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Classic Encyclicals [Mediator Dei, Cont. (2)]

Vatican View | Classic Encyclicals | Reflections 

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Classic Encyclicals & Other Papal Documents

Important Notice: Translations may vary. We make no guarantees regarding any item herein. We may change punctuation, capitalization, etc. Click here for more important information/terms


Title:

Mediator Dei, Cont. (2)

Descr.:

On The Sacred Liturgy

Pope:

Pope Pius XII

Date:

November 20, 1947

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139. Since the divine Master commanded "that we ought always to pray and not to faint,"(132) the Church faithfully fulfills this injunction and never ceases to pray: she urges us in the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, "by him Jesus let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God "(133)

140. Public and common prayer offered to God by all at the same time was customary in antiquity only on certain days and at certain times. Indeed, people prayed to God not only in groups but in private houses and occasionally with neighbors and friends. But soon in different parts of the Christian world the practice arose of setting aside special times for praying, as for example, the last hour of the day when evening set in and the lamps were lighted; or the first, heralded, when the night was coming to an end, by the crowing of the cock and the rising of the morning star. Other times of the day, as being more suitable for prayer are indicated in Sacred Scripture, in Hebrew customs or in keeping with the practice of everyday life. According to the acts of the Apostles, the disciples of Jesus Christ all came together to pray at the third hour, when they were all filled with the Holy Ghost;(134) and before eating, the Prince of the Apostles went up to the higher parts of the house to pray, about the sixth hour;(135) Peter and John "went up into the Temple at the ninth hour of prayer"(136) and at "midnight Paul and Silas praying...praised God."(137)

141. Thanks to the work of the monks and those who practice asceticism, these various prayers in the course of time become ever more perfected and by the authority of the Church are gradually incorporated into the sacred liturgy.

142. The divine office is the prayer of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, offered to God in the name and on behalf of all Christians, when recited by priests and other ministers of the Church and by religious who are deputed by the Church for this.

143. The character and value of the divine office may be gathered from the words recommended by the Church to be said before starting the prayers of the office, namely, that they be said "worthily, with attention and devotion."

144. By assuming human nature, the Divine Word introduced into this earthly exile a hymn which is sung in heaven for all eternity. He unites to Himself the whole human race and with it sings this hymn to the praise of God. As we must humbly recognize that "we know not what we should pray for, as we ought, the Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings."(138) Moreover, through His Spirit in us, Christ entreats the Father, "God could not give a greater gift to men...(Jesus) prays for us, as our Priest; He prays in us as our Head; we pray to Him as our God...we recognize in Him our voice and His voice in us...He is prayed to as God, He prays under the appearance of a servant; in heaven He is Creator; here, created though not changed, He assumes a created nature which is to be changed and makes us with Him one complete man, head and body."(139)

145. To this lofty dignity of the Church's prayer, there should correspond earnest devotion in our souls. For when in prayer the voice repeats those hymns written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and extols God's infinite perfections, it is necessary that the interior sentiment of our souls should accompany the voice so as to make those sentiments our own in which we are elevated to heaven, adoring and giving due praise and thanks to the Blessed Trinity; "so let us chant in choir that mind and voice may accord together."(140) It is not merely a question of recitation or of singing which, however perfect according to norms of music and the sacred rites, only reaches the ear, but it is especially a question of the ascent of the mind and heart to God so that, united with Christ, we may completely dedicate ourselves and all our actions to Him.

146. On this depends in no small way the efficacy of our prayers. These prayers in fact, when they are not addressed directly to the Word made man, conclude with the phrase "though Jesus Christ our Lord." As our Mediator with God, He shows to the heavenly Father His glorified wounds, "always living to make intercessions for us."(141)

147. The Psalms, as all know, form the chief part of the divine office. They encompass the full round of the day and sanctify it. Cassiodorus speaks beautifully about the Psalms as distributed in his day throughout the divine office: "With the celebration of matins they bring a blessing on the coming day, they set aside for us the first hour and consecrate the third hour of the day, they gladden the sixth hour with the breaking of bread, at the ninth they terminate our fast, they bring the evening to a close and at nightfall they shield our minds from darkness."(142)

148. The Psalms recall to mind the truths revealed by God to the chosen people, which were at one time frightening and at another filled with wonderful tenderness; they keep repeating and fostering the hope of the promised Liberator which in ancient times was kept alive with song, either around the hearth or in the stately temple; they show forth in splendid light the prophesied glory of Jesus Christ: first, His supreme and eternal power, then His lowly coming to this terrestrial exile, His kingly dignity and priestly power and, finally, His beneficent labors, and the shedding of His blood for our redemption. In a similar way they express the joy, the bitterness, the hope and fear of our hearts and our desire of loving God and hoping in Him alone, and our mystic ascent to divine tabernacles.

149. "The psalm is...a blessing for the people, it is the praise of God, the tribute of the nation, the common language and acclamation of all, it is the voice of the Church, the harmonious confession of faith, signifying deep attachment to authority; it is the joy of freedom, the expression of happiness, an echo of bliss."(143)

150. In an earlier age, these canonical prayers were attended by many of the faithful. But this gradually ceased, and, as We have already said, their recitation at present is the duty only of the clergy and of religious. The laity have no obligation in this matter. Still, it is greatly to be desired that they participate in reciting or chanting vespers sung in their own parish on feast days. We earnestly exhort you, Venerable Brethren, to see that this pious practice is kept up, and that wherever it has ceased you restore it if possible. This, without doubt, will produce salutary results when vespers are conducted in a worthy and fitting manner and with such helps as foster the piety of the faithful. Let the public and private observance of the feasts of the Church, which are in a special way dedicated and consecrated to God, be kept inviolable; and especially the Lord's day which the Apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, substituted for the sabbath. Now, if the order was given to the Jews: "Six days shall you do work; in the seventh day is the sabbath, the rest holy to the Lord. Every one that shall do any work on this day, shall die;"(144) how will these Christians not fear spiritual death who perform servile work on feast-days, and whose rest on these days is not devoted to religion and piety but given over to the allurements of the world? Sundays and holy days, then, must be made holy by divine worship, which gives homage to God and heavenly food to the soul. Although the Church only commands the faithful to abstain from servile work and attend Mass and does not make it obligatory to attend evening devotions, still she desires this and recommends it repeatedly. Moreover, the needs of each one demand it, seeing that all are bound to win the favor of God if they are to obtain His benefits. Our soul is filled with the greatest grief when We see how the Christian people of today profane the afternoon of feast days; public places of amusement and public games are frequented in great numbers while the churches are not as full as they should be. All should come to our churches and there be taught the truth of the Catholic faith, sing the praises of God, be enriched with benediction of the Blessed Sacrament given by the priest and be strengthened with help from heaven against the adversities of this life. Let all try to learn those prayers which are recited at vespers and fill their souls with their meaning. When deeply penetrated by these prayers, they will experience what St. Augustine said about himself: "How much did I weep during hymns and verses, greatly moved at the sweet singing of thy Church. Their sound would penetrate my ears and their truth melt my heart, sentiments of piety would well up, tears would flow and that was good for me."(145)

151. Throughout the entire year, the Mass and the divine office center especially around the person of Jesus Christ. This arrangement is so suitably disposed that our Savior dominates the scene in the mysteries of His humiliation, of His redemption and triumph.

152. While the sacred liturgy calls to mind the mysteries of Jesus Christ, it strives to make all believers take their part in them so that the divine Head of the mystical Body may live in all the members with the fullness of His holiness. Let the souls of Christians be like altars on each one of which a different phase of the sacrifice, offered by the High Priest [Christ], comes to life again, as it were: pains and tears which wipe away and expiate sin; supplication to God which pierces heaven; dedication and even immolation of oneself made promptly, generously and earnestly; and, finally, that intimate union by which we commit ourselves and all we have to God, in whom we find our rest. "The perfection of religion is to imitate whom you adore."(146)

153. By these suitable ways and methods in which the liturgy at stated times proposes the life of Jesus Christ for our meditation, the Church gives us examples to imitate, points out treasures of sanctity for us to make our own, since it is fitting that the mind believes what the lips sing, and that what the mind believes should be practiced in public and private life.

154. In the period of Advent, for instance, the Church arouses in us the consciousness of the sins we have had the misfortune to commit, and urges us, by restraining our desires and practicing voluntary mortification of the body, to recollect ourselves in meditation, and experience a longing desire to return to God who alone can free us by His grace from the stain of sin and from its evil consequences.

155. With the coming of the birthday of the Redeemer, she would bring us to the cave of Bethlehem and there teach that we must be born again and undergo a complete reformation; that will only happen when we are intimately and vitally united to the Word of God made man and participate in His divine nature, to which we have been elevated.

156. At the solemnity of the Epiphany, in putting before us the call of the Gentiles to the Christian faith, she wishes us daily to give thanks to the Lord for such a blessing; she wishes us to seek with lively faith the living and true God, to penetrate deeply and religiously the things of heaven, to love silence and meditation in order to perceive and grasp more easily heavenly gifts.

157. During the days of Septuagesima and Lent, our Holy Mother the Church over and over again strives to make each of us seriously consider our misery, so that we may be urged to a practical emendation of our lives, detest our sins heartily and expiate them by prayer and penance. For constant prayer and penance done for past sins obtain for us divine help, without which every work of ours is useless and unavailing.

158. In Holy Week, when the most bitter sufferings of Jesus Christ are put before us by the liturgy, the Church invites us to come to Calvary and follow in the blood-stained footsteps of the divine Redeemer, to carry the cross willingly with Him, to reproduce in our own hearts His spirit of expiation and atonement, and to die together with Him.

159. At the [Easter] season, which commemorates the triumph of Christ, our souls are filled with deep interior joy: we, accordingly, should also consider that we must rise, in union with the Redeemer, from our cold and slothful life to one of greater fervor and holiness by giving ourselves completely and generously to God, and by forgetting this wretched world in order to aspire only to the things of heaven: "If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above...mind the things that are above."(147)

160. Finally, during the time of Pentecost, the Church by her precept and practice urges us to be more docile to the action of the Holy Spirit who wishes us to be on fire with divine love so that we may daily strive to advance more in virtue and thus become holy as Christ our Lord and His Father are holy.

161. Thus, the liturgical year should be considered as a splendid hymn of praise offered to the heavenly Father by the Christian family through Jesus, their perpetual Mediator. Nevertheless, it requires a diligent and well ordered study on our part to be able to know and praise our Redeemer ever more and more. It requires a serious effort and constant practice to imitate His mysteries, to enter willingly upon His path of sorrow and thus finally share His glory and eternal happiness.

162. From what We have already explained, Venerable Brethren, it is perfectly clear how much modern writers are wanting in the genuine and true liturgical spirit who, deceived by the illusion of a higher mysticism, dare to assert that attention should be paid not to the historic Christ but to a "pneumatic" or glorified Christ. They do not hesitate to assert that a change has taken place in the piety of the faithful by dethroning, as it were, Christ from His position; since they say that the glorified Christ, who liveth and reigneth forever and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, has been overshadowed and in His place has been substituted that Christ who lived on earth. For this reason, some have gone so far as to want to remove from the churches images of the divine Redeemer suffering on the cross.

163. But these false statements are completely opposed to the solid doctrine handed down by tradition. "You believe in Christ born in the flesh," says St. Augustine, "and you will come to Christ begotten of God."(148) In the sacred liturgy, the whole Christ is proposed to us in all the circumstances of His life, as the Word of the eternal Father, as born of the Virgin Mother of God, as He who teaches us truth, heals the sick, consoles the afflicted, who endures suffering and who dies; finally, as He who rose triumphantly from the dead and who, reigning in the glory of heaven, sends us the Holy Paraclete and who abides in His Church forever; "Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, and the same forever."(149) Besides, the liturgy shows us Christ not only as a model to be imitated but as a master to whom we should listen readily, a Shepherd whom we should follow, Author of our salvation, the Source of our holiness and the Head of the Mystical Body whose members we are, living by His very life.

164. Since His bitter sufferings constitute the principal mystery of our redemption, it is only fitting that the Catholic faith should give it the greatest prominence. This mystery is the very center of divine worship since the Mass represents and renews it every day and since all the sacraments are most closely united with the cross.(150)

165. Hence, the liturgical year, devotedly fostered and accompanied by the Church, is not a cold and lifeless representation of the events of the past, or a simple and bare record of a former age. It is rather Christ Himself who is ever living in His Church. Here He continues that journey of immense mercy which He lovingly began in His mortal life, going about doing good,(151) with the design of bringing men to know His mysteries and in a way live by them. These mysteries are ever present and active not in a vague and uncertain way as some modern writers hold, but in the way that Catholic doctrine teaches us. According to the Doctors of the Church, they are shining examples of Christian perfection, as well as sources of divine grace, due to the merit and prayers of Christ; they still influence us because each mystery brings its own special grace for our salvation. Moreover, our holy Mother the Church, while proposing for our contemplation the mysteries of our Redeemer, asks in her prayers for those gifts which would give her children the greatest possible share in the spirit of these mysteries through the merits of Christ. By means of His inspiration and help and through the cooperation of our wills we can receive from Him living vitality as branches do from the tree and members from the head; thus slowly and laboriously we can transform ourselves "unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ."(152)

166. In the course of the liturgical year, besides the mysteries of Jesus Christ, the feasts of the saints are celebrated. Even though these feasts are of a lower and subordinate order, the Church always strives to put before the faithful examples of sanctity in order to move them to cultivate in themselves the virtues of the divine Redeemer.

167. We should imitate the virtues of the saints just as they imitated Christ, for in their virtues there shines forth under different aspects the splendor of Jesus Christ. Among some of these saints the zeal of the apostolate stood out, in others courage prevailed even to the shedding of blood, constant vigilance marked others out as they kept watch for the divine Redeemer, while in others the virginal purity of soul was resplendent and their modesty revealed the beauty of Christian humility; there burned in all of them the fire of charity towards God and their neighbor. The sacred liturgy puts all these gems of sanctity before us so that we may consider them for our salvation, and "rejoicing at their merits, we may be inflamed by their example."(153) It is necessary, then, to practice "in simplicity innocence, in charity concord, in humility modesty, diligence in government, readiness in helping those who labor, mercy in serving the poor, in defending truth constancy, in the strict maintenance of discipline justice, so that nothing may be wanting in us of the virtues which have been proposed for our imitation. These are the footprints left by the saints in their journey homeward, that guided by them we might follow them into glory."(154) In order that we may be helped by our senses, also, the Church wishes that images of the saints be displayed in our churches, always, however, with the same intention "that we imitate the virtues of those whose images we venerate."(155)

168. But there is another reason why the Christian people should honor the saints in heaven, namely, to implore their help and "that we be aided by the pleadings of those whose praise is our delight."(156) Hence, it is easy to understand why the sacred liturgy provides us with many different prayers to invoke the intercession of the saints.

169. Among the saints in heaven the Virgin Mary Mother of God is venerated in a special way. Because of the mission she received from God, her life is most closely linked with the mysteries of Jesus Christ, and there is no one who has followed in the footsteps of the Incarnate Word more closely and with more merit than she: and no one has more grace and power over the most Sacred Heart of the Son of God and through Him with the Heavenly Father. Holier than the Cherubim and Seraphim, she enjoys unquestionably greater glory than all the other saints, for she is "full of grace,"(157) she is the Mother of God, who happily gave birth to the Redeemer for us. Since she is therefore, "Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope," let us all cry to her "mourning and weeping in this vale of tears,"(158) and confidently place ourselves and all we have under her patronage. She became our Mother also when the divine Redeemer offered the sacrifice of Himself; and hence by this title also, we are her children. She teaches us all the virtues; she gives us her Son and with Him all the help we need, for God "wished us to have everything through Mary."(159)

170. Throughout this liturgical journey which begins anew for us each year under the sanctifying action of the Church, and strengthened by the help and example of the saints, especially of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, "let us draw near with a true heart, in fullness of faith having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water,"(160) let us draw near to the High Priest(161) that with Him we may share His life and sentiments and by Him penetrate "even within the veil,"(162) and there honor the heavenly Father for ever and ever.

171. Such is the nature and the object of the sacred liturgy: it treats of the Mass, the sacraments, the divine office; it aims at uniting our souls with Christ and sanctifying them through the divine Redeemer in order that Christ be honored and, through Him and in Him, the most Holy Trinity, Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.

172. In order that the errors and inaccuracies, mentioned above, may be more easily removed from the Church, and that the faithful following safer norms may be able to use more fruitfully the liturgical apostolate, We have deemed it opportune, Venerable Brethren, to add some practical applications of the doctrine which We have explained.

173. When dealing with genuine and solid piety We stated that there could be no real opposition between the sacred liturgy and other religious practices, provided they be kept within legitimate bounds and performed for a legitimate purpose. In fact, there are certain exercises of piety which the Church recommends very much to clergy and religious.

174. It is Our wish also that the faithful, as well, should take part in these practices. The chief of these are: meditation on spiritual things, diligent examination of conscience, enclosed retreats, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and those special prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary among which the rosary, as all know, has pride of place.(163)

175. From these multiple forms of piety, the inspiration and action of the Holy Spirit cannot be absent. Their purpose is, in various ways, to attract and direct our souls to God, purifying them from their sins, encouraging them to practice virtue and, finally, stimulating them to advance along the path of sincere piety by accustoming them to meditate on the eternal truths and disposing them better to contemplate the mysteries of the human and divine natures of Christ. Besides, since they develop a deeper spiritual life of the faithful, they prepare them to take part in sacred public functions with greater fruit, and they lessen the danger of liturgical prayers becoming an empty ritualism.

176. In keeping with your pastoral solicitude, Venerable Brethren, do not cease to recommend and encourage these exercises of piety from which the faithful, entrusted to your care, cannot but derive salutary fruit. Above all, do not allow - as some do, who are deceived under the pretext of restoring the liturgy or who idly claim that only liturgical rites are of any real value and dignity - that churches be closed during the hours not appointed for public functions, as has already happened in some places: where the adoration of the august Sacrament and visits to our Lord in the tabernacles are neglected; where confession of devotion is discouraged; and devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, a sign of "predestination" according to the opinion of holy men, is so neglected, especially among the young, as to fade away and gradually vanish. Such conduct most harmful to Christian piety is like poisonous fruit, growing on the infected branches of a healthy tree, which must be cut off so that the life-giving sap of the tree may bring forth only the best fruit.

177. Since the opinions expressed by some about frequent confession are completely foreign to the spirit of Christ and His Immaculate Spouse and are also most dangerous to the spiritual life, let Us call to mind what with sorrow We wrote about this point in the encyclical on the Mystical Body. We urgently insist once more that what We expounded in very serious words be proposed by you for the serious consideration and dutiful obedience of your flock, especially to students for the priesthood and young clergy.

178. Take special care that as many as possible, not only of the clergy but of the laity and especially those in religious organizations and in the ranks of Catholic Action, take part in monthly days of recollection and in retreats of longer duration made with a view to growing in virtue. As We have previously stated, such spiritual exercises are most useful and even necessary to instill into souls solid virtue, and to strengthen them in sanctity so as to be able to derive from the sacred liturgy more efficacious and abundant benefits.

179. As regards the different methods employed in these exercises, it is perfectly clear to all that in the Church on earth, no less in the Church in heaven, there are many mansions,(164) and that asceticism cannot be the monopoly of anyone. It is the same spirit who breatheth where He will,(165) and who with differing gifts and in different ways enlightens and guides souls to sanctity. Let their freedom and the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit be so sacrosanct that no one presume to disturb or stifle them for any reason whatsoever.

180. However, it is well known that the spiritual exercise according to the method and norms of St. Ignatius have been fully approved and earnestly recommended by Our predecessors on account of their admirable efficacy. We, too, for the same reason have approved and commended them and willingly do We repeat this now.

181. Any inspiration to follow and practice extraordinary exercises of piety must most certainly come from the Father of Lights, from whom every good and perfect gift descends;(166) and, of course, the criterion of this will be the effectiveness of these exercises in making the divine cult loved and spread daily ever more widely, and in making the faithful approach the sacraments with more longing desire, and in obtaining for all things holy due respect and honor. If on the contrary, they are an obstacle to principles and norms of divine worship, or if they oppose or hinder them, one must surely conclude that they are not in keeping with prudence and enlightened zeal.

182. There are, besides, other exercises of piety which, although not strictly belonging to the sacred liturgy, are, nevertheless, of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult; they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the bishops. Among these are the prayers usually said during the month of May in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, or during the month of June to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus: also novenas and triduums, stations of the cross and other similar practices.

183. These devotions make us partakers in a salutary manner of the liturgical cult, because they urge the faithful to go frequently to the sacrament of Penance, to attend Mass and receive Communion with devotion, and, as well, encourage them to meditate on the mysteries of our redemption and imitate the example of the saints.

184. Hence, he would do something very wrong and dangerous who would dare to take on himself to reform all these exercises of piety and reduce them completely to the methods and norms of liturgical rites. However, it is necessary that the spirit of the sacred liturgy and its directives should exercise such a salutary influence on them that nothing improper be introduced nor anything unworthy of the dignity of the house of God or detrimental to the sacred functions or opposed to solid piety.

185. Take care then, Venerable Brethren, that this true and solid piety increases daily and more under your guidance and bears more abundant fruit. Above all, do not cease to inculcate into the minds of all that progress in the Christian life does not consist in the multiplicity and variety of prayers and exercises of piety, but rather in their helpfulness towards spiritual progress of the faithful and constant growth of the Church universal. For the eternal Father "chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and unspotted in His sight."(167) All our prayers, then, and all our religious practices should aim at directing our spiritual energies towards attaining this most noble and lofty end.

186. We earnestly exhort you, Venerable Brethren, that after errors and falsehoods have been removed, and anything that is contrary to truth or moderation has been condemned, you promote a deeper knowledge among the people of the sacred liturgy so that they more readily and easily follow the sacred rites and take part in them with true Christian dispositions.

187. First of all, you must strive that with due reverence and faith all obey the decrees of the Council of Trent, of the Roman Pontiffs, and the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and what the liturgical books ordain concerning external public worship.

188. Three characteristics of which Our predecessor Pius X spoke should adorn all liturgical services: sacredness, which abhors any profane influence; nobility, which true and genuine arts should serve and foster; and universality, which, while safeguarding local and legitimate custom, reveals the catholic unity of the Church.(168)

189. We desire to commend and urge the adornment of churches and altars. Let each one feel moved by the inspired word, "the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up";(169) and strive as much as in him lies that everything in the church, including vestments and liturgical furnishings, even though not rich nor lavish, be perfectly clean and appropriate, since all is consecrated to the Divine Majesty. If we have previously disapproved of the error of those who would wish to outlaw images from churches on the plea of reviving an ancient tradition, We now deem it Our duty to censure the inconsiderate zeal of those who propose for veneration in the Churches and on the altars, without any just reason, a multitude of sacred images and statues, and also those who display unauthorized relics, those who emphasize special and insignificant practices, neglecting essential and necessary things. They thus bring religion into derision and lessen the dignity of worship.

190. Let us recall, as well, the decree about "not introducing new forms of worship and devotion."(170) We commend the exact observance of this decree to your vigilance.

191. As regards music, let the clear and guiding norms of the Apostolic See be scrupulously observed. Gregorian chant, which the Roman Church considers her own as handed down from antiquity and kept under her close tutelage, is proposed to the faithful as belonging to them also. In certain parts of the liturgy the Church definitely prescribes it;(171) it makes the celebration of the sacred mysteries not only more dignified and solemn but helps very much to increase the faith and devotion of the congregation. For this reason, Our predecessors of immortal memory, Pius X and Pius XI, decree - and We are happy to confirm with Our authority the norms laid down by them - that in seminaries and religious institutes, Gregorian chant be diligently and zealously promoted, and moreover that the old Scholae Cantorum be restored, at least in the principal churches. This has already been done with happy results in not a few places.(172)

192. Besides, "so that the faithful take a more active part in divine worship, let Gregorian chant be restored to popular use in the parts proper to the people. Indeed it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers, but let them fully appreciate the beauty of the liturgy and take part in the sacred ceremonies, alternating their voices with the priest and the choir, according to the prescribed norms. If, please God, this is done, it will not happen that the congregation hardly ever or only in a low murmur answer the prayers in Latin or in the vernacular."(173) A congregation that is devoutly present at the [Eucharistic] Sacrifice, in which our Savior together with His children redeemed with His sacred blood sings the nuptial hymn of His immense love, cannot keep silent, for "song befits the lover"(174) and, as the ancient saying has it, "he who sings well prays twice." Thus the Church militant, faithful as well as clergy, joins in the hymns of the Church triumphant and with the choirs of angels, and, all together, sing a wondrous and eternal hymn of praise to the most Holy Trinity in keeping with words of the preface, "with whom our voices, too, thou wouldst bid to be admitted."(175)

193. It cannot be said that modem music and singing should be entirely excluded from Catholic worship. For, if they are not profane nor unbecoming to the sacredness of the place and function, and do not spring from a desire of achieving extraordinary and unusual effects, then our churches must admit them since they can contribute in no small way to the splendor of the sacred ceremonies, can lift the mind to higher things and foster true devotion of soul.

194. We also exhort you, Venerable Brethren, to promote with care congregational singing, and to see to its accurate execution with all due dignity, since it easily stirs up and arouses the faith and piety of large gatherings of the faithful. Let the full harmonious singing of our people rise to heaven like the bursting of a thunderous sea(176) and let them testify by the melody of their song to the unity of their hearts and minds(177), as becomes brothers and the children of the same Father.

195. What We have said about music, applies to the other fine arts, especially to architecture, sculpture and painting. Recent works of art which lend themselves to the materials of modern composition, should not be universally despised and rejected through prejudice. Modern art should be given free scope in the due and reverent service of the church and the sacred rites, provided that they preserve a correct balance between styles tending neither to extreme realism nor to excessive "symbolism," and that the needs of the Christian community are taken into consideration rather than the particular taste or talent of the individual artist. Thus modern art will be able to join its voice to that wonderful choir of praise to which have contributed, in honor of the Catholic faith, the greatest artists throughout the centuries. Nevertheless, in keeping with the duty of Our office, We cannot help deploring and condemning those works of art, recently introduced by some, which seem to be a distortion and perversion of true art and which at times openly shock Christian taste, modesty and devotion, and shamefully offend the true religious sense. These must be entirely excluded and banished from our churches, like "anything else that is not in keeping with the sanctity of the place."(178)

196. Keeping in mind, Venerable Brethren, pontifical norms and decrees, take great care to enlighten and direct the minds and hearts of the artists to whom is given the task today of restoring or rebuilding the many churches which have been ruined or completely destroyed by war. Let them be capable and willing to draw their inspiration from religion to express what is suitable and more in keeping with the requirements of worship. Thus the human arts will shine forth with a wondrous heavenly splendor, and contribute greatly to human civilization, to the salvation of souls and the glory of God. The fine arts are really in conformity with religion when "as noblest handmaids they are at the service of divine worship."(179)

197. But there is something else of even greater importance, Venerable Brethren, which We commend to your apostolic zeal, in a very special manner. Whatever pertains to the external worship has assuredly its importance; however, the most pressing duty of Christians is to live the liturgical life, and increase and cherish its supernatural spirit.

198. Readily provide the young clerical student with facilities to understand the sacred ceremonies, to appreciate their majesty and beauty and to learn the rubrics with care, just as you do when he is trained in ascetics, in dogma and in a canon law and pastoral theology. This should not be done merely for cultural reasons and to fit the student to perform religious rites in the future, correctly and with due dignity, but especially to lead him into closest union with Christ, the Priest, so that he may become a holy minister of sanctity.

199. Try in every way, with the means and helps that your prudence deems best, that the clergy and people become one in mind and heart, and that the Christian people take such an active part in the liturgy that it becomes a truly sacred action of due worship to the eternal Lord in which the priest, chiefly responsible for the souls of his parish, and the ordinary faithful are united together.

200. To attain this purpose, it will greatly help to select carefully good and upright young boys from all classes of citizens who will come generously and spontaneously to serve at the altar with careful zeal and exactness. Parents of higher social standing and culture should greatly esteem this office for their children. If these youths, under the watchful guidance of the priests, are properly trained and encouraged to fulfill the task committed to them punctually, reverently and constantly, then from their number will readily come fresh candidates for the priesthood. The clergy will not then complain - as, alas, sometimes happens even in Catholic places - that in the celebration of the august [Eucharistic] Sacrifice they find no one to answer or serve them.

201. Above all, try with your constant zeal to have all the faithful attend the Eucharistic Sacrifice from which they may obtain abundant and salutary fruit; and carefully instruct them in all the legitimate ways we have described above so that they may devoutly participate in it. The Mass is the chief act of divine worship; it should also be the source and center of Christian piety. Never think that you have satisfied your apostolic zeal until you see your faithful approach in great numbers the celestial banquet which is a sacrament of devotion, a sign of unity and a bond of love.(180)

202. By means of suitable sermons and particularly by periodic conferences and lectures, by special study weeks and the like, teach the Christian people carefully about the treasures of piety contained in the sacred liturgy so that they may be able to profit more abundantly by these supernatural gifts. In this matter, those who are active in the ranks of Catholic Action will certainly be a help to you, since they are ever at the service of the hierarchy in the work of promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

203. But in all these matters, it is essential that you watch vigilantly lest the enemy come into the field of the Lord and sow cockle among the wheat;(181) in other words, do not let your flocks be deceived by the subtle and dangerous errors of false mysticism or quietism - as you know We have already condemned these errors;(182) also do not let a certain dangerous "humanism" lead them astray, nor let there be introduced a false doctrine destroying the notion of Catholic faith, nor finally an exaggerated zeal for antiquity in matters liturgical. Watch with like diligence lest the false teaching of those be propagated who wrongly think and teach that the glorified human nature of Christ really and continually dwells in the "just" by His presence and that one and numerically the same grace, as they say, unites Christ with the members of His Mystical Body.

204. Never be discouraged by the difficulties that arise, and never let your pastoral zeal grow cold. "Blow the trumpet in Sion...call an assembly, gather together the people, sanctify the Church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and [the infants],"(183) and use every help to get the faithful everywhere to fill the churches and crowd around the altars so that they may be restored by the graces of the sacraments and joined as living members to their divine Head, and with Him and through Him celebrate together the august [Eucharistic] Sacrifice that gives due tribute of praise to the Eternal Father.

205. These, Venerable Brethren, are the subjects We desired to write to you about. We are moved to write that your children, who are also Ours, may more fully understand and appreciate the most precious treasures which are contained in the sacred liturgy: namely, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, representing and renewing the Sacrifice of the Cross, the sacraments which are the streams of divine grace and of divine life, and the hymn of praise, which heaven and earth daily offer to God.

206. We cherish the hope that these Our exhortations will not only arouse the sluggish and recalcitrant to a deeper and more correct study of the liturgy, but also instill into their daily lives its supernatural spirit according to the words of the Apostle, "extinguish not the spirit."(184)

207. To those whom an excessive zeal occasionally led to say and do certain things which saddened Us and which We could not approve, we repeat the warning of St. Paul, "But prove all things, hold fast that which is good."(185) Let Us paternally warn them to imitate in their thoughts and actions the Christian doctrine which is in harmony with the precepts of the immaculate Spouse of Jesus Christ, the Mother of Saints [the Church].

208. Let Us remind all that they must generously and faithfully obey their holy pastors who possess the right and duty of regulating the whole life, especially the spiritual life, of the Church. "Obey your prelates and be subject to them. For they keep watch over you and will have to give an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy and not with grief."(186)

209. May God, whom we worship, and who is "not the God of dissension but of peace,"(187) graciously grant to us all that during our earthly exile we may with one mind and one heart participate in the sacred liturgy which is, as it were, a preparation and a token of that heavenly liturgy in which we hope one day to sing together with the most glorious Mother of God and our most loving Mother, "To Him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb [Christ], benediction and honor, and glory and power for ever and ever."(188)

210. In this joyous hope, We most lovingly impart to each and every one of you, Venerable Brethren, and to the flocks confided to your care, as a pledge of divine gifts and as a witness of Our special love, the apostolic benediction.

Given at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, on the 20th day of November in the year 1947, the 9th of Our Pontificate.


Endnotes:

1. 1 Tm. 2:5 | 2. Cf. Heb. 4:14 | 3. Cf. Heb. 9:14 | 4. Cf. Mal. 1:11 | 5. Cf. Council of Trent Sess. 22, c. 1 | 6. Cf. ibid., c. 2 | 7. Encyclical Letter Caritate Christi, May 3, 1932 | 8. Cf. Apostolic Letter (Motu Proprio) In cotidianis precibus, March 24, 1945 | 9. 1 Cor. 10:17 | 10. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, IIª IIª³ q. 81, art. 1 | 11. Cf. Book of Leviticus | 12. Cf. Heb. 10:1 | 13. Jn. 1:14 | 14. Heb. 10:5-7 | 15. Ibid., 10:10 | 16. Jn. 1:9 | 17. Heb. 10:39 | 18. Cf. 1 Jn. 2:1 | 19. Cf. 1 Tim. 3:15 | 20. Cf. Boniface IX, Ab origine mundi, October 7, 1391; Callistus III, Summus Pontifex, January 1, 1456; Pius II, Triumphans Pastor, April 22, 1459; Innocent XI, Triumphans Pastor, October 3, 1678 | 21. Eph. 2:19-22 | 22. Mt. 18:20 | 23. Acts 2:42 | 24. Col. 3:16 | 25. St. Augustine, Epist. 130, ad Probam, 18 | 26. Roman Missal, Preface for Christmas | 27. Giovanni Cardinal Bona, De divina psalmodia, c. 19, par. 3, 1 | 28. Roman Missal, Secret for Thursday after the Second Sunday of Lent | 29. Cf. Mk. 7:6 and Isa. 29:13 | 30. 1 Cor. 11:28 | 31. Roman Missal, Ash Wednesday; Prayer after the imposition of ashes | 32. De praedestinatione sanctorum, 31 | 33. Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, IIª IIª³, q. 82, art. 1 | 34. Cf. 1 Cor. 3:23 | 35. Heb. 10:19-24 | 36. Cf. 2 Cor. 6:1 | 37. Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 125, 126, 565, 571, 595, 1367 | 38. Col. 3:11 | 39. Cf. Gal. 4:19 | 40. Jn. 20:21 | 41. Lk. 10:16 | 42. Mk. 16:15-16 | 43. Roman Pontifical, Ordination of a priest: anointing of hands | 44. Enchiridion, c. 3 | 45. De gratia Dei "Indiculus." | 46. St. Augustine, Epist. 130, ad Probam, 18 | 47. Cf. Constitution Divini cultus, December 20, 1928 | 48. Constitution Immensa, January 22, 1588 | 49. Code of Canon Law, can. 253 | 50. Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1257 | 51. Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1261 | 52. Cf. Mt. 28:20 | 53. Cf. Pius VI, Constitution Auctorem fidei, August 28, 1794, n. 31-34, 39, 62, 66, 69-74 | 54. Cf. Jn. 21:15-17 | 55. Acts 20:28 | 56. Ps. 109:4 | 57. Jn. 13:1 | 58. Council of Trent, Sess. 22, c. 1 | 59. Ibid., c. 2 | 60. Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, IIIª, q. 22, art. 4 | 61. St. John Chrysostom, In Joann. Hom., 86:4 | 62. Rom. 6:9 | 63. Cf. Roman Missal, Preface | 64. Cf. Ibid., Canon | 65. Mk. 14:23 | 66. Roman Missal, Preface | 67. 1 Jn. 2:2 | 68. Roman Missal, Canon of the Mass | 69. St. Augustine, De Trinit., Book XIII, c. 19 | 70. Heb. 5:7 | 71. Cf. Sess. 22, c. 1 | 72. Cf. Heb. 10:14 | 73. St. Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 147, n. 16 | 74. Gal. 2:19-20 | 75. Encyclical Letter, Mystici Corporis, June 29, 1943 | 76. Roman Missal, Secret of the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost | 77. Cf. Sess. 22, c. 2. and can. 4 | 78. Cf. Gal. 6:14 | 79. Mal. 1:11 | 80. Phil. 2:5 | 81. Gal. 2:19 | 82. Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. 23. c. 4 | 83. Cf. St. Robert Bellarmine, De Missa, 2, c.4 | 84. De Sacro Altaris Mysterio, 3:6 | 85. De Missa, 1, c. 27 | 86. Roman Missal, Ordinary of the Mass | 87. Ibid., Canon of the Mass | 88. Roman Missal, Canon of the Mass | 89. 1 Pt. 2:5 | 90. Rom. 12:1 | 91. Roman Missal, Canon of the Mass | 92. Roman Pontifical, Ordination of a priest | 93. Ibid., Consecration of an altar, Preface | 94. Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. 22, c. 5 | 95. Gal. 2:19-20 | 96. Cf. Serm. 272 | 97. Cf. 1 Cor. 12:27 | 98. Cf. Eph. 5:30 | 99. Cf. St. Robert Bellarmine, De Missa, 2, c. 8 | 100. Cf. De Civitate Dei, Book 10, c. 6 | 101. Roman Missal, Canon of the Mass | 102. Cf. 1 Tim. 2:5 | 103. Encyclical Letter Certiores effecti, November 13, 1742, par. 1 | 104. Council of Trent, Sess. 22, can. 8 | 105. 1 Cor. 11:24 | 106. Roman Missal, Collect for Feast of Corpus Christi | 107. Sess. 22, c. 6 | 108. Encyclical Letter Certiores effecti, par. 3 | 109. Cf. Lk. 14:23 | 110. 1 Cor. 10:17 | 111. Cf. St Ignatius Martyr, Ad Eph. 20 | 112. Roman Missal, Canon of the Mass | 113. Eph. 5:20 | 114. Roman Missal, Postcommunion for Sunday within the Octave of Ascension | 115. Ibid., Postcommunion for First Sunday after Pentecost | 116. Code of Canon Law, can. 810 | 117. Book IV, c. 12 | 118. Dan. 3:57 | 119. Cf. Jn. 16:3 | 120. Roman Missal, Secret for Mass of the Most Blessed Trinity | 121. Jn. 15:4 | 122. Council of Trent, Sess. 13, can. 1 | 123. Second Council of Constantinople, Anath, de trib. Capit., can. 9; compare Council of Ephesus, Anath. Cyrill, can 8. Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. 13, can. 6; Pius VI Constitution Auctorem fidei, n. 61 | 124. Cf. Enarr in Ps. 98:9 | 125. Apoc. 5:12, cp. 7:10 | 126. Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. 13, c. 5 and c. 6 | 127. In I ad Cor. 24:4 | 128. Cf. 1 Pt. 1:19 | 129. Mt. 11:28 | 130. Cf. Roman Missal, Collect for Mass for the Dedication of a Church | 131. Roman Missal, Sequence Lauda Sion in Mass for Feast of Corpus Christi | 132. Lk. 18:1 | 133. Heb. 13:15 | 134. Cf. Acts 2:1-15 | 135. Ibid., 10:9 | 136. Ibid., 3:1 | 137. Ibid., 16:25 | 138. Rom. 8:26 | 139. St. Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 85, n. 1 | 140. St. Benedict, Regula Monachorum, c. 19 | 141. Heb. 7:25 | 142. Explicatio in Psalterium, Preface (Migne) | 143. St. Ambrose, Enarr. in Ps. 1, n. 9 | 144. Ex. 31:15 | 145. Confessions, Book 9, c. 6 | 146. St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, Book 8, c. 17 | 147. Col. 3:1-2 | 148. St. Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 123, n. 2 | 149. Heb. 13:8 | 150. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica IIIª, q. 49 and q. 62, art. 5 | 151. Cf. Acts 10:38 | 152. Eph. 4:13 | 153. Roman Missal, Collect for Third Mass of Several Martyrs outside Paschaltide | 154. St. Bede the Venerable, Hom. subd. 70 for Feast of All Saints | 155. Roman Missal, Collect for Mass of St. John Damascene | 156. St. Bernard, Sermon 2 for Feast of All Saints | 157. Lk. 1:28 | 158. "Salve Regina." | 159. St. Bernard, In Nativ. B.M.V., 7 | 160. Heb. 10:22 | 161. Ibid., 10:21 | 162. Ibid., 6:19 | 163. Cf. Code of Canon Law, Can. 125 | 164. Cf. Jn. 14:2 | 165. Jn. 3:8 | 166. Cf. Jms. 1:17 | 167. Eph. 1:4 | 168. Cf. Apostolic Letter (Motu Proprio) Tra le sollecitudini, November 22, 1903 | 169. Ps. 68:9; Jn. 2:17 | 170. Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, Decree of May 26, 1937 | 171. Cf. Pius X, Apostolic Letter (Motu Proprio) Tra le sollectitudini | 172. Cf. Pius X, loc. cit.; Pius XI, Constitution Divini cultus, 2, 5 | 173. Pius XI, Constitution Divini cultus, 9 | 174. St. Augustine, Serm. 336, n. 1 | 175. Roman Missal, Preface | 176. St. Ambrose, Hexameron, 3:5, 23 | 177. Cf. Acts 4:32 | 178. Code of Canon Law, can. 1178 | 179. Pius XI, Constitution Divini cultus | 180. Cf. St. Augustine, Tract. 26 in John 13 | 181. Cf. Mt. 13:24-25 | 182. Encyclical letter Mystici Corporis | 183. Joel 2:15-16 | 184. 1 Thes. 5:19 | 185. lbid., 5:21 | 186. Heb. 13:17 | 187. 1 Cor. 14:33 | 188. Apoc. 5:13


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