By Valentine Umoh

  1. Introduction[1]

The experience of encounter with the holy, awe-provoking yet fascinatingly attractive, is known from the history of religions.[2] This experience invites engagement with a transcendent “Holy mystery” or “ground of being” who at once is utterly beyond all created personal beings and is very near (immanent) to them. In both Judaism and Christianity God is the Holy One and Creator of all that exists (cf. Gen 1; Deut 6:4; John 1:1-3). By their very existence created things praise their creator; God is glorified by all the creatures God has made. Human beings, endowed with reason and will, have been created according to God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:27). They are free to choose the way of life or the way of death. When they choose good, their lives acknowledge God as personal source and goal and God is glorified. When human beings contradict God’s purposes they sin, “miss the mark.” The content of worship is the glorification of God and the edification (salvation) of man. This clearly expresses the relationship between God and His creatures.

Against the foregoing backdrop therefore this paper titled “The function of music in Sacred worship: the role of choristers” has as its telos the unravelling of the true meaning of Sacred worship; its types, forms and modes of expression. Since it is a paper presented to choristers it shall take a specific look at the place of music in worship as well as the vocation of the choristers. To put the paper in proper perspective let us first understand “Sacred worship.”

  1. What is Sacred Worship?

In Hebrew, the word worship is a derivation from the root ‘abad. Which means “to serve.”[3] In Greek it is presented as leitourgia which referred to the public office performed gratuitously by an Athenian on behalf of the whole citizenry.[4] Worship both from its Hebrew and Greek roots expresses service(s) rendered to a god, deity, God. It is concretely defined as the prayerful homage and recognition given to God by acts of the body or mind, or both, to acknowledge His dignity, superior position, worth, and primarily supreme dominion.[5] These actions may be public and communal or private. Worship is a genuine expression by which humanity exhibits its dependence upon the loving creator. Worship is a medium through which a relationship between God and man is instituted. The initiative for this relationship however springs from God who reveals himself. In answer/ response to this self-revelation of God man adores God in worship. This worship not only expresses the need a man has of a creator upon whom he entirely depends, but it also fulfils a duty. Worship is duty man owes God as his creator.

What then is Sacred Worship? This distinction is very important so that we don’t miss the link. The adjective “Sacred” means revered due to sanctity, it designates in general the state of being holy, considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring awe or reverence among believers.[6] Sacred and Holy are always used interchangeably in Christian parlance. If we want to twist the two terms ‘sacred’ and ‘worship’ together ‘sacred worship’ could mean a holy, revered, worthy duty/adoration/homage done to God by man. How we can achieve this then becomes the linchpin of this paper.

However, by sacred worship we will refer to that homage, adoration whereby the Church (both its head and members) offers to God. In this regard therefore, Sacred Worship, Sacred Liturgy, Divine Worship, Liturgical Worship and Christian Worship as variously used by different authors become synonymous in this presentation. In this latter sense therefore, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council defined it thus:

An exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. It involves the presentation of man’s sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs. In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members.[7]

According to the Council Fathers, “it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.”[8]

However, it must be very clear that while Sacred Liturgy is Sacred Worship in the Catholic tradition not all Worship is Liturgy.

  1. Worship in the Scriptures

Obviously, the concept of worship is the leitmotif of the entire Sacred Scriptures, for God’s self-revelation and communication of Himself to man was meant to elicit a corresponding response from man. However, the word “worship” appears 113 times in the Old testament and 77 times in the New testament.[9] In Genesis 1 God speaks a creative word and creation comes to its fullness. The prophets speak in God’s name (in persona Dei), often in the context of ritual activity or some seasonal festival (e.g Amos 5: 21 -24; 8:9-10). Their prophetic utterance demands a reciprocal action from the hearers. An individual’s experience in a sacred place, e.g. on the mountaintop (Exod 19:3-6; 24:1-2, 9-11) or Temple (Isa 6), exhibits the underlying structure of religious worship. In a vision Isaiah experiences God as the awe-inspiring yet fascinating revelation (mysterium tremendum et fascinans) which has its parallel in many religions. This transcendent God, insistently present and involved in human history, is the object of worship by virtue of active engagement in the world.

The OT cite blessing and petitionary prayers, songs, and hymns of praise; some of these are accompanied by celebratory actions. The laudatory Song of Moses and the Israelites (I will sing to the Lord glorious His triumph in Exod 15:1-18) is followed immediately by Miriam’s song of praise and her dance to the beat of the tambourine in company with all the Israelite women (Exod 15:20-21). The OT also presents us with some patterns for communal worship. Exodus 24 combines the reading of the law with performance. The setting of the prayer of Solomon is the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem where the whole people are assembled at a time of festival (1 Kgs 8). A solemn procession and animal sacrifices are the action-elements accompanying the blessing and petitionary prayer uttered by the king. Psalm 117 expresses the universal call to worshipful praise of God:

Praise the Lord, all you nations!

Extol Him, all you peoples!

For great is his steadfast love

Toward us,

And the faithfulness of the Lord

Endures forever.

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 118, which may have been chanted in the procession entering the temple on the feast of tabernacles (Neh 8-9), begins by calling the people to thanksgiving. Each day the Law of Moses is read and interpreted so that the people can understand (Neh 8).[10] A ritual pattern for common worship on a feast day is found in the “national confession” or atonement liturgy of Nehemiah 9. This ritual takes place on the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. The service contains features continued in Christian liturgical worship: the people assemble (v.1) and confess their sins (v.2); this is followed by reading from the Book of the Law (v.3). Then the Levites, exercising a ‘diaconal’ role, call on the people to bless God (vv.4-5), and God is blessed by recounting the great events of salvation history (vv.6-31). The pivotal verse (32) acknowledges God’s covenant faithfulness and admits the people’s infidelity. Then the signatories to the renewed covenant are listed in chapter 10 and the obligations taken on by the people spelled out (vv.28ff). In summary, the reading of God’s word leads to confession and a personal-communal renewal of the covenant which is attested by visible signs.

In the Acts of the Apostles (the New Testament), the preaching of God’s mighty salvific deeds culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ leads to praise and thanksgiving on the part of the hearers and the response of faith in baptism.[11] Initially the NT show the community of Christ’s followers worshipping in the Jerusalem Temple, synagogue, and home (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 9:20). This life of faith is nourished in the Lord’s supper (1Cor 11:23-29). Sunday, the first day of the week and the day on which Christ rose (John 20:1, 19, 26; 1Cor 16:2; Acts 20:7), is the privileged day for assembly even though in Judaism the Sabbath was holy and in the Roman Empire the ‘day of the sun’ was an ordinary workday.

For Christians liturgy and life are inseparable; the bodily and the spiritual are integrated (Rom 12:1-3). The whole Christian worship can be brought back to three commands: “pray always” (1Thess 5:17; 2Thess 1:11; Col 1:9); “Baptize all nations” (Matt 28: 19-20) and “Do this in memory of me” (1Cor 11:25). Although exhortations to prayer (Col 4:2-3) and fragmentary elements such as confessions and acclamations abound (Rev 4:11; 5: 13-14; 19:4-9; 22:20-21), the NT provide no order of service. This will subsequently be developed in the early Church.[12] However, Christian prayer, the “sacrifice of praise’ is directed to God and mediated through Christ (Heb 13:15) in the Spirit.

  1. Sacred Worship in the Church’s Magisterium

Pope Pius XII in his 1947 encyclical, Mediator Dei defined Sacred Liturgy as “the public worship which our Redeemer, the Head of the Church, has shown to the heavenly Father; and which the society of the faithful in Christ attribute to their Founder, and through Him to the eternal Father…it constitutes the public worship of the mystical body of Jesus Christ, namely, the Head and its members.”[13] He warns in clear terms that it is entirely wrong for one to view what the Church does in Liturgy as a mere external part of divine worship. Liturgy is the Church’s official public worship. However, Sacrosanctum Concilium acknowledges that the spiritual life is not limited solely to participation in the Church’s public worship (liturgy). Even though Christians are called to pray with others, but he must also enter into his bedroom to pray to his Father in secret (cf. Matt 6:6) and according to the teaching of the apostle, he must pray without ceasing (cf. 1Thess 5:17). The Council Fathers in addition to the Church’s liturgy encourages the Christians to be actively involved in popular devotions.[14] Let us now examine the types, levels and forms of worship.

5.0 Types, Levels and Forms of Worship


5.1 Types of Worship

There are basically two types of worship, namely Public or communal worship and private worship.[15] The public worship carried out by the people of God, the mystical body of Christ and the Church is what is referred to as Sacred Liturgy. This would include: The Sacrifice of the Mass, The Celebration of the Sacraments, Office of the Hours (Divine Office – lauds, sexts, vespers and compline with office of the reading) and Benediction. While other pious acts of worship such as Stations of the Cross (via crucis), praying the rosary, and other pious devotion (Such as Sacred Heart Devotion, Blue Army, Legion of Mary, Block Rosary Crusade, St. Anthony’s Guild etc) even when done in common in a church or anywhere else do not qualify as liturgy, they remain private worship and are highly encouraged and valued in the tradition of the Church. Private worship would also include individual patterns of reverence, adoration and recognition of God.

5.2 Levels of Worship[16]

Latria – Adoration: This is act of worship owed, due to and offered to God alone because of preeminent excellence and to show our total subservience to and dependence on Him. This sign of interior reverence is usually shown outwardly by symbolic gestures of bowing (profound bow) and kneeling.

Hyperdulia – honour: This a special form of homage given to Mary in her role as Mother of God, Co-redemptress with Christ, and Mediatrix of all graces. It is clearly different from the adoration given to God, it stresses her unique sanctity, beyond that of all other creatures, angels and Saints.

Dulia – veneration: This is a type of veneration which honours the Saints and Angels, because their friend God manifested Himself in them. Again, it is not the same as the worship of adoration given to God alone.

5.3 Forms of Worship

There are various forms of worship. These will include praise, petition, repentance, thanksgiving, adoration and sacrifice. In catholic tradition the highest form of worship would surely be considered the Sacrifice of the Mass, since it commemorates the greatest act of worship by which Jesus gave Himself totally to God the Father. The reception of the other sacraments allows us not only to honour the supreme deity but to receive through them the grace necessary to eventually achieve an abundant and everlasting life.

  1. The use of symbolism in Sacred worship

A symbol is a sign of the created world which not only points beyond itself to some ultimate reality, but already in some sense ‘contains’ that reality. As “embodied spirit” the human person is a ‘real symbol.’[17] A true symbol has prior meaning which awaits recognition. But, why the use of symbols in worship? Patrick Byrne gives a very clear and apologetic answer to this above aporia thus:

…we use symbols in worship because we are human, and because we are dealing with mysteries that we cannot fully grasp or explain. Human language is not able to speak about God with the same certainty or in precise, pragmatic terms that we use about building codes, computer standards, or cubic measures. To speak about God and God’s continuing action among us in life and in liturgy, we need to use similes and metaphors, the kind of language God uses to speak to us in the scriptures. To express our faith through our worship, we need to use symbols which say in action who we are and what we believe and do in the deepest levels of our reality; to be precise, these symbols express what God is doing in us, and how we are responding in God’s grace.[18]

Symbols in our liturgy are best understood not only in terms of objects (such as water, bread and wine, or oil), but also as actions (what we do with the water – cleansing or baptizing; or what we do with the bread and wine – eating and drinking together, in memory of the Lord Jesus Christ; or what we do by anointing – strengthening and healing). Christian symbols used at worship are not vague intellectual images to be grasped by the mind alone. Rather, they are sights for our seeing (movement, light, colours), sounds for our hearing (singing, music, prayers), scents for our smelling (incense, chrism), tastes for our savouring (freshly baked bread, wine, and touches for our feeling (anointing, handshakes).

For the sake of emphasis let us explore the use of some symbols

i. Sharing a sign of peace

Here is the symbol: cleansed by the penitential rite, the hearing of the word of God with faith, the offering of Christ and themselves in the Eucharistic prayer, and the fervent praying of the Lord’s prayer, God’s holy people in this community share a sign of peace and love with their sisters and brothers in Christ. The symbol reminds us of the goal of Christ’s rule on earth: “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”[19]

ii. Using lights and vestments

Here is the symbol: the NT speaks of Jesus as the light of the world. (cf. John 1:9; 8:12; 9:5). It also mentions special clothing, vesture, or vestments in its description of heaven. (cf. Rev. 1:13; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9-10; 7:13-14; 19:14) We see candles as reminders of Christ our light. Special vesture in the liturgy can be understood as a sign that we want our worship to be done with beauty and dignity

iii. burning incense

Here is the symbol: the aromatic smoke rising from the burning incense is an image of the prayers of the saints on earth. This meaning is found in scripture (Exod 30:1-8; I Kgs 6:19-22; Luke 1:8-23, Rev. 8:3-4 etc). This symbol speaks to us of our reverence towards God and of our prayer. It can also remind us that God continues to be present among us, and that our prayers are being offered to our God.

iv. Singing and playing music

Here is the symbol: Christ the singer continues to sing his song of thanks and praise to God through the minds, hearts, voices, lives, talents, and instruments of this gathered community of faith. Jesus is God’s Word to us, and our word to God (cf. John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18; Heb 1:1-4)

Other symbols would include washing of feet, Laying on of hands, Sprinkling with water, anointing with oil etc.[20]

Fortunately for us many of these symbols are referred to in the hymns, psalms, canticles and anthems that we sing. It therefore means that wedding these symbolic actions with our singing can make their meaning become more evident.

7.0 Active participation: the leitmotif of conciliar reforms on Sacred Worship: The Mass as the focal point.

It is no longer news that one of the major highlights of the Second Vatican Council’s document, Sacrosanctum Concilium was the engendering of a more active, conscious and meaningful participation in the Church’s sacred worship. With this in view then, this paper will not be complete if it fails to underline this point. This will be done through a cursory glance at the structure of the Mass. Many at times this is presumed but in the wake of the challenges of the New Evangelization, it should no longer be presumed. Man is in need of a constant and continuous catechesis.

7.1 Structure of the Mass: The Mass is basically structured into two parts: the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. They are so interconnected that they form one single act of worship for according to SC in the Mass the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body is prepared, from which the faithful may be instructed and refreshed.[21]

7.2 Elements of the Mass: The elements of the Mass include: Reading and Explanation of the Word of God, the presidential prayers (that is the collect, prayer over the gifts and post-communion prayer), the acclamations and responses, singing, movements and postures and silence. They occupy a place of prominence in engendering and fostering an active participation. However, among these elements greater attention is given the Reading and explanation of the Word of God for when the sacred scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel.[22] Listening attentively to what is proclaimed becomes the best way of active participation in this regards. This active and reverential listening that goes with meditation is also to be given to the presidential prayers; the collect, the prayer over the offering, prayer after communion and above all to the Eucharistic prayer, which is the high point of the whole celebration.[23] The place occupied by singing, movements and postures as well as silence in the celebration of the Mass is not to be undervalued. GIRM 40 states that ‘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’. Talking about postures and movements the GIRM instructs that a common posture is to be observed by all participants as a sign of unity of the members of the Christian Community gathered for the Sacred liturgy.[24] These gestures and posture of the priest, the deacon, the ministers and indeed all the worshipping community 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 becomes evident and participation of all is fostered. Sacred silence now becomes part of the celebration and is to be observed at the designated times.[25]Some of these include: in and around the church before celebration; before the penitential rite, after opening Prayer “Let us pray”; before liturgy of the Word; before and after scriptural readings; after the homily; after communion; after Post communion “Let us pray” when not preceded by silence after communion. The goal is that the faithful have time to meditate on the mystery celebrated.[26]

7.3 Individual parts of the Mass: The individual parts of the Mass include: The Introductory Rites, The Liturgy of the Word, The Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Concluding rites. The individual parts of the Mass are so structured for a more effective participation of the faithful.

The introductory rites are those preceding the Liturgy of the Word, namely the Entrance Greeting, Act of Penitence, Kyrie, Gloria, and Collect. All these have the same character of a beginning, introduction, and preparation.[27]

The Liturgy of the Word is made up of the readings from Sacred Scripture together with the chants occurring between them. The homily, Profession of Faith, and Prayer of the Faithful, however, develop and conclude this part of the Mass.[28]

In order for the faithful to be spiritually enriched from the table of the word there is a call for the maintenance of a slow and unhurried pace as well as periods of silence throughout the whole liturgy of the Word. This is expressed in a forceful language; it is not only encouraged but demanded. “The Liturgy of the word must be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation. For this reason any sort of haste that hinders recollection must be avoided.”[29] After the readings and the homily, the purpose of silence is to allow the Holy Spirit to help “the word of God be grasped by the heart.”[30] It is prescribe that we spend some moments reflecting on what we have heard in the Scriptures. What images or phrases stay in our minds? What is God saying to me at this time? To the parish? To our nation or our world? What is our response to God’s word? By so doing the real meaning of participation as echoed by Benedict XVI is realized. He wrote:

It should be made clear that the word “participation” does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration. In fact, the active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life[31]

The solemnity with which the Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated makes it clear that participation is not all about external actions of singing, dancing, clapping, etc, it calls for a real interior participation of the faithful. This is better realized by meditating on the Word proclaimed which will eventually challenge the faithful to mission.

The liturgy of the Eucharist is that part of the Mass that begins with the preparation of the gifts and ends with, Holy Communion (and prayer after Communion). It is the time in which we offer gifts of bread and wine to be prayed over broken and shared. We pray the great prayer of thanksgiving for the many deeds God has done in and through Jesus Christ. And finally, we eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ that we might be nourished to go out to the world to be Christ to those who are in need of our love and care. These actions of Christ, taking, blessing, breaking and sharing, constitute the liturgy of the Eucharist: the preparation of the gifts, the Eucharistic prayer, and the breaking of bread and communion. Kneeling is prescribed as the normal posture the faithful should take during the Eucharistic prayer. However, if prevented from kneeling for a good reason, the faithful may stand. However, it is to be noted that unity of posture at this time of the Mass is an overriding goal, whether kneeling or standing, everyone in the church should be doing the same thing.

  1. The place of music in sacred worship

When we understand that music and singing are a symbol and foretaste of heaven then the preeminent place of music in worship becomes evident. Heaven’s liturgy of praise and thanks is often described in terms of angels and saints who sing and play musical instruments. (cf. Rev. 4:1-11; 5:9-14). Worship on earth is to be a foretaste of the heavenly celebration in honour of our loving God.[32] Historically, the reformation churches accepted the practice of singing by all members of the congregation in each Sunday celebration in the 16th century. Four centuries later, the Second Vatican Council encouraged Catholics to sing during liturgical celebrations.[33] Full participation by the people is most important, since this is the primary and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit. Sung liturgy is most preferred for Sunday celebrations in the light of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, St. Augustine tells us that “singing belongs to lovers” and that “those who sing well pray twice.”[34]

For Karl Fellerer there is no doubt that “Sacred music and liturgy are closely linked in divine worship.”[35] SC 112 repeats the fundamental idea of Pope Pius X’s Motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, that sacred music is an integral part of the solemn liturgy. It stresses that the raison d étre and importance of sacred music does not derive from the artistic doctrines of art for art’s sake; rather it is an integral part of the liturgy, and as such, it must be expressed as perfectly as possible in composition as well as in performance, because it must become musical art par excellence, worthy of expressing the adoration of God and capable of edifying the faithful.

In another development, Man is a singing being (homo cantatum est). So, if as St. Irenaeus says: “the glory of God is man alive.” It follows then that man’s worship and adoration of its creator cannot be complete unless man expresses it through those gestures that are peculiar to his being. Some extremists put it bluntly that “the first means of expression in worship is not language, but song. There is, therefore, no worship without music.”[36] While the above view is not totally wrong, it is not also totally correct. There can be a true worship without music, but music enhances and facilitates worship to a greater extent. Article 5 of Musicam Sacram states: “Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when it is celebrated in song, with the ministers of each degree fulfilling their ministry and the people participating in it.”[37]

9.0 Choristers: a privileged vocation in the service of Sacred worship

The foregoing understanding of the important role of music in sacred worship makes a claim for choristers as a privileged and indispensable vocation in the service of sacred worship. However, before a chorister values this vocation of singing, a better understanding of the foregoing backdrop is presupposed.

9.1 A Chorister is called to be Holy:

The called to holiness is a universal denominator for all Christians. No one is perfect, yes! But we all have the duty and obligation to strive towards perfection and holiness everyday. Always try to make peace with God through the Church once you have fallen into sin. Do not live and be comfortable in a state of sin. Make use of the means available in the Church ministry especially the Sacrament of reconciliation and other pious acts.

9.2 A Chorister is called to be humble:

God favours the humble but turns his face against the proud. Pride, they say, goes before a fall. The more gifted in music you are the humbler you should become so that your praises will find favour in God’s sight. Many a times those who cause discord in the Church are talented but proud choristers who are not ready to swallow their ego. They are always right and would not accept that they are wrong.

9.3 A Chorister is called to be docile:

Docility should be the hallmark of a true chorister. You must submit to the judgement of those in charge such as part leaders, choir master, directors, chaplains, pastors (parish priest). Rehearsing a simple song can be made difficult with the presence of ‘I Too Know’ choristers who are not ready to listen to the other.

9.4 A Chorister is called to share and radiate the love of God:

A chorister should remember that love is only perfected when it is shared. Learn to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and mourn with those who are in sorrow. Let your fellow chorister feel and see the Love of God in you through the mutual sharing of your time, talent and treasure with the other.

9.5 A Chorister is called to be exemplary in way of life:

As a Chorister in the Catholic Church you have the duty and obligation to bear witness to the authenticity and genuineness of the Catholic faith through an exemplary way of life in your place of work, market, business, school etc. Do not drag the name of the Church whose bearer you are to the mud through a careless way of life. History has shown that cases of immorality and indecency had been the prime factors capable of tarnishing the image and integrity of talented and promising choristers and their choirs. Be careful!

9.6 A Chorister is called to be an apostle of God’s mercy:

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Try to forgive those who wrong you in one way or the other so that you will not sing God’s praises in his Church with a guilty conscience and with grudges against your neighbour. God prefers you makes peace and reconcile with your brother first before coming to offer Him your sacrifice of praise.

9.7 A chorister is called to actively participate in the Church’s worship:

At times we see choristers only interested in the beauty of their songs/rendition or performance than in actively participating in the sacred worship. Many are distracted during the readings and the homily and even at the point of consecration. Worst of it, there is often a poor turn out for the reception of the Eucharist by the choristers. By so doing the beauty of your singing is completely distorted. How can you justify the fact that you sacrifice so much attending the sometimes-strenuous rehearsals for a Sunday Mass for instance then at the end you don’t participate in the reception of the Eucharist? Except for those with a genuinely serious obstacle (mostly canonical), there are a thousand and one means of reconciliation with your God through the Church.

  1. Concluding remarks and recommendations

Sacred Worship, Sacred Liturgy, Divine Worship, Liturgical Worship and Christian Worship as variously used by different authors which became synonymous in this presentation is the unreserved adoration/ homage man pays to his creator, God through the ministry of the Church (both its head and members). Though there are various forms, types, levels of this worship, the Church has always maintained that its highest is the sacrifice of the Mass because it commemorates and makes present (re-enacts) that supreme worship which Christ as the eternal high priest rendered to the Father on the cross on behalf of humanity. Extreme care should be taken therefore that the celebration of the sacrifice of Mass expresses the worship of the entire assembled people of God (in its head and members) through an active, conscious and meaningful participation in it by the people. In this regard Music has a serious role to play not only as one of the prime symbols in worship but more so as an integral part of worship. When this is clearly understood, then the vocation and indispensable role of choristers in our post-modern Church even as you celebrate this year’s choir week becomes clear and appreciated. I strongly recommend that Catholic choristers be exposed to an in-depth study, summary and analysis of Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, Musicam Sacram and other relevant Church documents for a better appreciation of their role in the Church.

[1] Originally a Lecture presented to the General Assembly of St. John’s Pro-cathedral Parish Choir, Abak on their 2015 choir week celebration at The Church Auditorium, Abak – Nigeria.

[2] Rudolf OTTO, The Idea of the Holy, London: Humphrey Milford, 1926. The encounters of Abraham, Moses, the prophets especially Elijah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, St. Paul in the New Testament are clear examples of this experience/ encounter with the holy.

[3] Marc-Francois LACAN, “Worship” in Xavier LEON-DUFOUR (ed), Dictionary of Biblical Theology, New York: Burn and Oates, 1982, p. 680.

[4] Mary SHAEFER, “What is Liturgical Worship?” In R. LEAVER & J. ZIMMERMAN (eds), Liturgy and Music: Lifetime Learning, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1998, p. 17.

[5] Jovian LANG, Dictionary of Liturgy, New York: Catholic Book Publishing co., 1989, p. 649.

[6] “Sacred” in Wikipedia@ www.wikipedia.org accessed 06/08/2015 10:34 AM.

[7] SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), 7.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Robert YOUNG, Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.

[10] For an in-depth study see related texts Psalm 106, Nehemiah 1:5-11, Ezra 9:6-15; Daniel 9:4-19; Baruch 1:15-3:8; Daniel 3:26-45; Jeremiah 32:17-25

[11] Op. cit., Mary SCHAEFER, “What is Liturgical Worship?”, p.12.

[12] The historical development of the Church’s worship is another broad topic that cannot be accommodated in the present paper.

[13] DENZINGER, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2002.

[14] SC 12 & 13.

[15] Op. cit., Jovian LANG, Dictionary of Liturgy, p. 649.

[16] Ibid., pp. 171, 258 & 308

[17] Op. cit., Mary SCHAEFER, “What is Liturgical Worship?”, p. 10.

[18] Patrick BYRNE, “Symbolic Actions in Christian Worship,” In R. LEAVER & J. ZIMMERMAN (eds), Liturgy and Music: Lifetime Learning, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1998, p. 70.

[19] Cf. Preface of the Solemnity of Christ the King

[20] For an in-depth study on these symbols, see Op. cit., Patrick BYRNE, “Symbolic Actions in Christian Worship,” pp. 75-99.

[21] Cf. SC, 48, 51, Dei Verbum, 21, Presbyterorum Ordinis 4, General Instruction of the Roman Missal, edition tertia, (GIRM) 28.

[22] GIRM 29.

[23] GIRM 30.

[24]GIRM 42.

[25] GIRM 45, Cf. SC 30,

[26]Catechetical Commission KK Archdiocese, Revised GIRM (2002)- 3rd typical edition, Google Books.

[27] GIRM 46

[28] GIRM 55

[29] GIRM 56

[30] Ibid.

[31] Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, 2007, n. 52.

[32] In Psalms 149 -150, the songs and hymns and many instruments may be considered as our human imitation and echo of the choirs of heaven. See also SC 8.

[33] See SC 8, 24, 29-30, 33, 39, 44, 46, 54, 91, 93, 99 and 112 – 121.

[34] Quoted in General Instruction of the Roman Missal, edition tertia, 39.

[35] Karl Fellerer, “Liturgy and Music,” in Johannes Overath (ed), Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform After Vatican II, Rome: Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae, 1969, p. 72.

[36] Ibid.

[37] S. C.R., Instruction, Musicam Sacram, on Music in the Liturgy, 5 March 1967.