HEN WE HEAR the sound of an organ, images of churches and liturgies come into our minds naturally. Why is the pipe organ so closely tied to the Church? Why is the organ considered the most appropriate and suitable musical instrument, after the human voice, for the liturgy? Because pipe organs reflect the greatness of God and the community in His Church, the Body of Christ. This video below gives a brief history and the philosophy behind the use of organ in Catholic Church:
(They have sadly disabled our ability to embed this video, which we do whenever possible owing to the massive amounts of shows on YouTube promoting immorality.)
OPE BENEDICT XVI, now pope emeritus, gave a good explanation on why the organ was picked by the Church in his speech when he was blessing the new organ in Regensburg in 2006. Parts of his speech was mentioned in the video but it’s worth reading again. Here is what the Holy Father said regarding the organ from a human and musical perspective:
The organ has always been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up all the sounds of creation – as was just said – and gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation. By transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, it evokes the divine. The organ’s great range of timbre, from piano through to a thundering fortissimo, makes it an instrument superior to all others. It is capable of echoing and expressing all the experiences of human life. The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.
And this is how a pipe organ symbolizes the Church:
In an organ, the many pipes and voices must form a unity. If here or there something becomes blocked, if one pipe is out of tune, this may at first be perceptible only to a trained ear. But if more pipes are out of tune, dissonance ensues and the result is unbearable. Also, the pipes of this organ are exposed to variations of temperature and subject to wear. Now, this is an image of our community in the Church. Just as in an organ an expert hand must constantly bring disharmony back to consonance, so we in the Church, in the variety of our gifts and charisms, always need to find anew, through our communion in faith, harmony in the praise of God and in fraternal love.
And that’s why the pipe organ is chosen to be a sacred instrument. Soli Deo Gloria!