47. When the people are gathered, and as the Priest enters with the Deacon and ministers, the Entrance Chant begins. Its purpose is to
- open the celebration,
- foster the unity of those who have been gathered,
- introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity, and
- accompany the procession of the Priest and ministers.
This should be simple enough. Whatever is sung, and by whomever, must accomplish or at least be pointed to these four purposes. Number two seems particularly important.
Two hierarchies are given in this next section. First, who should sing:
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.
and second, what should be sung:
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).
Lots of church musicians here and elsewhere bemoan the so-called option four, but I’d have to characterize many of them as ignorant on that point. Which option four? The purpose of the music? Who sings it? What gets sung?
As to what composers and publishers are producing and what parishes are singing. I frequently use the Missal antiphon when it harmonizes with the Lectionary, and that most often happens in Advent or Lent. Very frequently, parishes utilize option three, a setting of a psalm. Sometimes, it happens to be a setting of the entrance psalm. Did you sing Psalm 25 at entrance today? Even if it was in a contemporary style, congrats: you’re an option one musician today.
As a whole, contemporary liturgical music is superior to preconciliar hymnody in that it is generally more reliant on Scripture for text, if not a basic inspiration for the lyrics. And when it is, don’t be bullied by the naysayers pushing their chant scholae to the front of the cafeteria line.