What we lose when music is not real prayer

Aurelio Porfiri

What do we mean when we define liturgical music as prayer? We know well how the great Saint Augustine said that whoever sings prays twice. But what does it mean? First of all, we must get the idea of ​​music as entertainment out of our minds. That is, this is a function that we can certainly recognize in music, but it is certainly not its main and most important function.

Music, as the great Ludwig van Beethoven had well recognized, is the highest and most profound form of knowledge. Will this form of knowledge not be applied to the highest target, which is God? And in this case God is not only the known, but also the One who makes it known to us that music is a gift that comes from Him.

Music that we call sacred is not sacred in terms of the crystallization of a repertoire or particular styles and composers, but it is inasmuch as it is reserved for the highest function, in which it certainly concurs with the liturgy: the glory of God in primis and the edification of the faithful that descends from this glorification in the second place. The purpose of sacred music is to praise God and show him that He is the Holy, the Lord, the Most High, in Trinitarian communion with the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Music is the way we speak to God and the way He speaks to us. We should not waste this privileged way of getting in touch with Him.  Sacred music becomes incessant prayer that borders, in the most fortunate cases, with mysticism, with the deepest form of elevation to God. It may happen that while listening to a motet by Victoria you feel plunged into something in which you seem to get lost. This is because, going back to Augustine again, to fill ourselves with what we are empty of, we must empty ourselves of what we are full of. 

We do not understand that the Church did not evangelize the world by elevating it through social commitment, but social commitment arose from the incessant and resplendent prayer of divine light that prompted men and women to bring that feeling of profound change to everyone. True sacred music as prayer has played a fundamental role in this and that is why its progressive loss is a loss to us all.