Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Voice and the Liturgy

Pope Benedict XVI said it best,

It is clear that in the liturgy of the Logos, of the Eternal Word, the word and thus the human voice have an essential role to play. (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 207)

Within the liturgy, there are a number of “voices” that are heard. You could break the various voices into the following:

  • Oratio – the priestly voice or mode of prayer
  • Lectio – the prophetic voice
    • Prophets: Old Testament reading
    • Apostles: New Testament/Epistle reading
    • Gospel: Read of solemnly sung at High Mass
    • Homily: Teaching voice of the Lord through the deacon, priest and bishop
  • Responsorials – the various responses of the Bride (assembled congregation) to the Bridegroom
    • Psalmady: The response of the Bride to the words of the Prophets encouraging her to act
    • Acclamations: These held great importance in the world of the ancient liturgy (Memorial Acclamations)
    • Antiphonal: The preparation of the Bride’s heart to hear the Word of the Lord
  • New Song – “the great song the Church sings as she goes off toward the music of the New Heaven and Earth(The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 208)
    • Congregational Singing
    • Antiphonal Singing
  • Silence – the voice of the Bride, when because of the greatness of the mystery, she gasps and is silent yielding to the beauty and quickening of the spirit

As we begin our week, we will look at these various voices and their place in the liturgy. Each has a place and when balanced correctly, sounds like a magnificent orchestra.

The Second Vatican Council was clear. The human voice is the primary instrument of the liturgy. Why? It is an intelligent sound that is directly linked to the movements of the will.

Of all the sounds of which human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, are capable, voice is the most privileged and fundamental. Musical instruments in the Liturgy are best understood as an extension of and support to the primary liturgical instrument, which is the human voice. (Sing Unto the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, paragraph 80)

So, this week, let’s think about our voice and its place in the liturgy. Ever considered that?

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