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Magnificat Gets It

When it comes to the new English translation of the Mass (The Third Edition of the Roman Missal) that launches stateside on the First Sunday of Advent this year, there’s been much discussion in virtually ever corner of the Catholic blogosphere.

I was happily surprised yesterday, though, when I received an email from Magnificat, promoting their MagnifiKid publication as a means to help children understand and learn the new translation. It included this image of a sample page (click to view the larger size):

Note that it says “When the Entrance Chant is concluded, the Priest says:”

This is a nice hint to our children about the fundamental shift occurring in the our understanding of the Church’s instruction on the liturgy, which many feel was too liberally interpreted and implemented after the Second Vatican Council.

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) provides the instructions for the celebration of the Mass, and it is also being re-released with a revised English translation to correspond to the re-translation of the Missal itself. Consider the shift from the 2003 to the 2011 version in the below sections on music in the Mass (my emphasis added):

The Entrance

2003 GIRM:

47. After the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.

48. The singing at this time is done either alternately by the choir and the people or in a similar way by the 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 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 Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.

2011 GIRM:

48. 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 Gradual Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduate 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.

The Psalm

2003 GIRM:

61(d). [T]he following may also be sung in place of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary for Mass: either the proper or seasonal antiphon and Psalm from the Lectionary, as found either in the Roman Gradual or Simple Gradual or in another musical setting; or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of the psalms and antiphons, including psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the responsorial Psalm.

2011 GIRM:

61(d). …[I]nstead of the Psalm assigned in the lectionary, there may be sung either the Responsorial Gradual from the Graduale Romanum, or the Responsorial Psalm or the Alleluia Psalm from the Graduale Simplex, as described in these books, or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, including Psalms arranged in metrical fonn, providing that they have been approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm.

The Offertory

2003 and 2011 GIRM (no change):
74. The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the Offertory chant (cf. above, no. 37b), which continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar. The norms on the manner of singing are the same as for the Entrance chant (cf. above, no. 48). Singing may always accompany the rite at the offertory, even when there is no procession with the gifts.

Communion

2003 GIRM:

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.

2011 GIRM:

87. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for singing at Communion: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex of 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) some other suitable liturgical chant (cf. no. 86) approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.

There are scores of discussions happening on these shifts, from blogs and Internet forums to sacristies and parish offices, between bishops, pastors, and their directors and coordinators of music. For one good, more in depth look at the above passages, see “Dramatic Changes in Music Rubrics for New Missal” on The Chant Cafe.

On thing is clear, though, in my own opinion: enough English-speaking bishops, and yes, even those here in the United States of America, are in favor of this reading of the liturgical intent of the Church to allow that this translation was situated and approved in this manner. As musicians at the service of the Church, Her bishops, and Her pastors, and ultimately at the service of Christ Himself, it’s time we re-learn the musical heritage of our church and dust off our Graduale, our Gregorian Missal, and other new resources like the Simple English Propers.

I do feel that there is a delicate balance that pastors and music directors will reach in the implementation of these shifts in the English-speaking world, and that it will be a slow evolution back toward our liturgical heritage. We’re working toward that end at Holy Family, it seems. Father is very supportive of and encourages our use of the Propers for the Mass (he expresses his love for and preference for the sense of the sacred that it imparts) along with strong hymns from our heritage of Christian worship in the Western world. We still mix that with some of the modern worship song that have found their way into our liturgy in America in recent years – a bit of “something for everyone”, in a sense. But the focus is always on music that serves the liturgy, respects the texts, and elevates the hearts and minds of the faithful toward the divine and heavenly, encouraging fitting worship of Christ the King. I feel that this focus inevitably leads us ever closer and closer to where our bishops are pointing us.

If you’re so inclined, you are welcome to join me at Holy Family Church (our parish here in Granite City) on Sunday, November 13 for our “Chant Crackerbarrel”. At 6 PM in the Community Center cafeteria, I’ll lead a brief “Chant Boot Camp”, teaching the very basics of reading and singing chant notation. At 7 PM, we’ll move to the church, where Father Jeff, our pastor, will preside at Evening Prayer. Added bonus: wine, cheese & crackers at the “Chant Boot Camp”. If you would like to attend, RSVP at the Facebook event page or leave a comment here.

By Michael

Michael loves his God, wife, 3 sons, family & friends, reading, music, & his garden. He's a music director at Holy Family Catholic Church. By day, he is a Sr. Consultant at Omniture, an Adobe company.

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