GIRM 62-64: The Acclamation before the Gospel

You might be surprised at the options provided for the music before the Gospel.

First, realize that though the Gospel Acclamation accompanies a procession (more or less) to the ambo, it is considered a stand-alone rite. In other words, even if the procession is minimized or omitted, the case remains to sing this piece.

62. After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant laid down by the rubrics is sung, as the liturgical time requires. An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the gathering of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to them in the Gospel and profess their faith by means of the chant. It is sung by everybody, standing, and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated as the case requires. The verse, on the other hand, is sung either by the choir or by a cantor.

a) The Alleluia is sung in every time of year other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.

b) During Lent, instead of the Alleluia, the Verse before the Gospel as given in the Lectionary is sung. It is also possible to sing another Psalm or Tract, as found in the Graduale.

Did you know you can sing the Psalm or Tract from the Graduale? I’m not sure if this option applies to the setting as a whole or just the text. Maybe JT or another cafe chanter can enlighten.

63. When there is only one reading before the Gospel:

a) during a time of year when the Alleluia is prescribed, either an Alleluia Psalm or the Responsorial Psalm followed by the Alleluia with its verse may be used;

b) during a time of year when the Alleluia is not foreseen, either the Psalm and the Verse before the Gospel or the Psalm alone may be used;

c) the Alleluia or the Verse before the Gospel, if not sung, may be omitted.

It’s good to know the distinctions presented here. For the usual daily Mass when there are only two readings, the usual approach is minimalist. At least here in the States.

For 63a, I’m assuming we’re talking about the Easter season. There are times, however, when the psalm assigned in the Lectionary is by genre, a Hallel (or Alleluia) Psalm. My recollection is that outside of Easter, this assignment is somewhat random.

For 63b, the Lenten Gospel Acclamation may be omitted if the Psalm is used.

For 63c, the provision here would seem to permit one of three instances:

  1. sing the alleluia plus verse
  2. sing only the alleluia, no verse
  3. omit both

Many liturgists note the degree of importance attached to the Gospel Acclamation. Thus the directive is often to sing it always, and omit if not sung. The importance of singing this rite is underscored in these sections. Personally, I can’t foresee regular instances of the Gospel Acclamation not being sung, so the point seems moot.

One last note on Sequences:

64. The Sequence which, except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is optional, is sung before the Alleluia.

Whew! That’s a lot of legislation for what usually amounts to about a minute of music, max. Any comments?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to GIRM 62-64: The Acclamation before the Gospel

  1. Liam says:

    My understanding is that the reference to the use of the Graduale here are no different than in the other places to the other propers: it refers not only to text but to the musical setting provided in the Graduale.

    And no. 64 was an interesting reversal in MR3 back a decade ago – it was one of the modifications made between 2000 and 2002, IIRC. Before this, the Latin text reflected that practice that the sequence followed the gradual psalm (hence its name); however, the English edition (at least in the USA) provided for the sequence to precede the Alleluia. In 2002, Rome adopted this approach. Some folks have been in a real snit over this shift. (Not me.)

    Also, it should be noted that the optional sequences include any sequences retained in the Gradual, so that would be: the Lauda Sion for Corpus Christi, the Stabat Mater for Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Dies Irae for the funeral Mass (also, there are additional sequences available for certain Uses of the Roman rite, like the Dominican use, which retains an edited (IIRC) version of the old Christmas-Epiphany sequence, due to a polemical trope verse against the Jews). While a veritable navy of sequences was scuttled after Trent, they haven’t been whittled down quite as much as many assume.

    Btw, the Easter sequence we now use is edited. It omits a verse that was polemical against the Jews. I believe this was edited out after Trent, earlier than I had previously thought.

    • Copernicus says:

      Before this, the Latin text reflected that practice that the sequence followed the gradual psalm (hence its name)

      No, I think it originally followed the Alleluia (and had its origin in the fitting of additional text to the notes of the jubilus (the ornamental prolongation of the last syllable of the Alleluia). Liturgical conservatives are outraged at the shift from after the Alleluia to before it.

  2. What Liam said.
    What I’ve taken away from many sessions with Mahrt over the years, Todd, is that the Alleluia/Gradual or Tract becomes a fuller expression within the context of the whole Liturgy of the Word. But one must remember that would be from his (and many others’) perspective of the ritual language being Latin. Mahrt is “big” upon emphasizing that the melismas that adorn single syllables, much less a word, serve as a means of reflection upon the sacred texts within itself, and those that surround the acclamations. So the issue of brevity, in this context, is moot.
    Experientially, I have been privileged to have such moments at colloquia and chant intensive Masses, particularly one where the cantrix (a very close CA friend of mine) had prepared the versicle with Mahrt with such idiomatic precision and beauty that it was literally breathtaking, and not just for the sonic or musical aspect. The verse was transported to the heart through some cosmic worm hole, not just by a brief run between stops on a transit bus, so to speak.

    • Liam says:

      I think it should be noted that the Graduals, and very especially the Tracts, are generally the most expressive of the propers chants; hence the particular concern that they not be lost to museum use.

  3. FrMichael says:

    Always learning something on this blog. Thanks guys!

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