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Posted February 19, 2004

Book: General Instruction of the Roman Missal
Liturgy Documentary Series 2
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
USCCB Publishing, Washington, D.C. pp.156

An Excerpt from the Foreword:

The liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council have enjoyed great success in bringing many Catholics closer to the perfect sacrifice of praise that Christ the Lord offered from the wood of the Cross. Perhaps most of all, the reforms of the Missale Romanum, which regulates the celebration of the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 47), have been the cause and witness of this great work.

The first stages of the postconciliar reform of the Mass were marked by Pope Paul VI’s apostolic constitution Missale Romanum (1969), which was quickly followed by the revised Ordo Missae (1970), including the first edition of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (1970). This last document, which described the form for the new Order of Mass, was further revised in 1972 and yet more definitely as a part of the editio typica altera of the Missale Romanum on March 27, 1975.

After many years of preparation, the publication of an editio typica tertia of the Missale Romanum was authorized by Pope John Paul II in the course of the Jubilee Year of our Redemption and was published in spring 2001. This long-awaited revision includes a new edition of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani. On November 12, 202, the Latin Church members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a translation of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. The translation was confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on March 17, 2003 (Prot. N. 2235/02/L).

The translation is published in this volume as a revision of the BCL Liturgy Documentary Series 2, which first appeared in 1970 and was intended to aid a common understanding of the first edition of the Missale Romanum. With the publication of the third edition of the Missale Romanum, the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL) hopes that this publication of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal will assist with that same goal in our present day.

This revised Institutio Generalis possesses a unique role among all the documents on the liturgy. Like its preceding editions, it has been published in order to give life to a dream. It was the dream of reformers such as St. Hippolytus, St. Gregory, and St. Leo. It was the dream of Pope Paul VI and clearly remains the vision of Pope John Paul II, who calls us to “an ever deeper grasp of the liturgy of the Church, celebrated according to the current books and lived above all as a reality in the spiritual order: (Vicesimus Quintus Annus, 1988, no. 14). Likewise, this dream is shared by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that it serves. Finally, it is the vision of the Church itself: the dream of God’s people joined to Christ in Baptism and made “ever more holy by conscious, active, and fruitful participation in the mystery of the Eucharist” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 5).

Excerpt from the Book:

The Importance of Singing

39. The Christian faithful who gather together as one to await the Lord’s coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (cf. Col. 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart’s joy (cf. Acts 2:46). Thus St. Augustine says rightly, “Singing is for one who loves.” There is also the ancient proverb: “One who sings well prays twice.”

40. Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebration that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.

In the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are of the greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.

41. All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.

Since faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, set to the simpler melodies.

Movements and Posture

42. The gestures and posture of the priest, the deacon, and the ministers, as well as those of the people, ought to contribute to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, so that the true and full meaning of the different parts of the celebration is evident and that the participation of all is fostered. Therefore, attention should be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.

[It is recommended here that the works of Romano Guardini on sacred signs and gestures on our web site be consulted. Go to Selected Authors — Romano Guardini.]