Mediator Dei, Cont. (2)
On The Sacred Liturgy
Pope Pius XII
November 20, 1947
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)
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)
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.
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.
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."
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)
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.
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)
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)
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
"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
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)
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.
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)
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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)
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
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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
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
they find no one to answer or serve them.
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)
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.
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
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
that gives due tribute of praise to the Eternal Father.
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.
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)
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].
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)
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)
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.
at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, on the 20th day of November in the
year 1947, the 9th of Our Pontificate.
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.
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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