First of all, let me say – now that our seminarian Peter Grodi has returned home to spend some time with family and then to the seminary – that I am so grateful for the role that so many of you played in his experience here. I was actually quite proud to talk about so many of you to him, and to show him the various aspects of our life together. I think we have a parish where the Lord is doing so much good, and so many people are open to His movement in their lives! What more could a seminarian ask to see?! So, thank you for your role in his formation this past summer!
Here is what the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the “book of rubrics for the Mass”) directs regarding music at the entrance and Communion time. The instruction at offertory time is the same as the instruction at the entrance. There is no official music instruction for the closing of Mass after the dismissal.
Chapter II: The Structure of the Mass, Its Elements and Its Parts
Section III. THE INDIVIDUAL PARTS OF THE MASS
This chant is sung alternately by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the Dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduale Simplex for the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.
If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon given in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation (cf. no. 31).
While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is
to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy
of heart, and to highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession to receive
Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the
faithful. If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be
ended in a timely manner.
87. In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Communion
chant: (1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to
music there or in another musical setting; (2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple
Gradual; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in
responsorial or metrical forms; (4) a suitable liturgical song chosen in accordance with no. 86
above. This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or cantor with the people.
If there is no singing, however, the Communion antiphon found in the Missal may be recited
either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector. Otherwise the priest himself says it
after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful.
While we are not going to remove singing of hymns from Mass, we should try to accomplish the chants that belong in the Mass, since the Church so emphasizes them. You can see from paragraph #87 above that although a chant could be sung during the entire Rite of Communion, it also could be kept short in order to include a hymn at Communion time. So both the proper chant and hymn are permitted. The chant is pretty important. Note that the order of options in #87 above is important: a “suitable liturgical song” is fourth on the list, not first.
And you can see that there is both a “simple gradual” that has antiphons that are easier and seasonal, as well as a proper Roman Gradual that has antiphons that are a bit more difficult. It would make sense in our case to use the simple seasonal antiphons for quite a while, so that people get used to them by means of some repetition. The seasonal antiphons can be used throughout a given season, so that they become familiar and easy to pray with.
Consider, for example, the seasonal Communion antiphon “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” How beautiful for the soul to be singing this during Communion time. The choir can use the stanzas from the psalm that matches that antiphon to make it last as long as need be. The musicians might choose to keep it quite short in order to sing a meditation hymn afterwards; or they might on occasion sing it in its entirety, with the congregation joining in on the antiphon between verses, all the way through the Communion rite. It’s a great way to pray while everybody is participating in the procession to Communion. You know the words from repetition, so no need to carry a book up with you in procession.
And, as I have written before, the words are Scripture! Why would the General Instruction direct the singing of antiphons? Because that is what the Tradition of the Church has handed down to us for centuries. Why would the Tradition of the Church develop these antiphons? Because Scripture was read in the Mass since the beginning of the Church. There were readings, just as we have now. But then there developed the Psalm refrains that punctuated the various moments of the Mass. Why is this so great? Because of the way we reverence both the Eucharist (the Body and Blood of Jesus) and the Scriptures, which are infallible and inspired by God. In other words, the Tradition would hand this down to us through the ages, because it is good for the soul. And God’s own words are certainly pre-eminently worthy to sing back to Him in worship!
As I have written before, my hope is to add the antiphons to our worship, and then to assure that we have a source of hymns that are noble and theologically fitting for worship. There is no doubt that parishioners can easily fall in love with such songs, many of which you would already know from the Lumen Christi Hymnal. Right now we do not have a sure resource, and we pay around $5,500 a year to replenish missalettes that get thrown away yearly and have to be censored by the pastor.
The Lumen Christi Pew Missal and Hymnal will have both the Roman Gradual antiphons and a seasonal simple gradual (i.e., collection of antiphons) to choose from, as the Instruction above indicates. Anybody in the pew will have exactly what he or she needs to follow along. The musicians can indicate the numbers on the music boards. I firmly believe that our worship will be more noble and honorific for the Lord, and better for the human soul, as we try more closely to adhere to the instruction given to us by the Church.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,