“David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” (2 Samuel 6:5)
THANK you Cedric Wright (CL 17/11/13), for bringing up the important point about whether music is a dist-raction in the Mass.
I am sure this topic is controversial – some saying that “when you sing you pray twice” and the Gloria should be 45 minutes long and sung by a full choir with orchestra, and others saying that music is a distraction from Mass, and should be avoided so we can pray more fully.
Indeed we should ask ourselves – why do we have music in the Mass?
Why don’t we just say everything and be done with it?
To answer this question we have to first ask what is the purpose of music?
Music is first and foremost a gift from God, and it is meant to bring harmony, order and beauty into the world.
Music emerges from the soul and this musical sense was put there by God at man’s creation.
We must be aware that music has the power to move our soul.
It has the power to change our emotions, and bring either good or evil into our souls.
St John Chrysostom says: “From strange chants harm, ruin, and many grievous matters are brought into the mind … making it softer and weaker; from the spiritual Psalms, however, proceeds much of value, much utility, much sanctity, and every inducement to philosophy, for the words purify the mind and the Holy Spirit descends swiftly upon the mind of the singer.”
So we see that good music is beneficial for our souls, and bad music has detrimental effects.
This is because music is an intimate part of our being, as well as being one of the many beautiful ways God gave us to communicate.
Therefore music can and should be a way of praying.
Not only does it excite pious dispositions in us by means of the beautifully constructed harmonies, but it has the power to bring truth to the mind – through the words sung, as well as by the sheer beauty and perfection of the music, which will bring us closer to God.
Choosing the right music for the Mass is important.
We definitely do not want it to be a distraction, and, because of the power of music, we must be careful that the music is doctrinally sound and liturgically fitting.
St Jerome says: “Sing to God, not with the voice but with the heart; not after the fashion of tragedians (theatre singers) so that theatrical melodies and songs are heard in the church, but in fear, in work, and in knowledge of the Scriptures. And let the servant of Christ sing so that he pleases, not through his voice, but through the words which he pronounces, in order that the evil spirit which was upon Saul may depart from those who are similarly troubled and may not enter into those who would make of the house of God a popular theatre.”
So, I agree that music should not be a distraction.
I would say however, that we must be aware that God created us with the wonderful gift of music, and we should try our best to really appreciate it, and learn how best to use it.
Many of us have trouble following the hymns and chants, and often we really don’t like the music we’re singing.
But whatever our problem, we should endeavour to overcome it because God created us with a sense of music, and music will truly lead us to Him.