A priest friend of mine told me recently how a music instructor once noted that the august organ used in our churches was indeed, originally, a pagan instrument. So I did a web search and found this book review in the journal Speculum published by the Medieval Academy of America (here is the link). The writer was reviewing a book entitled The Organ in Western Culture: 750-1250, by Peter Williams, and published in 1993 by Cambridge University Press. The book reviewer notes that the organ was known in the pagan world long before the birth of Christ, long before use in the Church. Here is a telling excerpt from the portion of the book review available to the public commenting on the irony of Christian use of the organ:
But the social settings for these instruments in Roman times were those the early Christian church was most determined to reject: wedding feasts with their suggestive dancing, night serenades, games, and imperial ceremonies.
Speculum Book Review, at this link.
How interesting! The excerpt sounds like a description of the way many rigorists describe why the guitar or the piano or the drums should never be used in the liturgy. What happened to the sensual, pagan organ? It was baptized! No surprise: Christ came to transform all things, and so He did and does. That is why the Church makes no hard and fast prohibitions as to musical instruments but leaves the decision to the discretion of the bishops based on the evolving standards of common opinion and usage, which are, obviously, by their very nature changeable. Newman noted (my paraphrase) that to be immersed in history was to cease to be a Protestant. To read history is to cease to be a fanatical rigorist when it comes to liturgical musical instruments. I think the two mentalities: the historically Protestant and the rigorist mentalities are indeed related--both tend to deify and reify one partial aspect that they have abstracted from a complex reality, as the Donatists schismatics combatted by St. Augustine in the fourth century, did. Better to give the benefit of the doubt to the bishops in communion with the successor of St. Peter.