The Australian Sacred Music Association is a not for profit organisation dedicated to the propagation of liturgical music throughout the Catholic Church in Australia.
The Church supplies us with ample criteria, outlining which musical forms are appropriate for the liturgy. This body of musical work is a rich and ancient tradition stretching back to the Jewish Temple.
The Church defines that the purpose of sacred music is for ‘the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful’ and to this end, its principle function is to ‘clothe the sacred texts’ with beauty and splendour, and to ‘give them greater efficacy’.
Catholics in the pews are largely unaware that a restoration of their sacred music tradition has been consistently called for by the Church for over a century. This constant call for a restoration implies that the tradition has undergone a substantial period of decay, and yet, in these modern times, this unparalleled body of musical works is now more accessible than ever, and merely awaits rediscovery.
However, the necessary expertise to regain our Catholic tradition will require a broad and systematic educational process, and this necessity is repeatedly cited in the Church’s documents. Furthermore, the 20th century catch-phrase of ‘active participation’ of the faithful needs clarification. With respect to the musical tradition, active participation can only be fully realised through the formation of proficient choirs along with the training and encouragement of congregations in singing their specific parts of the Mass.
The impact of a restoration of the Church’s sacred music promises to have a far reaching effect on both the ecclesiastical and societal spheres. If at the centre of our church communities there is a music that truly fulfils its purpose – to give glory to God and to sanctify the faithful – then it will most certainly have a transformative effect on the culture at large.
The Church esteems ‘Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the liturgy’ and states in the constitution of the Second Vatican Council that it should be given ‘pride of place’ in liturgical services. The Church also sanctions other forms of liturgical music giving special mention to ‘Classic Polyphony especially of the Roman School’.
At the conclusion of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI wrote the following words in an apostolic letter, which summarises the spirit in which the Australian Sacred Music Association receives the Church’s directives for music in the liturgy:
‘Obey, then, these prescriptions sincerely and calmly. It is not an excessive love of old ways that prompts them. They derive, rather, from Our fatherly love for you, and from Our concern for divine worship’. – Sacrifícium Láudis August 15th 1966, Paul VI
‘The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art…the Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services’. – Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II