What is it about a pipe organ that is so important that the fathers of the second Vatican Council actually recommended its use in worship?
In Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1963, it is stated that “… the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.”
First of all, think about what happened: in 1963 the Church states that “the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem” and immediately everyone went out and bought guitars, tambourines, electric pianos and started singing banal happy classy music that was a blend of Joan Baez and campfire songs. And they said, “This is the music of Vatican II!!! Yay!”
So the music of Vatican II is really pipe organ and Gregorian Chant, but all the good Catholics said, “Nah.”
Why are we to hold the pipe organ in high esteem? Because it adds wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and lifts man’s mind to God and higher things.
Precisely, and the fact that church music went in the other direction leads us to the conclusion that the other kind of music does not “add wonderful splendor” to worship. Can anyone deny that? When someone’s grandmother stands up front and warbles out an upbeat responsorial psalm or someone’s Dad sways to the beat in the choir up front singing some song that sounds like it comes from a half baked Broadway musical or a 1970s album by The Carpenters can we really say this brings “wonderful splendor” to the Church’s worship? I don’t think so.
Furthermore, does this music “lift man’s mind to God and higher things?” No. It might make one feel happy and gushy because the music has that effect, but are those sentimental feelings the same thing as divine worship? I have my doubts. Does this sweet music about togetherness and making the world a better place have any greater and more lasting effect than say, an old episode of The Brady Bunch or the puppets at Disneyworld singing “It’s a Small World After All”? This music is the ecclesiastical equivalent of that Coke ad with the song “I Want to Teach the World to Sing.”
Instead, what if we not only had a pipe organ, but we hired someone who knew how to play it? Then our worship would suddenly have a dimension of “wonderful splendor”. The hearts and minds would be lifted to God and higher things because the pipe organ is out of this world. Its not about our fickle emotions and music that makes us feel good. It is music that lifts us, transports us and through the mystery of music opens our hearts as it opens our ears.
Music–not just happy songs–communicates in a language beyond words and opens deep reservoirs within the soul. Our conversation with God in contemplation takes place there in a world beyond words–in a world where words are transposed into a deeper music and a deeper magic. The music of a pipe organ makes us stop and listen to a stranger and more mysterious reality. It makes us pay attention to mysteries that are present in the Mass which are beyond the capacity of words to understand.
In the practical, utilitarian and cheap world in which we live this kind of mystery and magic and mysticism is needed more than ever. What dull lives we lead pursuing physical pleasures and more and more possessions. What dull lives we lead, robbed of mystery and the transcendent. What dull lives we lead without the beyond, without worship, without prayer, without contemplation and without beauty.
So as we build our new church at Our Lady of the Rosary we are investing in a pipe organ. Sure, it costs more than an electronic organ. Real flowers cost more than plastic flowers and you would not buy a fake diamond for your lady love now would you?
The organ will bring wonderful splendor to our worship, but I also see it kind of like flowers and diamonds for the one we love. They are costly, but they are beautiful, good and true. They express the permanence of our love and the transcendence of our devotion.
Will you help us make this a reality? If you go to this page you can learn more about the organ we are purchasing. It’s a fairly modest instrument appropriate for our new church —it’s not as splendid as the one pictured above!
The price of the organ is factored into our financial planning, but we also need to build and organ chamber for the mechanics of the instrument. This costs $38,000. You can go to this page and watch a video to see and hear the organ we are installing. If everyone who reads this blog were to go to this page and make even a small donation we would get there.
I hear many complaints from readers about the dire situation of church music in the Catholic Church. If you agree with my diagnosis and the church’s cure will you put some of your money towards this project which aims to correct the abuses?
The fund now stands at $32,619. That means we only need $5,381 more. Let’s round it up and break it down
Let’s say we need $5,500 to reach our target. We would only need five $1,000 donors and one $500 donor. Those who donate $1,000 or more are entitled to make a honorary or memorial naming on the plaque which will be on the organ console. Can you be one of the $1,000 donors and invest that much in good church music?
Or we need eleven $500 donors. Or we need 22 people to donate $250. Only 22? Do you know how many people read this blog? That should not be too difficult.
I hope you will do what you can!
I ask you please to help and to share this blog post with others. You can also use the “share” buttons at the bottom of this blog page and the parish web page about the organ to share easily and quickly.
Many thanks and God Bless You!