In recent decades, however, this emphasis on chant appears to have virtually disappeared, instead being replaced by contemporary music. A common argument for maintaining contemporary music in the Church is that this music draws the youth to the Church and to worship; however, I maintains that returning, reeducating, and reemphasizing chant's importance is key to evoking and instituting sublimity within the liturgy. This paper will serve to demonstrate the importance of chant to the modern world through examining the origins and history of chant, researching the early Papal decrees regarding sacred music, and analyzing what recent Popes and current authors have concluded regarding the nature of sacred music.
The concept of singing has been a part of the liturgy since the earliest days of the Church. In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites in the function of their liturgy; one of His mandates, then, was to praise Him through the singing of psalms and with instruments:
"The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the
instruments for music to the Lord which King David had made
for giving thanks to the Lord - for his mercy endures for ever -
whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them
the priests sounded trumpets; and all Israel stood."
In the New Testament, Matthew 26:30 attests to the singing of a hymn at the Last Supper, the first liturgy as instituted by Christ: "When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." Following Pentecost, at which point the Apostles began to go out and spread Christianity, the liturgy, and subsequently the singing or chanting of the liturgy, began to develop in the various regions where Christianity had reached. As a result, "each region of the Christian West began to have a repertory of sacred music of its own: there was a single language but different texts and music." Of these separate traditions of sacred music, only Ambrosian chant, also known as Milanese chant, and Gregorian chant exist to this day in the Roman rite. Whereas Milanese chant remains more or less the same as it did approximately two-thousand-years ago, Gregorian chant developed from two separate chants of the early Church.