School of Theology and Seminary Faculty Publications


The Music "Specially Suited to the Roman Liturgy": On the One Hand...

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Arts and Humanities | Catholic Studies | Liturgy and Worship | Music | Religion


Article 116 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium states that “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.” These are strong words of affirmation for the traditional music found in the liturgical books of the Roman Rite. These words need to be understood in context. They are part of a liturgy constitution which expresses a constant back-and-forth between tradition and innovation. In what follows, I offer five positive reasons, “on the one hand,” why Gregorian chant is “specially suited” or “proper” to the Roman liturgy. But each of these reasons calls forth “on the other hand” reflections which show the complexity and ambiguity inherent to the issue.