Awkward Communion

My friend Jerry related a visit to a cathedral parish in which a curious repertoire choice unfolded at Communion time: the Gregorian antiphon, Laetabimur in salutari tuo was sung solo during the priest’s Communion, followed by “I Received the Living God,” while the people received. One of the comments on the thread:

(F)rom the directives for guest choirs at St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome, issued by the Prefect of the Musical Chapel and approved by Pope Benedict:

The guest choir may sing: at the Entrance procession until the moment when the celebrant reaches the altar (the Gregorian Introit is sung by the Musical Chapel of the Basilica), at the preparation of the gifts and relative offertory, at Communion, after the Gregorian antiphon has been sung, and at the end of Mass, after the Blessing. The program of music must follow the Liturgy of the day and will be agreed upon with and approved by the Choirmaster.

So it seems that the normative practice at St. Peters is to sing the Antiphon at communion and then follow it with the communion song, exactly the practice that was in question in your article. Now…I realize this is talking about St. Peters and not a parish church, but I would claim that there surely can’t be anything wrong with this practice if it is the approved norm at the primary Basillica of the Catholic church.

Surely there can’t be anything wrong with singing a Communion piece–chant, song, psalm, or whatever with a certain liturgical and musical integrity? Does the rite call for the Gregorian antiphon first, without psalm verses or anything to respect the integrity of the liturgy? Interesting that the four-hymn sandwich of the pre-conciliar Low Mass has made it all the way to St Peter’s. I wonder when the worshippers at St Peter’s get to sing?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Awkward Communion

  1. Paul May says:

    I am pretty (completely) ignorant when it comes to what the choir should be singing during Mass.
    However, something that does mean something to me is a period of silence during and after the reception of Holy Communion, when personal contemplation is easier for me. And, I sometimes wonder when the singing choir has an opportunity to contemplate their own communion.

  2. Liam says:

    I suspect we might be reading the reference to the “Communion antiphon” in the Cappella Guilia’s norms for guest choirs too literally. I suspect equivocal translating language at work. While it is common to speak the antiphon only in the vernacular versions given in the Lectionary, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the sung antiphons (from the Gradual or otherwise) done in the absence of its psalm, but I have heard those sung chants referred to in shorthand as the antiphon when in fact they are the antiphon plus psalm portion.

    I am also not a fan of keyboardists (organ or piano) doubling as solo cantors while playing; reminds me too much of cocktail bars. I am not saying it’s outright wrong. I’m just sayin’….

  3. David D. says:

    “Interesting that the four-hymn sandwich of the pre-conciliar Low Mass has made it all the way to St Peter’s. I wonder when the worshippers at St Peter’s get to sing.”

    I’m a little confused by this. The guidelines indicate that in addition to joining the Musical Chapel in alternation for the Ordinary, a guest choir may sing at the entrance, offertory, communion and recessional. Besides the chanting of the Introit and Communion by the Musical Chapel, it is not clear how the other Propers are handled. This is about as much music as could be sung at Mass and substantially more than a four hymn sandwich. Also, the congregation could certainly join the chanting of the Ordinary including the dialogues and, depending on the selections, the supplementary hymns chosen by the guest choir.

  4. Tony says:

    I wonder when the worshippers at St Peter’s get to sing?

    Why is it assumed they have to?

  5. Jono says:

    As the setting of the Ordinary of the Mass is generally seasonally determined (Mass I for Easter, VII for Advent and Lent, etc.), it would make sense that the people would be able to take part in the singing of the Ordinary to the traditional chants. Sacrosanctum Concilium even stated that the people should know the chants of the Ordinary, as this is the part “proper” to the peopple. The more difficult (and infrequent) Propers (from the Gradual) would be rendered by the Choir. Also, GIRM states that a post-communion Song of Praise, when sung, must be sung by all.

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    Gee, Tony, if we can prevent pew potatoes from singing all together, then mass can be one big concert for the benefit of musicians.

    Whippy skip to that.

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