Music in the Mass

by Sharon K. Vander Zyl

Each time I attend Mass I see fellow parishioners who do not open the hymnal or the Missalette when the songs are announced and sung.  Rather, they stand tight-lipped and quiet.  I always feel sadness when I witness this. I feel sadness because those who do not sing the chosen hymns miss out on this important facet of the Eucharist—the praise and worship of God.  In the scriptures, we are often told to worship the Lord in song, particularly in the Psalms.

“Sing to the Lord a new song, skillfully play with a joyful chant” Ps 33:3.

“To you we owe our hymn of praise, O God on Zion” Ps 65:1.

“Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing of his glorious name, give him glorious praise”  Ps 66:1.

“Come let us sing joyfully to the Lord; cry out to the rock of our salvation.  Let us come before him with a song of praise, joyfully sing out our Psalms”  Ps 95:12.

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful song”  Ps 100:1.

“I sing of mercy and justice, to you Lord, I sing praise”  Ps 101:1.

“Give thanks to the Lord, invoke his name.  Make known among the peoples his deeds.  Sing praise to him, play music; proclaim all his wondrous deeds”  Ps 105:12.

“My heart is steadfast, God, my heart is steadfast.  Let me sing and chant praise”  Ps 108:2.

“Praise the Lord, my soul; I will praise the Lord all of my life, sing praise to my God while I live” Ps 146:1.

“How good to sing praise to our God; how pleasant to give fitting praise”  Ps 147:1.

“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; with the lyre make music to our God”  Ps 147:7.

“Sing to the Lord a new song; his praise in the assembly of the faithful”  Ps 149:1.

St. Augustine is quoted as saying, “To sing is to pray twice.”  We  are told in scripture that the angels and the Saints are praising God continually.  Perhaps we should prepare ourselves here for our eventual (hopefully, if we persevere to the end) heavenly vocations!  When I have, on occasion, brought this to someone’s attention the reply is often, “I can’t sing.”  This misses the point of liturgical music.  We are not performing, we are praising God.  Each of the hymns is a prayer carefully chosen by the music minister (who is guided by Holy Mother Church and the Holy Spirit) to support the other prayers and scriptures of the Mass.  Even if one does not have a “singing voice” he can open the book and pray the words with the family of God present at the Mass.  Reading and focusing on the words of the carefully chosen hymns will most certainly deepen the spiritual experience of the Mass.

So—the next time you are at Mass, make a joyful noise unto the Lord with your fellow worshippers or, at the very least, open the book, notice and pray the words of the hymns with us. 

May God Bless Us All!