Antiphons and the Graduale Romanum

And More on Fasting Before Mass

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ROME, JULY 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I am completing a project of translating into English and transcribing into modern notation the introit and communion antiphons of the Mass. My hope is to enable any singer, even one unfamiliar with the theory and tradition of monophony, to discover the musical truth and spiritual power of these beautiful treasures. In this effort I have noticed many discrepancies between the texts given in the missal currently used in the United States and those that are prescribed in the Graduale Romanum. For example, the communion antiphon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter in the Graduale for Year A is: "Non vos relínquam órphanos" (I will not leave you orphans), but in the U.S. missal it is: "Si dilígitis me …" (If you love me, keep my commandments). The missal uses this text for all three years. Now in this instance both texts are found in the Year A Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (John 14:15-21), but this is not the case for Years B and C where the Graduale texts are Gospel referent, but "Si dilígitis me" is not. The Graduale texts are almost always more related to the Scripture and themes of a particular Mass than are those in the missal. There are many other examples I could cite. I am very curious as to why and how this is. Does the new missal correct this? -- E.L., Chicago

A: The new translation also has "If you love me" for this Sunday which corresponds to the original Latin of the Roman Missal. The Latin missal traditionally has only one communion antiphon normally related to the theme of the Gospel.

The Graduale Romanum, or Roman Gradual, is an official liturgical book containing chants for use at Mass. The Gradual is not limited to the texts provided in the missal but offers a wider choice of musical possibilities.

The discrepancy between the two, if it can be called that, is probably due to the chronology of publication. The Gradual was published in 1974, four years after the missal and the lectionary which introduced the new, three-year cycle of readings. The compilers of the Gradual therefore had sufficient time to propose new chants adapted to each cycle of readings, whereas the missal text was confined to cycle A.

The options are outlined in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), Nos. 48 and 87:

"No. 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.

"If there is no singing at the entrance, the antiphon in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector; otherwise, it is recited by the priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation (cf. above, no. 31).

"No. 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.

"If there is no singing, however, the Communion antiphon found in the Missal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector. Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful."

As can be observed, the liturgical norms allow several choices for the communion song, including using either the Gradual or the missal. Given this possibility it was probably considered unnecessary to provide alternative antiphons in the missal itself. Some vernacular translations, however, have provided these alternatives based on the three-year cycle.

I am very happy to see musicians give priority to the official liturgical texts rather than go the easy way of introducing tunes from other sources. In this way the assembly can aspire to sing the Mass and not just sing at Mass.

An excellent study of the history of the entrance antiphons, as well as a proposal to combine them with metrical psalms for use at Mass, can be found in a 2005 work by Christoph Tietze, "Hymn Introits for the Liturgical Year," Hillenbrand Books, Chicago.

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Follow-up: Fasting Before Mass

Related to the question of fasting before Communion (see July 5), a Malaysian reader had asked: "I noticed many Catholic Christians go to church daily and some even go two or three times a day. They even receive the holy Eucharist at all these Masses that they attend. Please enlighten me as I am conducting training for religion teachers and I would like a very clear stand on this. Reference is made to Canons 915 through 922."

The key canon for this question is No. 917. It states, "A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 921, §2."

Canon 921.2 says: "Even if they have been nourished by holy communion on the same day, however, those in danger of death are strongly urged to receive communion again."

There was a doubt regarding the meaning of the word iterum (which can mean either "again" or "a second time") in Canon 917. The Holy See's body for authentically interpreting laws decided that it meant "a second time."

Thus, a Catholic may receive Communion a second time but only during a Mass. Outside of Mass a second or even third Communion may only be received as viaticum for the dying.

Except in the case of viaticum, one should fast for an hour before both receptions of Communion.