Lectionaries, Translations, and Music in the Mass

Ever since the new (2001) Lectionary for Mass was released, various individuals and groups have pointed a singular anomaly of the current situation: There is not a translation of the Bible which matches the readings in the Lectionary for Mass.

However, I have not seen any mention of a similar situation, which has been present in the English editions of the Roman Rite since they were published: there are many, many texts that appear in the Rites for which no official music is provided.

By their nature, the Rites of the Church are intended to be sung, almost in their entirety. This may seem odd to the modern Massgoer, for whom the sung Mass has all but disappeared. You will find in every diocese some priests who sing the responses of the Mass (“The Lord be with you.”), and many parishes sing the people’s parts such as the “Holy, Holy, Holy” and the “Gloria”. But when was the last time you heard the deacon sing the Gospel; or the cantor sing the General Intercessions? Or the priest sing the Prayer after Communion?

Before the Council, the priest’s Missal and the Graduale Romanum (the book of Gregorian chants for the cantor) contained explicit directions on how the priest, deacon, cantor, and choir were to sing their texts. It contained such details about the three different reciting tones on which to sing the Gospel, and how to “point” the Latin text.

Now, all such musical directives have been removed from the Missal (inexplicably translated as “Sacramentary). So, even as the Second Vatican Council expounded on the wonders of music in the Liturgy, the rug was pulled out from under those who were attempting to sing the Liturgy in all its glory.

As a simplistic example: I was encouraging a transitional deacon in the parish to learn how to sing the Gospels. However, I could not tell him “this is how you should sing it.” Instead, various publishers have developed tones for singing the Gospels, and each deacon/priest is supposed to decide which one to use. This state of anarchy is confusing to most people, inclusing those clergy who really wish to honor the wishes of the Council by singing the Mass in all its splendor.

We need a unified repertoire throughout the US (indeed, the English-speaking world)… but more on that later.

Atom Feed for Comments One Response to “Lectionaries, Translations, and Music in the Mass”

  1. Don Clark Says:

    Congratulations. I am sure that another fine musician has entered the world. About singing the Gospel, etc. There are very complete books on how to do this in English from the High Anglican Church, and you probably have them, but if not, I do and shall be glad to lend them if they be any help. DEC

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