Musicam sacram says at no. 66 that the playing of organ and other instruments “as solos is not permitted in Advent, Lent, during the Sacred Triduum and in the Offices and Masses of the Dead.” The General Instruction of the Roman Missal picks this up at no. 313: “In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only to support the singing. Exceptions are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.”

But as is known, there are long-standing contrary customs in some places and some cultures. I have the impression that the ban on instrumental music during Lent has weakened in many places in recent decades.

Here in the abbey, I’ve asked organists to observe the traditional prohibition – so that the joy of Easter season can shine forth all the more gloriously . But we’ve had to make a few exceptions, such as solemnized Evening Prayer on Sundays with vested ministers and incense, where a procession of the monks in silence would be just too weird. But even here, I’ve asked that at the end of the service, quiet organ music be used only while the ministers exit, with the monks then leaving in silence.

What do you think? Is this an issue worth looking it? What do you think should be done? And is there anything to be said about organ accompaniment being less flashy, or with fewer fancy interludes between stanzas, during penitential seasons?

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