proclamation, the tone for this announcement (click on the thumbnail to open the file) is familiar, being the same tone used for the Easter proclamation (yes, the Exsultet). Here is the 2020 announcement.

Oh, and a final note, 17 February will be Ash Wednesday. It is one of the two days when Filipinos cannot substitute anything for the obligatory fast and abstinence.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Christmas proclamation 2020

Gallegos - Niños del coro
Niños del coro | José Gallegos y Arnosa | c. 1885–1890

We are eleven days away from Christmas Eve. Today is Gaudete Sunday, and the feast of Saint Lucy. And yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines before God, whose depiction is that of a mulier incincta in Latin, a mujer encinta in Spanish, a lady with child. The sanctoral cycle is clearly preparing us for Christmas! Traditionally, before the misa de gallo, the Mass sung at midnight, the first Mass of Christmas, a cantor sings the proclamation of the birth of Christ, what many of us call kalendas, which was sang as prologue to the martyrology the previous day. Amongst us Filipinos, members of some choirs that sang in the Mass before the liturgical changes of the 1960s would probably still remember singing or hearing the kalendas, which used to be sung as a choral rite of passage from tiple to cantor.

We know, of course, that, in a deplorable, but not unexpected, happenstance, the chronological exactitude of the old text of the prologue of the Christmas martyrology was thrown off the cliff and replaced with a generic formula that situates the birth of our Redeemer at a time, rather off-puttingly, “when ages beyond number had run their course”. It is no longer a mystery to us, but we still wonder why the usus recentior strives to countenance this inelegance and ambiguity.

Gérôme - Le Siècle d'Auguste et la naissance de Jésus-Christ
Le siècle d’Auguste et la naissance de Jésus-Christ | Jean-Léon Gérôme | 1855

For the usus antiquior, it is more common to use the older text. The elogium of the date is the same: the eighth calends of January. This means that 25 December is eight days away from 1 January, which is the calends of the month. The elogium of the moon changes per year, according to the epact of the year and its corresponding martyrology letter. This year, it is the tenth moon. Practically, especially if referencing the dates against the martyrology tables becomes too daunting a task to accomplish, we can simplify the reckoning by counting the number of days from the preceding new moon, which will occur on Tuesday, 15 December this year, until 25 December.

There is a modus ordinarius found in the Martyrologium Romanum, but here we have the modus sollemnior (click on the thumbnail to open the file), which is probably monastic in provenance. If it has fallen upon our happy lot to chant the kalendas this year, then we can exercise the option to sing it in the more solemn tone in honour of the holy birth of our Redeemer.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Happy 1987th anniversary!

A blessed Pentecost to everyone! Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the 1987th anniversary of Her beginning, having been founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who ordained thus that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.

Pentecôte | Jean II Restout | 1732


Vivat Sancta Mater Ecclesia !

In defence of the pipe organ

A few days ago, a post appeared on Facebook, correcting people who promote and subscribe to one page’s post claiming that the piano is not allowed to be used in the Holy Eucharist even in livestreamed Masses. This correction quickly turned into an apologia against the organ.

The anti-piano post founded its claim on Musicam sacram 60. The anti-organ post, on the hand, founded its correction on the same norm, just the second paragraph. In reality, Musicam sacram 60 is just a rehash of Sacrosanctum Concilium 120. Both single out the pipe organ because it is the king of all instruments, allowing others to be admitted on the condition that they are “suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.” Half a century after this clause saw the light of day, people still consider it the magna carta for admitting all other instruments, even those previously forbidden, even those patently unsuited, into the sacred liturgy, to the utter detriment of the organ.

The arguments pushed forward in this apologia are redolent of that unarticulated belief that the Church of today existed only after the aggiornamento. Everything in the past, except Holy Writ and the few papal bulls worthy of mention, deserves no attention. This limited emphasis drives people to search for authorities only in the recent past, not knowing that a treasure trove of scholarship lies beyond the temporal boundary, where reside the pithy and mighty pronouncements of John XXII in Docta sanctorum, Benedict XIV in Annus qui hunc, Pius X in Tra le sollecitudini, and Pius XI in Divini cultus, to name a few popes who wrote about sacred music.

Holy Mother Church already outlined the instruments that fall within the context of the aforesaid clause. On 14 February 1749, Pope Benedict XIV issued the encyclical Annus qui hunc, providing guidance on how to ensure the fruitful celebration of the Holy Year of 1750. In it, he instructs bishops to forbid the timpani, the natural horns, the trumpets, the oboes, the flutes, the piccolos, the orchestral harps, the mandolins, other instruments more indissolubly associated with the theatre. He instructs them likewise to only allow the violone, the violoncello, the bassoon, the violas, and the violins, as these instruments strengthen and sustain the voice of the singers.

Sacredness of sacred music

Calling sacred music “sacred” merely by the words sung is reductive, myopic, and ignorant. The sacred texts are sacred in and of themselves. Sacred music, on the other hand, is sacred because of three qualities: holiness, which means the total exclusion of profanity in itself and in its manner of execution; excellence of form, which means the fulfilment of the purpose of the Church’s admission of music into the liturgy, that is, to lift the minds of the faithful to the heavens; and universality, which means the general characteristics to which sacred music tend, that every nation, regardless of language, derives only goodness from hearing it. That Saint Pius X outlined these qualities in his landmark bull Tra le sollecitudini of 22 November 1903 doesn’t diminish their importance, or render them outdated. After all, norm 4a of Musicam sacram, which we still quote, summarises the three under one quality it calls “holy sincerity of form” (in the English translation; the original Latin uses still uses the Pian terms holiness and excellence of form).

So, yes, the qualities stand. And if holiness is the first criterion, the guitar and the piano almost immediately get disqualified in the eliminations round. (No wonder they don’t even appear in Benedict XIV’s encyclical!) They and their varied forms figure in almost every profane activity modern man participates in, from the theatre to the bar, from parties to concerts, from variety shows to drinking sessions. This is the downside of the easy and the familiar, profanity pedestrianises them. Setting aside for the supreme act of worship that we offer to God a musical instrument that is reserved to the most solemn and most momentous occasions of our life makes sense. Dissociation from anything profane ensures that no mundanity tarnishes an instrument’s dignity in so sacred an action as the public prayer of the Church. This makes the organ a suitable instrument to unimpeachably communicate the sacredness of the liturgy.

Sacred music and the pipe organ

Stating, however, that the organ is a sacred instrument builds a strawman. The Church’s sacromusical scholarship never establishes the organ as a sacred instrument. Rather, Holy Mother Church favours the pipe organ, above all other musical instruments, as the instrument most suited to the liturgy. Supreme Pontiffs of the past never canonised the organ. (How can they? Up until the eighteenth century, the papal chapel did not admit any musical instrument, not even the organ.) Calling it sacred leads us only to note in it an attempt to cast the organ as a holy oppressor, cancelling other instruments on account of their failure to attain sanctity. And this obsession with elevating an object of opposition to a make-believe status virtue-signals humility, and deftly masks an appeal to mercy. Public outcry and compassion almost always favour the underdog.

Now that we’ve smashed the strawman, we can tackle the outlandish claims.

First, that the organ is an instrument most suited to the liturgy is neither perception nor subjective conjecture. The first axiom of sacred music is that the music proper to the Church is purely vocal. It follows that any music not produced in the human larynx is merely ancillary, that is, they exist to support the voice, not replace it. The music of any instrument, fashioned by human hands, falls under this category. And yet, of all these instruments, one rises above the rest. That is the pipe organ. Why so? Simply because it is the analogue of the human vocal apparatus. Air passes through the windpipe, and the vocal cords vibrate, producing sound. Similarly, in the organ, pressurised air flows through the pipe, and vibrates within the column, producing pitch. And we say analogue because the human larynx is infinitely superior to the pipe organ. How so? Man needs only one set of vocal cords to sound various notes; a pipe organ needs hundreds of tubes to produce different pitches. Above all, the human voice can articulate words, that is, the sacred texts themselves.

Objectively speaking, the human voice, on which the music purely proper to the Church is founded, depends on air and wind to produce sound. It is, therefore, no wonder that the first dissertations and legislations on the use of musical instruments in the liturgy were confined to wind instruments. By this alone we can exclude strings, under which guitars fall, and percussions, under which pianos fall. There is nothing perceptive or subjective in ensuring the place of the organ in the liturgy. No other musical instrument replicates the architecture and operation of the human larynx. Beyond the organ, subsequent discussions on what instruments to allow in the liturgy focused on suitability. Pope Benedict XIV expresses the golden rule for this: Musical instruments “should only be used to strengthen in a certain manner some force of the words of the chant, that their sense be more and more instilled in the minds of the listeners, and the minds of the faithful be moved unto the contemplation of spiritual things, and be stirred towards God and the love of divine things.”

Pipe organ and human experience

Next, we get to the economic dimension of this opposition to the pipe organ. As expected, it juxtaposes pet adjectives, such as expensive and immobile, against antonymous pet adjectives, such as practical. These are magic words that favour transience and the cult of fads, a subconscious rejection of permanence and the eternal. When we buy a digital keyboard, we go to a music store, try what’s available, select one that, more often than not, came out of a mass production factory, pay, and leave. That’s it. No strings attached. But putting up an organ generates jobs and builds lasting relationships, from the builders who install the organ, to the tuners who tune each pipe, to the organists who man the console and pulsate the organ, down to the technicians who repair and maintain the organ. The notion of a practicality that escapes the symbiosis engendered by a pipe organ can only nucleate in a mindset that sees a parish not outlasting the lifespan of the faux keys of a piano or the tautened strings of a guitar.

Then it segues into the anthropological dimension by referring to the clash between antiquarians and the common churchgoer. Putting antiquarians in the plural and the common churchgoer in the singular might suggest that antiquarians outnumber common churchgoers, but, quite interestingly, that achieves the opposite effect. The confidence to raise this argument is rooted on the presumption that partisans of the pipe organ are no longer the majority in the churchgoing public. This is where we say, anyone who makes bold claims, shaded with appeal to an unquantified majority, but presenting no real statistics, is just making an opinion. Placing Catholic interest in the pipe organ, masterfully likened to the typewriter, within the realm of antiquarianism, implies that the pipe organ was once prevalent, but now has departed the currency of time as to alienate itself from the common churchgoer. But then, we just don’t accept this observation. We ask the question: Whose fault is it that that happened? Do we blame the pipe organ for not going out of its way to meet and encounter the common churchgoer? Or do we blame the people in charge of liturgical music for not ensuring that the pipe organ continues its acquaintance with the common churchgoer? Choose your answer wisely. Only one of the two options has free will.

Suppose actual statistics support the thesis that the pipe organ has indeed become irrelevant, unfamiliar, and out of touch with human experience. What of it then? What should be the Catholic reaction to this situation? The answer is clear. Restore the pipe organ. There must be a reason why the pipe organ is the only instrument mentioned in Musicam sacram and Sacrosanctum Concilium. These documents are not concerned with trivial things. Hence, the organ is of paramount concern. All other instruments are, well, secondary and trivial (that’s why they are not even enumerated!), obtaining an importance proportionately inferior to that of the pipe organ. Long have we trifled with the trivial! It’s time we seize the opportunity to hoist what’s important. We can, of course, invoke free will, and discard the organ on the basis of its perceived irrelevance, and it may not weigh on our consciences for now, but this blatant invitation to disobedience will surely figure in our particular judgment. Human experience does lead us to many places.

Then again, how come human experience ought to be the barometer for deciding what is best to use in the liturgy? If human experience were solely to determine the Church’s teachings then we’re bound to accept contraception and abortion as morally acceptable. What a relief it is indeed that the Church’s authentic musical choices have never been governed by human experience alone. Their basis, first and foremost, is the anatomy of man, the only creature fashioned in the image and likeness of God. As singing requires reasonable ability to phonate properly and produce pitches pleasing to the ear and appropriate to the text, so pulsating an organ demands tantamount ability in order to produce harmony that supports the singing, excite grave veneration towards the Sacred Mysteries and assist the interior articulation of the intention of souls. And that is our benchmark. We set aside the best and the highest for the liturgy. We never go down the easy road, when the difficult is not beyond human artifice and ingenuity.

Pipe organ and reality

So far, we’ve tackled the scholarship upholding the primacy of the pipe organ. But what is the situation on the ground? The apologia does not disappoint in this province. Athwart it casts the relevant questions. And so, we offer our answers.

Yes, not all churches have pipe organs. Yes, playing it demands a skill quite different from what we learned from our piano teachers. Yes, not all digital keyboards have organ settings. But these are remediable situations, not insurmountable impediments. The solution to these should obviously not be agnostic to particular circumstances. Parishes of generous means can always allocate funds to install an organ and train an organist. These two must go hand in hand. It is simply preposterous to put up an organ with no plans of hiring an organist. Parishes of moderate means can get a digital keyboard. Make sure its settings include church organ and pipe organ. If the current keyboard has none, well, chuck it out, put it inside the rehearsal room or the multipurpose hall, and get a new one. Parishes of lesser means can always go back to the basics: vocal music. We will not go as far as to advise them to use the guitar. If theologians and liturgists of old rejected the flute and the harp on the basis of their association with the theatre, a respectable art form, then we have to subject the guitar, which graces roadside conventicles conducted over booze, to the same standard.

Yes, yes, it’s easy for us to vomit all these things, because we’re not running the parishes. But there’s a simple lesson for this situation. If it’s outside our means, then we mustn’t insist. This is a simple reality we want to shove back to the faces of the naysayers after they’ve shoved in ours the acutely real anti-organ scenarios they are fond of enumerating. At the end of their jeremiad, the only human sensation left in us forces us to complain: “Katapusan na ba ng mundo? Hindi na talaga kayang gawan ng paraan?” People retreat to the defeatist corner, surrendering to incapability, when action is undesirable, when it endangers their most cherished principles and advocacies, which are not necessarily principles and advocacies honoured by the Church.

Now, what if there are no instruments at all (because Father has to travel for hours by foot just to say Mass)? No problem! Remember what Saint Pius X taught, and what the Fathers of the First Plenary Council of the Philippines taught? The music proper of the Church is purely vocal! Sing the proper and ordinary texts of the Mass! The Church has done that for hundreds of years. The Italian historian, Father Ludovico Muratori, describes how the Jesuit missionaries of Latin America trained the natives to sing for the Sacred Mysteries. The absence and scarcity of musical instruments was never a hindrance. It was instead an incentive for the indigenous communities to build their own versions of these instruments. Says the cliché: When there’s a will, there’s a way. Have the years we spent in pastoral music, which we never forget to mention in passing, rendered us incapable of singing without accompaniment? Forgetting the basics of the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the centre of the communities of the faithful, defeats the purpose of focusing on basic ecclesial communities.

Sacred music and spirituality

After this outline of an interior unwillingness to render to the organ its proper place, comes an inane question prefaced by an earth-shaking expedition to tap into the spiritual realm. Does the pipe organ speak and express the faith? Any answer to the question “Does the piano speak and express the faith?” or “Does the guitar speak and express the faith?” is as good as ours. It is again an invitation to relativise the faith, to philander with the notion that its articulation and expression ought to latch on material things. Questions such as these attempt to bite more than what they can chew. The purpose of employing musical instruments in the liturgy of the Church is rather simpler. Cosmic, but still simple. On this, we borrow the words of a Spanish Jesuit theologian, Father Gregorio de Valencia: “To stir the interior affection not only of one’s self but also of others, especially of the multitudes, who sometimes thus far are feeble, that they may be roused unto the perception of spiritual things, not only by the singing of voices, but by organ and musical instruments as well.”

Improvisation, as we know, is a euphemism for liturgical abuse. It positivises evil. Even before the community quarantine, to which we are now consigned, that has been a big problem. In view of this quarantine, our bishops only suspended public Masses and our obligation to assist on Sundays. They never suspended the laws governing sacred liturgy and sacred music, because, frankly speaking, that is beyond their power. In fact, we’ve never heard of any Filipino bishop issuing a formal instruction on sacred music. That is the reason why we are in this quandary in the first place. People assume they have canonical authority to run the establishment in open contradiction to the Magisterium. Very appropriate for this is Saint John Paul II’s warning in Mosso dal vivo, his chirograph on sacred music issued on the centenary of Saint Pius X’s Tra le sollecitudini, 22 November 2003: “The musical aspect of liturgical celebrations cannot, therefore, be left to improvisation or to the arbitration of individuals but must be well conducted and rehearsed in accordance with the norms and competencies resulting from a satisfactory liturgical formation.”

Pinpointing the exact point where the general desire to improvise springs from is not easy. The symptoms suggest that it comes from the fact that we’ve become too familiar with music in the liturgy to the point that losing that music renders the liturgy to our perception less solemn, less edifying, less interesting. In other words, alien. The problem with familiarity is its propensity towards complacency and faulty toleration. The congregation likes this, the congregation likes that. Are these predilections even aligned with the norms of the liturgy? Attempts to justify our answers route us back to the question of human experience, its unwarranted canonisation, and its flawed spirituality.

As a final bonus, we get to read psalm 150, detached from its historical context, and presented as though it singlehandedly ought to guide our decisions on sacred music. Its purpose, we can divine from its strategic position, and that is to provoke us into asking: “Hey the psalm tells us to praise God with harp and trumpet, but why are these instruments forbidden? The psalm mentions many instruments, why doesn’t it speak about the organ, the king of all instruments?” Questions such as these tend to be revolutionary in our age, and program us to challenge authority. This is the problem of woke liturgical intellectualism. It is anchored on present issues, but divorced from the flow of time. It militates on behalf of issues that have already been settled. Saint Thomas Aquinas answered this question long ago in the Summa. Head over to II, II, q. 91, art. 2 for a splash of refreshing context: “In the Old Testament instruments of this description were employed, both because the people were more coarse and carnal—so that they needed to be aroused by such instruments as also by earthly promises—and because these material instruments were figures of something else.”

As a final note, we leave three reflections:

First, the pipe organ started its journey towards perceived irrelevance when the liturgical establishment interpreted Musicam sacram 60 as an amnesty for all forbidden instruments. That misconception altered the ecology of sacred music. The behaviour of biological and ecclesiastical ecosystems is the same. Introduce a new species. Expect the endemic species, usually superior and rarer, to dwindle. What the brown tree snake has done to Guam’s native bird population is the same thing inferior musical instruments are doing to the pipe organ.

Second, upholding the pipe organ does not invalidate the traditions of the Eastern Church. The vocal nature of sacred music comes out more clearly in the East than in the West. Where liturgical chant is alive, there the necessity for musical accompaniment obtains less import. The Church understands this, and She has long ago spoken about this, in the voice of Pope Benedict XIV. Where the use of musical instruments is not the norm, they must not be unadvisedly and forcibly introduced.

Third, behind the firm opposition to employing the organ hides the fear of losing livelihood. Discarding the organ deprives communities the opportunity to execute a vast repertoire of sacred music. That creates a dearth, a demand for new compositions. To this market niche respond groups that churn out pieces that pretend to meet communitarian necessities and liturgical standards at the same time. A few select we can except for their genius, but the norm remains. Emotional and financial investment bends sympathies towards mediocrity. Holiness is not measured by the ability to affect emotion by pathopoeia, the kakayanang umantig ng damdamin.

We end this with a reminder from Pope Benedict XVI’s speech Dieses altehrwürdige Gotteshaus, on the occasion of the blessing of the new organ of Regensburg’s Alte Kapelle on 13 September 2006: “The organ has always been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up all the sounds of creation—as was just said—and gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation. By transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, it evokes the divine.”

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Constitution Musicam sacram.
Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Pope Benedict XIV, Encyclical Letter Annus qui hunc.
Pope Saint Pius X, Apostolic Constitution Tra le sollecitudini.
Father Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Il cristianesimo felice.
Father Gregorio de Valencia, S. J., Commentaria Theologica III, disp. 6, q. 9.
Pope Saint John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Mosso dal vivo.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II, II, q. 91, art. 2, obj. 4.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech Dieses altehrwürdige Gotteshaus.

Blessing of the Agnus Dei

Last Easter Week, NLM published an article on the blessing of the Agnus Dei, which are discs of wax embossed with the image of the Lamb of God, traditionally made by Cistercian monks of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and traditionally blessed by the Pope on Easter Wednesday in the first Easter of his pontificate, and every seven years thereafter. In this article by NLM, we see a footage of the blessing made by Pope John XXIII in 1959, coinciding with the first Easter of his pontificate.

Agnus Dei | Francisco de Zurbarán | 1635–1640

In 1752, Pope Benedict XIV ordered the publication of the text of the Blessing of the Agnus Dei (click the thumbnail to the right to open the file; our translation follows at the end of the ceremony outline). The rite, republished in 1865 by Father Jules Caron, begins with the consecration of the water wherein the waxen discs are to be later submerged. To the blessed water are mixed balsam and chrism. Afterwards, the Pope distributes the consecrated water to other fonts that will be used for the submersion of the discs, to be presided by other cardinals. The Pope himself, assisted by cardinals, presides over the blessing in the main font.

The Pope then approaches the Agnus Dei, which are placed in baskets, or some similar vessels, and pronounces a three-fold blessing over them, first addressed to God the Father, the second to God the Son, and the third to God the Holy Ghost. These collects enumerate the various graces gained by bearers of the sacramental, such as, deliverance from calamities and diseases, protection during childbirth, and consolation in this life and life everlasting. After these powerful prayers, the Pope censes the discs thrice, and then into every font of consecrated water, the discs are submerged, and then later taken out and brought into an adjoining chamber where they are dried.

Cistercians from Santa Croce in Gerusalemme preparing the Agnus Dei to be blessed by Pope John the XXIII in his first Easter week as Pope in 1959 (photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

The Pope afterwards enters this chamber, and then pronounces the final collect, which highlights one of the central mysteries behind the sacramental, and this is the Conception of the Lord, otherwise known as the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. The wax used for the discs traditionally came from the paschal candle of the Sistine Chapel, and of the other churches of Rome, from the previous Easter, and into this wax was usually mixed an amount of pure unused wax, hence the last collect calls it the cera virginea. And just as the conception of the Lord was preserved from human contact, so the last collect expresses its hope that bearers of the Agnus Dei will be protected from mortal troubles, and after death will merit eternal life. In the end, the discs are gathered in the baskets, and are distributed in the following Low Saturday, after the Agnus Dei is chanted at Mass.

Blessing of waxen Agnus Dei

published in 1752 by order of Pope Benedict XIV

The Supreme Pontiff, standing without Mitre, says:

V. Our help is in the Name of the Lord.

R. Who hath made heaven and earth.

V. The Lord be with you.

R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

O Lord God, Father almighty, Creator of all the elements, and Giver of spiritual grace, from Whose Only-begotten Son’s most holy side did flow forth waters together with Blood, and Who didst sanctify the waters of the Jordan through the same Only-begotten Son, and didst vouchsafe all nations to be baptised in these waters, and didst finally institute the greatest sacraments in the substance of the waters: benignantly and mercifully attend, and deign to bless and sancti  fy this element of water, that crimes may be washed off and graces may be granted to Thy servants devoutly venerating the waxen discs plunged in this water, that they may merit to obtain eternal life with Thy elect. R. Amen.

This Collect complete, the Supreme Pontiff receives the Mitre, and, with the most senior Cardinal ministering the ampoule of Balsam, which the Sacrist hands to the Cardinal, the Supreme Pontiff pours the Balsam from the ampoule into the Water, in the form of a cross, saying:

Deign, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these waters through this holy pouring of balsam, and Our blessing. Here, thrice he signs with his hand, saying: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, from another ampoule of Chrism, with the most senior Cardinal ministering, as above, the Supreme Pontiff pours the holy Chrism into the same Water, in the form of a cross, saying:

Deign, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these waters through this holy anointing of Chrism, and Our blessing. Here, thrice he signs with his hand, saying: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Water blest, the Supreme Pontiff, with a ladle or a silver spoon, takes from this Water and pours into other fonts of Water, in the form of a cross, saying nothing: then, he turns to the baskets, in which are place the Agnus Dei, and standing close to them, the Mitre removed, says:

V. The Lord be with you.

R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

O God the Author of all hallowing, Who didst look upon Abel’s lamb of sacrifice, Who didst vouchsafe that a ram stuck in the brambles should be sacrificed in the place of Isaac’s immolation as a foreshadowing of our redemption, and didst command Moyses that a perpetual sacrifice should be offerred in lambs, suppliantly we beseech Thee, that Thou mayest deign to bless and sancti  fy these waxen figures fashioned with the image of the most innocent Lamb, that, in their presence, the crash of hailstorms, the storm of whirlwinds, the force of tempests, the rage of winds, the troublesome thunders may dissipate: and, just as the Angel, at the sight of the blood, which Thy people had sprinkled on the upper door posts and on the side posts, did pass over striking without harm upon the houses thusly sprinkled, so at the sight of these images may malignant spirits flee and tremble, and may unprovided death not meet devout bearers of these images, may the human enemy not prevail against them, may no adversity reign over them, may no shadow incite fear in them, may no pestilential breeze or corruption of the air, nor epilectic or any other violent disease, nor storm or tempest of the sea, nor inundation of rivers or waters, nor conflagration of fires, inflict harm upon them: through the invocation of Thy Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who art the true innocent Lamb, offered upon the altar of the Cross for the salvation of the world, by Whose death mankind was delivered from eternal death and diabolic power, and recalled unto life, deign to bless, sancti  fy, and con  secrate these waxen images of the Lamb, that those devoutly carrying them, out of reverence and honour to Thy Name, may be delivered from sudden death, and from all cunning and wickedness of infernal deceit: and may the pangs of mothers in childbirth be thusly soothed, so a safe delivery with the mother be kept through the power of Thy Passion: Who livest and reignest in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

Let us pray.

O nourishing Ghost, Who with Thy breath makest the waters fruitful and holy, and turnest their bitterness into sweetness, deign to bless, sancti  fy, and con  secrate these waxen lambs about to be poured forth with water and holy Chrism, that all their bearers, strengthened by the fortitude of Thy power, may rejoice in Thy consolation, Who art truly called the Paraclete, and, with the Father and the Son, livest and reignest, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

The Collects complete, the Supreme Pontiff places Incense in the thurible, a Cardinal-Priest ministering the boat, blessing it in the usual way, while saying: Mayest thou be blessed by Him in Whose honour thou art burned.

Afterwards, he censes the Agnus Dei with three swings of the thurible: then he receives the Mitre, is girded with a linen Apron, and receives the upper Apron, known in Italian as bavarola, sitting in the midst of two Cardinals at one of the fonts of blessed Water: the Cardinals, likewise girded with linen Aprons, sit on either side at the farthest side of the same font, facing each other. Servers, on the other hand, and others, bring the Agnus Dei, in clean silver platters, to the fonts of blessed Water, where they are submerged. The Supreme Pontiff, and the Cardinals assisting him, take the Agnus Dei out with silver spoons, and place them back in the same platters, in which they were brought, or in other platters, with the Servers receiving and bringing them to the place prepared for this purpose, whereupon they put them on the Tables, with clean cloths, prepared for this purpose, that moisture having been taken out, they may be dried. The other Cardinals summoned for this purpose, likewise girded with linen Aprons, sit by the other fonts of blessed Water, and submerge the Agnus Dei brought by the Servers, and take them out with silver spoons in the same way as above, and they are brought to the place already mentioned. With the Agnus Dei already baptised by the Supreme Pontiff and the Cardinals, the Supreme Pontiff, entering the Chamber wherein the abovementioned Tables are placed, and standing without Mitre, says:

V. The Lord be with you.

R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

We beseech Thy immense mercy, O God almighty, that the bearers of these Lambs without blemish, which, being formed from virgin wax as a sign of the Conception of Thy Only-begotten Son our Lord, which was obtained by divine power without human contact, We have consecrated with sacred water and sacred Chrism through the merits of the Cross, delivered from all terrors, as well as conflagrations, of malignant spirits, of inundations, of lightning, of tempest, of untoward childbirth, and from all other dangers and diseases, may depart unharmed from this age, and rejoice with Thee in the age to come without end: Who livest and reignest in perfect Trinity, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

These done, the Agnus Dei are placed in the baskets, and are distributed on Low Saturday after the chanting of the Agnus Dei at Mass.

Interestingly, Dom Prosper Guéranger, in volume 7 of his L’Année liturgique, quotes an even older source for the prayers of the blessing of the Agnus Dei, and that is the Cæremoniale Romanum (click the thumbnail to the left to open the file; our translation follows at the end of the ceremony outline), published in 1488 by two-time papal master of ceremonies, Agostino Patrizi Piccolomini, bishop of Pienza and Montalcino, erected from the diocese of Arezzo on 13 August 1462, later split in 1582 into the independent sees of Pienza and Montalcino. Here is an English translation of the prayers based on Dom Guérangers French rendition, and below is our translation based on the original Latin.

A fragment of wax from a blessed Agnus Dei (image taken in 2015 from Orbis catholicus secundus)

The prayers in the older version are much, much longer, and the immediate ancestors of the prayers in the text published in 1752. The older version confirms that the water consecrated at the start of the ceremony is already blessed, carried out beforehand as usual either by the Pope himself or by any of his domestic prelates. Other ceremonials call the consecrated water the water of the New Lamb, by reason of the sole and eminent purpose it is reserved. Because the collects are untrimmed, we can clearly discover the scriptural foundations of this special blessing reserved alone to the Pope. Unlike the 1752 rite, which arranges the constitutive prayers addressed to God from Father to Son to Holy Ghost, the 1488 rite addresses God first the Father, then the Holy Ghost, and finally the Son.

Blessing of waxen Agnus Dei

according to the 1488 Cæremoniale Romanum

On any day after Easter, before Low Saturday, having said or heard Mass in his private Chapel, the Supreme Pontiff, vested in Amice, Alb, Cincture, and simple Mitre, blesses Water with the usual blessing, as is done on Sundays by Priests, in a vessel thither prepared, and, if it is more suitable, said Water may be blessed beforehand by one of the Pope’s domestic Prelates. Then, the Pontiff approaches the aforesaid vessel, and, the Mitre removed, standing, says:

V. Our help is in the Name of the Lord.

R. Who hath made heaven and earth.

V. The Lord be with you.

R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

O Lord God, Father almighty, Founder of all the elements and Keeper of mankind, Giver of spiritual grace and Bestower of eternal salvation, Who didst vouchsafe the waters flowing from the spring of Paradise to irrigate all the earth, upon which Thy Only-begotten Son hath walked with dry feet, and hath deigned to be baptised in them, which hath flowed forth with His Blood from His most holy side, and hath commanded His Disciples to baptise all nations in them: benignantly and mercifully attend, and let the grace of Thy blessing come upon us who remember these Thy wonders, that Thou mayest bless and, having been blest, sancti  fy the objects, which We cause to be cast and plunged in this vessel of water that was prepared for the glory of Thy Name, that, by the veneration and honour of these same objects, crimes may be washed off us Thy servants, stains of sins may be wiped off us, pardons may be obtained for us, graces may be granted to us, and we may finally merit to attain eternal life together with Thy saints and elect. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The Pontiff then receives the Mitre again, and pours Balsam from its ampoule into the Water, in the form of a cross, saying:

Deign, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these waters through this anointing of balsam, and Our blessing. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

And he signs thrice.

Then, from another ampoule, He pours holy Chrism into the same Water, likewise in the form of a cross, saying:

Deign, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these waters through this holy anointing of Chrism, and Our blessing. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Supreme Pontiff, with Mitre, having received consecrated Water with a silver spoon, consecrates another Water: then, he turns towards the baskets, where the Agnus Dei are, and, the Mitre removed, standing, says upon them:

V. The Lord be with you.

R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

O God of all hallowing, the Lord the Ruler, Whose unending mercy is felt: Who didst vouchsafe Abraham, the father of our faith, arranging by Thy commandment to immolate Isaac his son as a foreshadowing of our redemption, to accomplish his sacrifice through a ram stuck amongst the brambles; and didst order Moyses, Thy lawgiving servant, that a perpetual holocaust should be offered in lambs without blemish: suppliantly we beseech Thee that, implored by the duty of our voice, Thou mayest deign to bless and, through the invocation of Thy Holy Name, sanctify these waxen figures fashioned with the image of the most innocent Lamb, that, at their touch and sight, the faithful may be invited to prayers; the crash of hailstorms, the storm of whirlwinds, the force of tempests, the rage of winds, the troublesome thunders may be subdued; malignant spirits may flee and tremble before the banner of the Holy Cross, which is engraved into them, to which all knee bendeth, and all tongue confesseth, for death being vanquished through the gibbet of the Cross, Jesus Christ reigneth in the glory of God the Father: for He, led as a lamb unto the slaughter, in death offered Thee, Father, the Holy Sacrifice of His Body, that He may guide back the lost sheep that was waylaid by the devil’s deceit, and bring it back carried upon His shoulders unto the fold of the heavenly homeland: He Who liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

He says another Collect:

Let us pray.

Almighty and eternal God, Who art the Founder of the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Law, and didst establish them to be accomplished for mankind’s atonement, just as Thy creation, which, deceived by the intimation of the devil, incurred Thy indignation in their disdain towards the empire of Thy majesty, and as Thou didst vouchsafe to be pleased in their obedience to these victims and sacrifices, as Thou didst establish in the sacrifice of Abel’s lamb of the firstfruits, and in the oblation of Melchisedech Thy Priest, and in the immolation of Abraham’s, Moyses’, and Aaron’s victims, lambs, rams, and fattened bulls, with Thy servants humbly offering as a foreshadowing everything that came in contact with them, because with Thy holy blessing, they became holy and salvific: and like the lamb, from whose blood the side posts and upper posts of the house were anointed, being immolated, delivered Thy people at midnight from the striking of the Egyptians; and in the same manner that the innocent Lamb, by Thy will immolated on the altar of the Cross, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, did deliver our forefathers from the power of the devil: so may these Lambs without blemish, which we offer to be consecrated before Thy divine majesty, receive that power: mayest Thou deign to bless, sancti  fy, and con  secrate them, that, sanctified by Thy generous blessing, they may receive the same power against all cunning of the devil, and deceits of malignant spirits, that may no tempest prevail against those devoutly bearing these Lambs upon themselves, may no adversity rule over them, may no pestilential breeze or corruption of air, and no mortal disease, no storm and tempest of the sea, no conflagration, nor any wickedness rule over them, nor may man prevail against them: may a safe delivery with the mother be kept through the intercession of Thy Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

We pray Thy mercy, O almighty God, Who didst create everything out of nothing, and, after Adam’s fall, didst bless Noe and his sons, who lived justly before Thy majesty, and were saved by Thy mercy from the waters of the deluge: mayest Thou thusly deign to bless, sancti  fy, and con  secrate these Lambs, so that those bearing them, out of reverence and honour to Thy Name, may be delivered from all inundation of waters, and from all vicissitudes of the devil’s tempest, and from sudden death, through the power of the Passion of Jesus Christ, Thy blessed Son: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

These done, the Supreme Pontiff is girded with a linen Apron, and, having received the Mitre, sits by the vessel of Water, and the Servers bring to him the Agnus Dei in silver platters, which the Pontiff plunge into the Water, and the attending Prelates take them out, and bring them in platters upon Tables prepared with clean Cloths, that they may be dried; and all having been baptised by the Pontiff, or by his Prelates, the Supreme Pontiff, rising, and standing without Mitre, says these Collects upon them:

Let us pray.

O nourishing Ghost, Who makest the waters fruitful, and givest life to all, and didst establish every great sacrament in the substance of the waters, which, having relinquished bitterness, were transformed unto sweetness, and, sanctified by Thy breath, by impulse of the reception of the laver (of Baptism), at the invocation of the Name of the Holy Trinity, wash away sins: we beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou mayest deign to bless, sancti  fy, and con  secrate these Lambs, poured forth with the sacred and everlasting water and with the balsam of holy Chrism, so that, being blessed by Thee, they may receive power against all the devil’s temptations, and all who bear them may be protected amidst adversity and prosperity, that, having received Thy consolation, they may fear no peril, and dread no shadow, and no devil’s savagery or man’s cunning may inflict harm upon them, but, strengthened in the fortitude of Thy power, they may glorify in Thy consolation, Thou Who truly art called the Paraclete, and livest and reignest in perfect Trinity: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who truly art the innocent Lamb, the Priest and the Victim, Who art foretold by the voice of the prophets as the vine and the cornerstone, Who didst wash away the sins of the world, Who, being slaughtered, didst redeem us, O Lord God, in Thy Blood, and didst anoint with Thy Blood the posts of our breast and brow, lest the devil’s nighttime cunning, and noontime onslaught, and the people thrashing and passing over our houses, display their violence before us: Thou truly art the Lamb without blemish for our atonement, and didst vouchsafe to be perpetually immolated by Thy faithful in Thy memory, and to be eaten as the paschal Lamb under the species of bread and wine in the Sacrament unto the salvation and the remedy of our souls, that, having sojourned across the sea and the present age, we may come to the glory of the resurrection and eternity: we beseech therefore Thy mercy, and mayest Thou deign to bless, sancti  fy, and con  secrate these Lambs without blemish, which we have formed in Thy honour from virgin wax through the merits of the Cross, and, confected with holy water, and balsam, and the liquor of holy Chrism as a hallowing of Thy Conception, which Thou didst receive by divine power alone, without human contact and posterity, mayest Thou thusly uphold, protect, and defend those who bear these Lambs from all danger of conflagration, lightning, storm, and tempest, and guard them from all adversity through the mystery of Thy Passion, and mayest Thou thusly deign to deliver them and those labouring in childbirth from all perils, as Thou didst deliver Thy Mother from all peril, and Susanna from false accusation, and blessed Thecla Thy Virgin and Martyr from conflagrations; and just as Thou didst cause Peter, freed from fetters, to escape unscathed, mayest Thou cause us to depart unharmed from this age, that we may prevail to live with Thee without end: Who livest and reignest in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: through all the ages of the ages. R. Amen.

These done, the Agnus Dei are placed back in their baskets, and then, on Low Saturday, after the Agnus Dei at Mass, they are given, as is more fully described in the ceremony of the mentioned day.

The curious case of the missing ‘O’

Reposted from Dei præsidio suffultus

Holy Week is now upon us. Today is Palm Sunday already. For those who consider themselves immersed in the bibliography of Holy Week, as one way of putting it, having elected which side of 1955 to hold dear to their hearts, it is a time to ponder again about the missing ‘O’ in the antiphon Hosánna fílio David.

The Missale Romanum, up until the 1962 edition by Saint John XXIII, printed the antiphon with the O. So did the 2004 re-typesetting of the 1920 edition, and the 1862 Pustet edition.

Hosánna fílio David : benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. O Rex Israël : Hosánna in excélsis.

The interjection ‘O’ disappears in the books from 1962 onward:

Now, we are talking about the text of the Liturgy, the published text. Let us now examine the music printed for this text. Understandably, the 1962 edition of the Liber usualis (which received a thick wad of signatures inserted in the place of the Old Holy Week) did not have the interjection. Interestingly, however, we discover that in the edition of the Liber usualis prior to 1962, we likewise do not see the interjection!

The 1954 edition did not have. So did the 1924 edition in modern notation. In the 1903 edition (as Paroissien Romain), however, we find the interjection, with a slightly different chant; as well as in the 1896 edition.

Before the advent of a unified chant book, particular churches held their own chant traditions. Chant books were produced by churches endowed with enough resources to commission such monuments to sacred music. We say monuments because of their sheer size and volume, and the detail with which they were created. Had human frailty and compromise with the times not intervened, these chant books would have survived.

Let us concern ourselves with the chant books of the Philippines, as this is our locus. We have hypothesised here that only after the onset of American colonisation did the Philippine Church move from the Spanish colonial church music practice to the wider Roman practice, buoyed collaterally by the general desire to rid the Philippine Church of certain perceived abuses in praxis inherited from the Spaniards.

From the Introitale Baclaianum, we have the following entry:

We can see that the interjection is present.

Why the interjection disappeared from the Liber usualis from the 1920’s onward, even if it remained in the Missale Romanum until 1962, is a very delicious question. We may never know why exactly the interjection disappeared in the Liber usualis. Perhaps, we can accept the theory that, when the reform of Gregorian chant gained ground, intent on recovering the authentic chant that had long fallen into misuse and corruption, the resulting recovered chant had no place for the lowly interjection, and the people charged with this objective thought it best to banish it into oblivion.

Many believe that the removal of the interjection in the latter editions of the Missal was encouraged in part by its disappearance in the chant books. (This would not be the first time that choral praxis altered the Liturgy. After years of seeing the propers of Advent inserted ahead of Christmas in chant books, the Liturgy finally gave in and the liturgical year now begins with Advent.) Since the text of the Mass and the chant of the Mass existed in disparity, the reformers decided to adjust the text and ended up removing one letter from it.

In any case, this would be the second liturgical ‘O’ that failed to survive. The first one is great ‘O’ prolonged immediately upon intonation, at the Magnificat during the transferred feast of the Annunciation in Spain. Hopefully, in both cases, we can find an answer in our lifetime why the interjection fell out of use.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

What is an ‘autoorganum’?

We received a query whether the automatic organ quoted in norm 71 of Pius XII’s De musica sacra is the same as today’s portable organ, or electric keyboard, or electronic organ, or digital keyboard.

The short answer is no. The key to understanding this answer is twofold. First is language. Unless a Roman document was issued in a language other than Latin, or its basis was explicitly declared to have been in this or that language, the first linguistic recourse we must run to in order to understand a Latin neologism is Italian. The Latin autoorganum is a calque of the Italian auto-organo, and this is an instrument that mechanically reproduces music from a sound roll. An example is below, a Barbieri double-roll automatic organ, and a whole lot more is here.

Second is the classification. The list covers instruments that record or play recorded audio by themselves. A phonograph records and reproduces sound mechanically. The radio, on the other hand, utilises radio technology, which collects sound from one location, transmits it as information across space via radio waves, and reproduces it mechanically in another location through a receiver, which is the device we call radio. Tape recorders collect sound, store it in a magnetic tape, and play the sound back mechanically. Wire recorders function in the same way, only that they store sound in a steel wire. (The Latin uses dictaphonium and magnetophonium, whose Italian equivalents dittafono and magnetofono are really just tape recorders.) These devices can only play sound mechanically after immediate human effort has been expended at recording and storing the sound.

While portable organs come with prerecorded music, playing the recordings is by no means their sole capability. What sets them apart automatic organs is their capability to mimic the sound of the pipe organ, and produce sound real-time, with the guiding hands of a pulsator. In short, sound is not merely reproduced mechanically, but rather produced presently contingent upon human art and skill, though in a limited ambit only. In reality, though, digital keyboard is an umbrella term that includes electronic organs, and electronic organs are specifically permitted as temporary substitutes for the pipe organ, in norm 64 of the same Pian instruction.

This is by no means an apology for the continued use of portable organs, or for the mandatory use of any musical instrument whatsoever in the Sacred Liturgy. A majestic pipe organ, tuned and primed to optimum performance, when the pulsator handles it in such a way that the music overwhelms and smothers the singers, deserves to be silenced forthwith, and the pulsator retrained. It is the constant teaching of the Church that Her music is, first and foremost, purely vocal. Thusly St Pius X establishes in norm 15 of Tra le sollecitudini. For what is an organ, but merely a copy of our vocal apparatus, the organ of the voice, the organum vocis, a long pipe connected to a mouth that, when air passes through it, produces sound.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Sacred music in the extraordinary Urbi et Orbi

Last Friday, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary blessing Urbi et Orbi, and we saw this powerful image of the Supreme Pontiff ascending the sagrata, and leading the world in a meditation of the calming of the storm.

We heard the choir sing the Sub tuum præsídium when the Pope prayed in front the Salus Populi Romani, and the Adorámus te, Christe when he prayed in from the Crocifisso di San Marcello al Corso. During the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the choir sang the Tantum ergo and the Adóro te devóte.

And this shows us that even with social distancing, even with the plague raging around us, Holy Mother Church still decorates her liturgies according to her norms. The bells of the basilica pealed for the extraordinary blessing. The choir sang Gregorian chant, and did not play recorded music. The choir sang Gregorian chant inside the basilica, and not somewhere else noncontiguously remote that is separate from the consecrated edifice and its surrounding complex.

Ut in omnibus laudetur omnibus.