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 CNS Story:

CHURCH-MUSIC Jul-20-2004 (770 words) xxxn

Theologian calls music ministers trailblazers of Vatican II church

By Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Music ministers are trailblazers leading lay people to their proper role in the church following the Second Vatican Council, a leading theologian told a gathering of pastoral musicians in Philadelphia July 8.

Few Catholics realize the "sacramental significance" of the entire congregation of worshippers giving themselves to God in a collective song of praise, said Dominican Father Paul J. Philibert, one of the main speakers at the Eastern Regional Convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

"Who draws the assembly of the faithful into the church's work of praise? You do," he said.

Father Philibert, who teaches at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, said that, according to Vatican II, in the liturgy "Christ joins the entire community of humankind to himself, associating it with himself in singing his divine song of praise."

He said the council "identifies the church's sacrifice of praise -- its participation in the priestly sacrifice of Christ before his Father -- with the faithful's songs within the church's liturgy."

Yet "there are still people in the Roman Catholic Church, some of them ordained, who consider sacred music an ornament -- a nice addition if you can work it out, but not all that important," he said.

In the Catholic culture before Vatican II, "the Mass was the priest's Mass, and from it he gave the treasure of holy Communion to the laity. The laity were spectators at a sacred drama," he said.

But with the council the church's understanding of priests and laity "underwent a radical transformation," he added.

"The laity are no longer spectators, but rather the active subject of the church's liturgical action. ... The faithful present their very selves as a living and holy sacrifice pleasing to God," he said.

Another dimension of the council's theology was that the church's mission was no longer entrusted exclusively or primarily to priests and religious, he said. Rather, "apostolic action flows from the grace of baptism itself. ... Baptism is the essential consecration of Christians -- all other gifts and charisms flow from that."

Father Philibert described music ministers as "key players for the emerging new church in the age of baptismal empowerment."

"This is your vocation as a minister of sacred music. You are artist, leader, teacher, coach and spiritual director for your teams of musicians and for your parishes as well," he said.

He compared the work of Vatican II to the collision of two formerly separate land masses, dominating clergy and passive laity, to form a new, largely uncharted continent.

"On this new spiritual continent, the focus of the Eucharist is not principally upon the bread changed into the eucharistic body of Christ, but upon the people who become changed into the mystical body of Christ," he said.

"The very identity of the faithful is changed, making them 'one body, one Spirit in Christ,'" he added. "The Eucharist in its transforming power is the means of our sanctification. The building up of the body of Christ in the world is the end or purpose of the Eucharist."

In that context, he said, the central role of music in the liturgy becomes clearer.

"Sacred music is the rite. It is the Mass -- not something interesting done at Mass," he said. "The entrance song, response psalm, Communion song and meditations are neither entertainment nor diversions. They create the theological context that directly implicates the faithful of the assembly in the sacred action. ... The logic of faith demands that the people who are God's people give themselves together in song."

He noted that the late theologian, Father Hans Urs von Balthasar, called the transformation of the people in the liturgy a "second transubstantiation." In the Eucharist, Father Philibert said, Christ gives himself to the people in the sacramental sign of bread and wine, and the people give themselves to the Father in the sacramental sign of "their song of praise."

"It is not the beauty of the celebration so much as the truth of the sacrament that is our concern. ... Most of the faithful -- most of the ordained -- do not understand the sacramental significance of the church's common voice of praise," he said.

"From a liturgical analysis, something is missing from a celebration of Eucharist in which large numbers of those who have gathered to celebrate abstain from the common song of the assembly," he said. "That sacred common song is not only a symbol of the idea of solidarity in the body of Christ, it is the very instrument and vehicle of achieving the sacrament of that solidarity."


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