Is There a Blessing for a Pipe Organ?

14 September 2021

Prof. Urrows writes from Guam:

              In the 1964 musical, Fiddler on the Roof, there is a very funny moment where a young yeshiva student asks the wise Rabbi of Anatevka, “Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?” The Rabbi is taken aback, but after thinking about it for a moment, replies: “Yes. May God bless and keep the Tsar…far away from us!”

Some people may have wondered if there is a proper blessing for a pipe organ. There is (or was), and it was promulgated in 1872 after the First Vatican Council of 1870, the Benedictio Instrumentorum Organi in Eccelsia. Below is an English translation I have made (admittedly a bit modernized) of the original Latin, printed in Ratisbon in 1873, and I thank my colleague Father Cyril Law for his advice on the translation of the Collect. The source is a French manual of organ and service playing, a book I found in the Bibliotheca Zikawei section of the Shanghai Library many years ago. The author added at the end of this, “After the Benediction, it would be appropriate if everyone would gather around the organ, and sing the Magnificat, or Psalm 116 (117).”

Is it time to revive this lovely ceremony, whether you are a Roman Catholic, or not?


Rite for the Blessing of a Church Organ

(approved by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, 31 May 1872)

The priest shall put on the surplice, and the stole appropriate for the season,

and being thus vested shall stand uncovered and say:

P. Our help is in the name of the Lord

R. Who hath made heaven and earth.

P. Psalm 150: O praise God in his holiness; praise him in the firmament of his power.

R. Praise him for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness.

P. Praise him with the blast of the trumpet; praise him upon the harp and lyre.

R. Praise him with timbrel and dances; praise him upon the strings and pipe.

P. Praise him with the well-tuned cymbals; praise him upon the clashing cymbals.

R. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

P. Praise God with the timbrel and dances.

R. Praise him upon the strings and pipe.

P. The Lord be with you.

R. And with thy spirit.

P. Let us pray.

              Collect: O God, through Moses thy servant thou hast instructed the sounding of trumpets over sacrifices offered to thy name, and wilt that the praise of thy name be sung by the children of Israel with trumpets and cymbals; ble†ss, we beseech thee, this instrument of the organ dedicated to thy worship; and grant that thy faithful people who rejoice [now] on earth with spiritual songs, may be made worthy to attain joys everlasting in heaven. Though our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, world without end. Amen.

Finally, the priest shall asperge the organ with holy water.

Clock at the Organ Historical Society Library, Princeton, NJ, 2013.