OCM Introduction A: Reform of the Graduale Romanum

I want to note the kind contribution of Richard Chonak who translated the Latin original of the second edition (1988). He has given us generous permission to review this document on this site in our vernacular. Hopefully we’ll all gain some insights we can apply to our ministries, our spiritual life, and ideally both.

I had a chance last night to review the whole OCM introduction and I can say I saw a few eye-openers.

A note on today’s title and that of the next three posts … This section of the introduction contains eight unnumbered paragraphs. It serves as sort of an introduction to the introduction, outlining how the conciliar reforms guided and affected the presentation of the Gregorian chant repertoire for the Church’s liturgy. I’ll present two paragraphs a day and letter these A through D so we can keep the order of posts aligned with the text as it occurs in the OCM introduction.

Vatican II called for liturgical reform and renewal. It also called for the heritage of sacred music to be preserved. How would this be accomplished?

The revision of the general Calendar and the liturgical books, especially of the Missal and Lectionary, has resulted in some necessary changes and adjustments, including to the Graduale Romanum. Because some celebrations in the liturgical year have been suppressed, such as the season of Septuagesima, the octave of Pentecost, and the Ember Days, their corresponding Masses were set aside; in addition, as some Saints have been transferred to other times of the year, appropriate adaptations were to be made; and then, on the other hand, where new Masses have been introduced, proper chants were to be provided. Also the new ordering of the biblical readings required that some texts, for example, communion antiphons which are closely connected with those readings, be transferred to other days.

In this way a new ordering of the Graduale Romanum was made, keeping in view what was taught by n. 114 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium: “The treasury of sacred music must be preserved and fostered with the greatest care.” Thus the authentic Gregorian repertory has not suffered any harm; but rather was renewed, in a way; more recent imitations were set aside and ancient texts were more suitably set in place through some additional norms, which will make the use of that repertory easier and more varied.


Chants were not lifted directly from the preconciliar liturgy into the three- and two-year cycles without forethought. The repertoire of music was realigned with seasons, Sundays, and feasts.

The music itself was not altered. Indeed, the body of repertoire in the Roman Gradual was itself reexamined so as to emphasize chants part of the authentic Roman repertoire. Later imitations of Gregorian chant were sidelined–but not trashed, as we will see. Those revising and reassembling the Ordo Cantus Missae believe their work made it easier for post-conciliar musicians while keeping some degree of variety–I presume for the sake of the repertoire and for the demands of the new liturgy.

Your thoughts? Do those of you working with the traditional chants agree the reform gave “a more appropriate place” to this repertoire? Is the new Roman Gradual easier to use?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Ordo Cantus Missae, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to OCM Introduction A: Reform of the Graduale Romanum

  1. My thought is just to thank you for this post.

  2. FrMichael says:

    What does OCM look like? I have been slowly introducing the Graduale Simplex and Dr. Ford’s By Flowing Waters to the parish choirs, but there is a lot of resistance: it’s just so easy to use OCP’s chant in the Missalette for the Responsorial.

  3. Todd says:

    The Roman Gradual is the official “hymnal” of chants, one step up from the Simple Gradual. The OCM is the praenotanda of that document.

    The OCP material is indeed easy, accessible, and functional. But it turns your psalmists into a stable of one-trick ponies.

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