O Lord, I am not worthy: commentary on readings and hymns for October 27th, 2019: 30th Sunday in OT, C
A little reflection on the readings and hymns for this weekend: “What does the Lord require for praise and offering?” This is the first line of entrance hymn for Oct 27th, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We hear in the gospel the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who both went to the temple to pray. Jesus presents the Pharisee as a man who saw not his unworthiness in light of the perfection of God, but rather who praised himself in the presence of God. But only the Lord can judge justly and bestow either condemnation or reward and recognition, because he alone is holy, he alone knows all things, and he alone has the wisdom to search the depths of men’s hearts. And it is the tax-collector in the parable who goes home justified, because he recognized his own unworthiness, that he was a sinner, and stood before God begging for mercy in a spirit of humility. It is humility that characterizes the tax-collector, and hubris which characterizes the Pharisee. Humility is here recognized as a correct recognition and acknowledgement of our moral condition in light of the perfection of God.
“Do justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God.” Like St. Paul, we must keep the faith by doing what is just and right; like Our Lord in the first reading, we must “hear the cry of the poor;” and like the tax-collector, put on a spirit of humility before the face of God, whom we come before in the Eucharist at Mass. Our Lord comes to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist at Mass, and we cry, Domine, non sum dignus! O Lord, I am not worthy!
October 20th, 2019: 29th Sunday in OT, C
The BOO!zaar is only a week away! Be sure to buy raffle tickets, if you have not done so already. I was impressed last year when I saw this event unfold for the first time, and I am again looking forward to it. Believe it or not, Christmas is on my mind. Save the date for:
- Bavo Lessons and Carols – Dec. 15th at 4pm.
- Joseph Lessons and Carols – Dec. 20th at 7pm
- Joint Mishawaka Parishes Epiphany Concert – Jan. 5th at 4pm, at St. Joseph’s
Today’s readings again are about our favorite topic of the last few weeks: faith and perseverance, and also about the mighty power of God. Last week, Naaman wanted Elisha to perform some great sign, to wave his hands about, to do something flashy and heal him. This week, he gets his wish. As long as Moses holds his hands up, the Israelites win the battle. But it is not all flashy! There is a return to reality as Moses’ arms get tired, and so Aaron and Hur have to help support his arms.
The Responsorial Psalm response is: our help is from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121 presents God as a guardian who will save his people, who “slumbers not nor sleeps,” who protects us day and night from all evil. The second reading from 2 Timothy 3 also presents this image of God as a king of power, one who will judge all peoples. We also see in this reading from Timothy the need to be persistent, persistent in what we have “learned and believed” so that, when the Son of Man comes, he will “find faith on earth.”
We must be persistent in living our Faith and in calling upon God who will save us, to God guard us from all evil. These images of how to live our faith and of God as powerful savior are reinforced in the hymns. The processional hymn is “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven.” The text of this hymn speaks of praising a majestic King who has done wonderful things for us. Even the sun and moon bow down before this king (Text by Henry Francis Lyte, 1793-1847). The melody, Lauda Anima (John Gross, 1800 – 1880), is broad and majestic, even soaring at times, to match the high theme of the text, and to move our own souls who sing it to praise God. Music can and does affect our own disposition, and I think this hymn does a wonderful job of moving our hearts to praise our loving Father who guards us day and night, who slumbers not nor sleeps to watch over us, who guards us from evil, who guards our life both now and forever.
The faith of a little Hebrew girl: commentary on readings for October 13th, 2019, 28th Sunday in OT, year C
Today’s readings teach us about thankfulness, but they start with last Sunday’s topic: Faith. The first reading is the story of the cleansing of Naaman, but if we go back to the beginning of chapter 5 of 2 Kings, we find that Naaman’s story begins with the innocent faith of a Hebrew servant-girl. She tells her mistress, Naaman’s wife, that Elisha would cure Namaan if he went to see the prophet. Last week we heard, “O Lord, increase our faith,” and this week we see this faith in a little Hebrew girl, and Naaman believed the girl, asked for leave from the King, and went to see Elisha.
Do we have faith like the little Hebrew girl that God will work miracles? Perhaps we do. But see what happens next in the story: Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house, but Elisha does not even come out. He simply sends a message to Naaman to wash in the Jordan. Naaman was expecting Elisha to wave his hands and make great signs, and perhaps he was expecting thunder and lightning and a big show, but there is something to learn here: God sometimes works through the simple things of life; God’s will is done in daily, mundane tasks; God’s grace comes to us through the people and things around us; and God’s grace comes most especially through the greatness and yet most simple of miracles, the Mass!
But back to the story of Naaman. Listen to what his servants said to him: “his servants came up and reasoned with him: “My father, if the prophet told you to do something extraordinary, would you not do it? All the more since he told you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”” And Namaan washed himself, was cleansed, and thanked the Prophet.
Our music this weekend is mostly about thankfulness and God who works wonders for us:
- Now Thank We All Our God
- I Sing the Mighty Power of God
- Draw Near (Communion)
- Alleluia – Franck (Choir)
- Ave Verum Corpus (Choir, Communion)
Let us remember as we are singing these hymns that faith is a gift as well as something that must be “stirred up in ourselves;” that we have an example of the simplicity and innocence of faith in the little Hebrew girl from the story of Naaman who believed in miracles; that miracles are not necessarily manifested by amazing signs, but may come through the simple, mundane things of life; that the greatest miracle occurs every Mass when Jesus becomes present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, even though the appearances of bread and wine remain – what a mystery! And yet, the Mass is also very simple. The Mass is an amazing source of grace for those who participate with faith and devotion. Let us thank the Lord for his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, which is presented to us in an unbloody manner at Mass, and let us thank the Lord most of all for himself in the Eucharist.
Commentary on Readings for October 6th, 2019
The readings for the 27th Sunday in OT, year C, are about faith, perseverance, and the fire of the Holy Spirit – that we are oppressed in this world, that is, hindered from doing what is best, noble and good, and that through perseverance in Faith God sends His Spirit to dwell in us, and through our active living of a virtuous life, we stir this Spirit into a living Flame which breaks forth with power so that we can accomplish God’s will. This Sunday we sing “Break Forth in Joyful Song.” Perhaps breaking forth in Joyful Song is a manifestation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. The same spirit who “flame[s] out, like shining from shook foil,” compels us to break forth in joyful song.
Opening hymn: O God Our Help in Ages Past. We are oppressed, held down from achieving what is high, noble and good by the world, the flesh and the devil. It is in the Lord that we seek help, refuge, and strength, and it is the Lord to whom we will come to eternal rest.
Offertory Hymn: Fire of God, Undying Flame. All that is petty, low, and not worthy of Heaven, all our vices will be burned away by the Fire of God, the Fire of his Love! And Love hurts. And furthermore, God needs our cooperation in this, that we are to “stir up the flame of God” in us, we must take the gritty, difficult steps to remove from all lives all vice, and in the power of virtue, live a life of holiness.
Communion Hymn: Lord of All Hopefulness. The Second verse speaks of the Lord of Faith with strong hands. Why juxtapose faith and strong hands? Because our Faith must be active, alive, and strong in resisting evil and doing good! Faith is strong and passionate.
Communion Meditation: O Lord, Increase My Faith – Gibbons. This piece is a beautiful setting of the text from today’s Gospel. A cry, a plea for help from God.
October 7th, 2018
Dear Parish family,
Soon after I came to this parish, I started making intentional additions to the Liturgy in order to move our parish closer to the ideal which the Church sets forth. Ideals are difficult to attain, and I will come back to that in a minute. The first change was a slow addition of the “Communion antiphon,” the text of which can be found in the Missalette. At first, only the cantor sang this, and now we are at a point where the whole congregation is encouraged to join in, just as for the responsorial psalm.
The other change has to do with the 11:15 AM Mass and the schola. When I first came, I found a very eager, hard-working schola, and a congregation which knew Mass VIII – Missa de Angelis very well. I thought the schola was in position to sing every other week, and I also made the decision to switch to Mass XI, which is traditionally the chant Mass for Ordinary Time. My sense, however, is that I did this too abruptly, and for that I apologize.
This week at the 11:15 AM liturgy you will find not only the Mass Ordinary (Mass parts), Mass XI – Missa Orbis Factor, but also available at the back of church are the Introit and Communion Antiphons (chants) for the Mass, as well as a guide to singing Chant with a Latin pronunciation guide. We will eventually switch back to Mass VIII.
A quick word about the 11:15 AM Mass: it is at this Mass that I am most especially trying to move us toward an ideal liturgy as the Church sees it. It is extremely difficult to celebrate Mass week in and week out at the high level of art and dignity which the Church says is most suited to the Liturgy; realizing this, the Church herself gives options for the Rites of the Mass, expecting that smaller churches will be able to do less than Cathedral churches. The Church has always held up chant as proper to the Roman liturgy (and closely connected to it, polyphony), and so most of the extra chant and polyphony we do will be at the 11:15 AM Liturgy (but only in small bits and pieces! The schola will keep to its routine of singing every other Sunday), and knowing that the ideal is something only attained in Heaven while slowly moved towards it here on Earth, and realizing the importance of other musical styles, a wide variety of music will still be done.
I would rather not have to play the organ louder than a rock concert in order to get us all to sing (okay, I was poking fun at my playing there…); rather, I hope to see the day when we can all raise our voices in perfect unison, reflecting our inward harmony of soul and the unity of the Body of Christ, and, indeed, helping to foster such unity through our participation in the Sacred Liturgy and the Eucharist, which is the “source and summit” of the Christian life.
The Mass is the place of sanctification. It is my job to help us so participate in the Mass by our singing as to receive abundantly the gifts of Christ’s Redemptive Act (not that this happens only through the singing, but singing is a big part of it, and is my job in this). If there is any way I can help you to do this, please let me know.
September 23rd, 2018
The Choir season has started off well. I am excited about the energy and enthusiasm of our musicians! We have several new choir members, and our numbers are now close to 30(!); however, we still need men. I especially encourage young men (high-school through grad-school) to join. It is a good way to give of your time and talent to God, and to build friendships and community within the church. A reminder that children’s choir will begin October 23rd. Sign-up using the sheets in the back of church or by calling the office, or talking directly with me. We have had several people step up to cantor – Thank you!
Our schola is singing this weekend at the 11:15 AM Mass. The English translations of the Entrance chant (Introit) and Communion chant can be found in the Missalette. The Mass setting (Ordinary) can be found in the handouts in the pews. Next weekend, Sep. 30th, an area polyphony group will be leading the music at the 11:15 AM Mass. The music will basically be the same as when our schola sings (expect for a couple beautiful pieces of music they are planning on singing at Offertory and Communion).
A little about reading chant: The basic note in Gregorian Chant is the small, black square called a punctum (pl. puncta). This represents one unit of time, or one pulse. This can be lengthened to two pulses by 1. A dot placed after, 2. Two puncta “fused” together, 3. A horizontal line (episema) over the puntum, 4. If it occurs before a squiggly note (quilisma), usually in an ascending figure, 5. If there is a vertical line (episema) below it in an ascending, 3-note figure (salicus). Hopefully this will help you to read the chants in the handout.
As always, if you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Yours in Christ,
Did Our Music Director Lie? – Or, Why You Should Join the Choir
This past weekend at the 9:15 AM Liturgy, a member of the choir gave a beautiful testimony about why she joined the choir and stayed in it. She spoke about the fun, friendship and fellowship of the choir, the fact that she has learned so much from music directors over the years, and she even mentioned the beautiful saying by St. Augustine that “Only the Lover Sings.”
She was very eloquent. I, in my opening remarks, was not. I said the liturgy actually means “work of the people.” However, when I wrote the notes on the liturgy and music for the July 13th Extraordinary Form Mass at St. Joseph’s, I emphasized that central to the Mass is the Work of God, the Opus Dei. So, what’s going on here? Was I lying then or now?
Let me try to explain myself. On July 13th, I was trying to emphasize the centrality of Christ’s Redemptive act on the Cross, which is re-presented in an unbloody manner at every Mass. It is a moment when time meets eternity, and an opportunity for man, who cannot do anything to redeem himself, to offer himself in union with Christ and enter into his Passion, Death and Resurrection. “Take up your cross and follow me.” The Divine Liturgy, the Mass, offers a chance for us to enter into Christ’s Redemptive act, into the Opus Dei.
I was having a little fun with words on Sunday the 19th when I implied that we should think about joining the choir because liturgy means “work of the people.” Let us take a deeper look at that word. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“Liturgy (leitourgia) is a Greek composite word meaning originally a public duty, a service to the state undertaken by a citizen. Its elements are leitos (from leos = laos, people) meaning public, and ergo (obsolete in the present stem, used in future erxo, etc.), to do.”
“At Athens the leitourgia was the public service performed by the wealthier citizens at their own expense.”
“The meaning of the word liturgy is then extended to cover any general service of a public kind. In the Septuagint it (and the verb leitourgeo) is used for the public service of the temple (e.g., Exodus 38:27; 39:12, etc.). Thence it comes to have a religious sense as the function of the priests, the ritual service of the temple (e.g., Joel 1:9, 2:17, etc.). In the New Testament this religious meaning has become definitely established. In Luke 1:23, Zachary goes home when “the days of his liturgy” (ai hemerai tes leitourgias autou) are over.”
I will leave the etymological arguments to the linguists, philologists and (dare I say, liturgists?), and instead turn my attention to the readings for the day. In the first reading, Wisdom cries out for the people to “forsake foolishness,” and in the second reading St. Paul admonishes us to not live as foolish persons, and to be filled with the Spirit, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts.” I do not know exactly what types of music to which Paul was referring. Certainly, there was a the tradition of chanting the psalms with which the Jewish culture was imbued, and one can guess Philippians 2:6-11 is a type of hymn, but I am not sure what a spiritual song would have sounded like to Paul.
I do know, though, that there is a theme of Joy running through these Scriptures. Wisdom calls us to forsake foolishness, not to call us to meanness, drudgery, or some life of unhappiness, so that we can eat and drink at the table of understanding (fulfilled in eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ); psalm 34, which we heard for the second of three times in a row, calls us to “glory in the Lord,” “be glad,” “Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy;” St. Paul in the second reading is calling us to seek happiness not in a worldy way, but by seeking wisdom, discerning the will of God, and living as joy-filled Christians. This is not to escape reality, or to seem something we are not, but by a consistent commitment to Christ, especially through frequent reception of his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are fed with true food, and filled with the gifts of the Spirit, the second of which is joy, which overflows from us so that we address each in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and can join the St. Joseph Adult Choir, which meets Wednesdays 7-8:30 PM (starting Sep. 5th) and sings every Sunday at 9:15 AM Mass, or by joining the Schola, which meets Thursdays 7-8:30 and sings every other Sunday at the 11:15 AM Sunday morning Mass. We are doing some pretty awesome repertoire this year, so come on down and try it out! We would love to see you!
20th Sunday in OT, Year B – The Eucharistic Discourse continued
On this second to last Sunday of the journey through The Eucharistic Discourse, we find Jesus reiterating in stronger language the truth he is revealing to the astonished crowds: that He has come from Heaven; that He will give Living Bread by which they will have eternal life; that this living bread is His very flesh.
We have been singing quite a few Eucharistic hymns over the past several weeks during this journey through John 6. On the Weekend of the 18/19th, our Offertory hymn was “O Food of Exiles Lowly.” The original text, O esca viatorum, ascribed by some to St. Thomas Aquinas, is first found in the Mainz Gesangbuch, 1661, and the translation used by GIA in the Worship Hymnal is by M. Owen Lee, CSB. The tune used for this text in modern hymnals seems to be Innsbruck, composed by Heinrich Isaac and harmonized by J.S. Bach, although, Jeff Ostrowski at ccwatershed.org (18 August 2017) claims “It is quite a popular Eucharistic hymn. Indeed, it’s hard to find a single Catholic hymnal not containing it,” and he cites nine hymnals from before 1960 which contain this text; however, if you look at these hymnals, the melody used is not necessarily Isaac’s. The St. Gregory Hymnal (singer’s edition, 1920, p. 397) uses what it calls a “traditional melody.” This same melody is set in 3 parts by “anonymous,” and can be found on the choral public domain library. This same melody is found in the De La Salle hymnal: for Catholic schools and choirs (1913, p. 52).
The first stanza of the hymn reiterates the teachings on the Eucharist which we have heard throughout John 6: the Eucharist is similar to the manna which God gave to the Israelites, but surpasses it because it is the very Flesh of Jesus who came “from on high.” The second stanza turns our focus to the mystery of the connection between the Eucharist and Christ’s redemptive act. It is a reminder that, when we eat the flesh of Jesus, we are, in some mysterious way, joining with Him in his Redemptive act, and, therefore, we bring all of our sufferings to the Mass and offer them in union with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. This stanza reiterates a point I brought up two weeks ago: there is a similarity between Christ promising the women at the well living water and the saving Eucharistic Bread. Jesus satisfies all our needs, not only the physical, but also, and more importantly, he satisfies the deepest longings of the human heart.
Mass XI – Orbis Factor Recordings
Our Schola will next sing at the 11:15 Mass on Sunday, August 26th. We have started using a new Mass setting, Mass XI, Missa Orbis Factor. If you would like to see what these sound like, please visit this site: http://www.ccwatershed.org/kyriale/. Simply scroll down to Mass XI, and you will find mp3 recordings in two versions (a) and (b). Be sure to choose version (b). Although these recordings are, admittedly, not the best, I hope they help!
19th Sunday in OT, Year B – The Eucharistic Discourse continued
In this 3rd week of our journey through John 6, Our Lord once again reiterates that he is the Bread of Life, and emphasizes that He came down from Heaven, sent by the Father, to bring Eternal Life to those who believe. He emphasizes again that the Israelites ate manna in the desert and died, but whoever eats this bread will have eternal life, and the bread that He Himself gives is His Own flesh. This is the high point, in a way, of Jesus’ ministry. His mission is to save man from sin and death; “I have come that they may have life.” Just as the Israelites were brought by God out of slavery in Egypt and fed on the journey by manna in the desert, so we are to journey on this earthly life away from the slavery of sin, fed by the Bread of Life – the very flesh and blood of Jesus – until we come one day to the everlasting promised land of Heaven.
The first hymn for this day at St. Joseph’s was “Crown Him With Many Crowns.” The text references Revelation 19:12. Stanzas 1, 3-5 were written by Matthew Bridges (1800 – 1894), and st. 2 by Godfrey Thring (1823 – 1903). Matthew Bridges was born in Essex and grew up in the Church of England, but, under the influence of John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement, entered the Roman Catholic Church in 1848, the same year that his collection Hymns of the Heart was published, in which updated 1852 edition we find “Crown Him With Many Crowns.” The original second stanza of the hymn hailed Christ as the Virgin’s Son, something the Anglicans apparently did not like, because in 1874 Godfrey Thring, an Anglican Priest, published a revised version in his Hymns and Sacred Lyrics. The original second stanza by Bridges is beautiful:
Crown Him the Virgin’s Son!
The God Incarnate born,—
Whose arm those crimson trophies won
Which now His brow adorn!
Fruit of the mystic Rose
As of that Rose the Stem:
The Root, whence mercy ever flows,—
The Babe of Bethlehem!
Appropriately, with the Solemnity of the Assumption approaching, we get some Marian Theology in this verse: that Mary is a Virgin; that Christ is her Son, but that Christ is also her source, a reference to the Immaculate Conception of Mary being a grace of the Redemption; that Christ is the root of Mary, supplying all she has to offer; that Mary is the Mystic Rose, a title named in the Litany of Loreto, perhaps originating in the Song of Songs as Rose of Sharon; that Christ chooses to use Mary as the channel through which he bestows mercy on the world (Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces).
18th Sunday in OT, Year B – The Eucharistic Discourse continued
We find ourselves in the second week of a five week journey through the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, in which Jesus reveals Himself as the Bread of Life. We started this journey last week with the feeding of the five-thousand, and this week realize that Christ is calling us to something deeper. Just as he used the thirst for water of the woman at the well to lead her to an understanding of a deeper thirst, the thirst for Christ Himself, Jesus uses the need for bodily food to lead the people to an understanding of their desire, even their need, the necessity of, Spiritual Food, the Spiritual Food which is his own body and will lead to everlasting life.
When the Solemnity of Corpus Christi was instituted in 1264, the great Dominican theologian Thomas Aquinas composed, among other pieces, Pange Lingua (Hymn for Vespers), of which more is written than the other Eucharistic hymn we sang this past Sunday at St. Joseph’s, Adoro Te Devote, the origin of which is hard to pin down, but which seems to have been a devotional poem/prayer used by the Angelic Doctor during his own time of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, thus explaining the use of the first person singular, Adoro, instead of Adoramus (Henk J. M. Schoot, “Eucharistic Transformation: Thomas Aquinas’ Adoro Te Devote”).
A wonderful article to read on Adoro Te Devote is a homily given by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa in December, 2004 (https://www.ewtn.com/library/Doctrine/zadorote.htm), in which he makes the observation that “in every stanza of the hymn we find a theological affirmation followed by an invocation with which the one praying responds to it and appropriates the truth” (First Sermon: Adoro te devote, 2. In devout adoration). There is a great amount of theology, philosophy, poetry, literary brilliance, and religious conviction in this hymn, but I think this is the point that I would to stress: that the great Angelic Doctor is helping us through this work to pray with both our head and heart. We can learn from, understand, and believe the theology he presents, and also enter into, in a very human, passionate way, his love for the Eucharist, and make it our own! Our senses fail us when trying to understand that this bread is our very God, but Christ Himself has said so, and so I believe, and I will worship You, o Lord, and contemplate You, and love You, because you fulfill every one of my desires, and “You alone have the words of everlasting life.”
I hope this helps to give a little bit of context for why these hymns were sung this past weekend. Check back sometime this week for a preview of the music for August 12th! Also, the Solemnity of the Assumption is coming up, and at the 5:30 Mass there will be some great music to help us celebrate this Solemnity, and to help us worship God ever more. Check out the “Schedule” tab for our schedule of sacred music at St. Joseph’s.
August 5th – Missa Orbis Factor, and what season is it in Heaven?
Greetings from your music director, and happy summer to one and all!
Fun question: if the seasons mark the passing of time, what season will it be in Heaven where there is no time?
Okay, back to music. If you are a regular at the 11:15 AM Mass, you have probably come to realize that our schola sings every other week. Recently, they have been singing Mass VIII (nicknamed Missa de Angelis), which can be found in the Worship hymnal. I think everyone likes and knows that Mass pretty well, so we are going to branch out and learn something new.
This one has a different number and nickname: Mass XI, Orbis Factor, and is traditionally sung during Ordinary Time. We will also be changing slightly how we do the Kyrie. In times past, each of the Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie was repeated three times, and this is still an option in the current rubrics (rules governing the celebration of the Sacraments). With all of the 3s produced by this, we cannot help but be Trinitarian. Perhaps focus on appealing to the Father through the first 3 Kyries, the Son through the 3 Christes, and to the Holy Spirit through the last 3 Kyries. And even while praying to one of the persons of the Trinity, the threefold repetition of the petition (Kyrie Eleison, etc…) reminds us that each of the persons mystically dwells in the other (perichoresis).
The men will sing the first Kyrie, women the second, and everybody the third, and again the same way with the Christe. Watch out, though, for the very last Kyrie; it starts different than the previous ones! I will explain and practice with you on August 12th. Don’t forget to ask about joining the choir, or suggest someone who might want to by using the cards in the pews! And there will be a children’s choir this year. More info coming soon.
(P.S. If you ever figure out which season it is in Heaven, let me know. I particularly like Fall, but there is something to be said for Spring when “God’s Grandeur” flames out “like shining from shook foil.”)
Strange Voice and Strange Noises
Have you noticed in the last month or two a strange voice making chanting-like noises from the back of church after the Offertory or Communion Hymns? These pieces I have been chanting are called the Offertory and Communion Antiphons, and the texts for these pieces are found in the official music book of the Church, the Graduale Romanum.
What is included in a sung Mass?
Let’s step back and take a look at the larger picture. The Mass, in its most proper form, is to be sung, a fact which the history of the church and her official documents bear out from the first centuries through Trent, Vatican II, and to the present day. There has existed in the Tradition of the Church a distinction between Masses which require a choir – Solemn High Mass (“Missa Solemnis”) and High Mass (“Sung Mass”) – and those which do not – read Mass. Musicum Sacrum, the post-conciliar instruction on sacred music published by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on March 5, 1967, keeps this distinction (MS, 28), but, for “pastoral usefulness” (MS, 28), adds further rubrics for three degrees of singing within the Sung Mass. Those parts which belong to the second or third degrees may never be used without the first (MS, 28).
The Three Degrees
To the first degree belong the dialogues of the Mass between Priest and people, some of the prayers, and the Sanctus and Pater Noster. To the second degree belongs the Kyrie, Gloria, Agnus Dei, Creed, and prayers of the Faithful. To the third degree belongs, Antiphons at the Entrance, Offertory and Communion processions, the psalm and Alleluia, and possibly the readings. These three degrees of participation constitute the whole sung liturgy.
The third degree constitutes the “Propers” of the Mass, i.e., chants which are suited to each particular liturgy and change from week to week. The official collection of these chants is found in the Graduale Romanum, however in dioceses of the United States, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (48, 74, 87) provides three other options for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion Chants. The fourth and last option is “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.” The familiar four hymn experience makes use of this fourth option, a pastoral option which understands the impossibility of doing complicated Gregorian Chants every week at every Parish.
The Church’s Vision Applied to St. Joseph’s
I am going to help St. Joseph’s move closer to the ideal of a fully sung liturgy using the appointed texts proper to each day. To this end, we will soon begin introducing the Communion Antiphon on July 7th/8th, the text of which can be found in the Missalette, pages 106-111. This will occur before the Communion Hymn, and for the months of July and August will only be sung by the cantor. When Choir season starts back up in the Fall, we will start doing this chant in a responsorial fashion, with the cantor first singing the antiphon, then inviting the congregation to join. I hope you will take out your Missalettes and join in these texts which the Church provides for us, so that we may all come together as a community, the Body of Christ, to praise God. P.S. On June 30th/July 1st, we will be moving to the Storrington Mass setting, which can be found starting at #257 in the Worship hymnal, except for the Kyrie which will be #205.