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Choral Corner #2: What about the artificial instruments mentioned in the Psalms?

The Psalter contains many references to artificial instruments, especially stringed instruments such as the lyre and psaltery (Ps. 56:9, Ps. 70:22). These relatively quiet instruments were used in indoor devotions, rather than the corporate outdoor worship of the ancient Jewish temple, which involved loud, bombastic music to accompany bloody animal sacrifices. These types of instruments also appear in the Psalms, such as Ps. 150: Praise Him with loud joyful cymbals (v. 5). Similar noisy instruments were used in pagan rites, serving as musical manipulation to whip devotees into a froth of ecstatic emotion. This double association of clamorous music with animal sacrifices and paganism is underscored by their absence from Jewish worship during the Passover period.


Early Christian corporate worship did not involve artificial instruments, although the holy apostles and their contemporaries certainly had access to the Psalter. Christ's Resurrection eliminated the need to slaughter animals, pour their blood upon the altar and burn their flesh on huge outdoor pyres, because Christ is the new Lamb offered in "reasonable and bloodless sacrifice" (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture XXIII, 7-8). We must therefore conclude that the omission of artificial instruments was a deliberate choice and has, as such, been woven into the tapestry of Holy Tradition.

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