Sacred music has a universal appeal, but a particular attraction for young people, according to a monsignor sponsoring a concert series in Roman basilicas.
Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, vice president of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, and the commissioner of the artistic agency A Voce Sola, spoke with ZENIT about a music festival that will take place in St. John Lateran and the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles on the last three Wednesdays of April.
"In Signo Domini: Sacred Music in the Roman Basilicas" is being promoted by the European Musical Academy and A Voce Sola.
The series will give listeners the chance to deepen in the liturgical season, as April 13 will present Bach's setting of John's Passion, April 20 will present Vinci's oratorio to the Sorrowful Mother, and April 27 will present Handel's "Resurrection."
At a presentation of the festival, Monsignor Andreatta spoke about the "strong language" of sacred music in a "society of consumption and well-being."
He noted to ZENIT how it is an "essential component of the liturgy that we are rediscovering and that particularly reaches young people who have a more immediate language."
Monsignor Andreatta spoke about man's "situation of disappointment, of emptiness, of loneliness, in which he is tremendously disillusioned." In such a context, he said, sacred music is an instrument and a language to help man rediscover points of reference for life.
"This nostalgia that every man has about his origin and destiny is his nostalgia for God," the monsignor affirmed.
He went on to reflect about the importance of symbols as a primary language -- things such as a kiss, a gaze, or an embrace. A semantics of signs and languages needs to be recovered, the monsignor observed, and that's where young people have an advantage.
"They have an immediate instinctive capacity because they are not yet corrupted or contaminated by the experience of life," he said -- an experience that can strip meaning from the sense of language.
Monsignor Andreatta spoke of music as an "essential component of the liturgy," recalling music in the Old Testament before the Holy of Holies. "It was the profound expression of a language that was not as human as it was divine."
The monsignor reflected that something of this sacredness has been lost in liturgy today. He denounced improvised tunes that are "more the fruit of the modernity of the time and not of the profound tradition of the Church, which after thousands of years has a patrimony that is wasted in this way."
According to Monsignor Andreatta, however, Benedict XVI is leading a recovery of this richness. He concluded by expressing his hope that "young priests and future generations will reconstruct this extraordinary patrimony."