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Musical Musings: CNP Feedback

CNP Feedback - Eucharistic Anthems

by Gary D. Penkala

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

I am a cantor at a large parish. Our music director thinks that we shouldn't sing in Latin, and also says there is no need for "adoration-type" music during the Communion Meditation. The choir director is not Catholic and refuses to search for Eucharistic choral anthems. The music director has challenged me to name anything written after Vatican II that the choir can sing for Communion Meditations. This is a mess!

I have sung all over the country with very prestigious choral directors. I have sung beautiful music that is older and newer, but being a singer, and not one with a great memory for titles, I am searching for examples to present to them for their consideration. If you have any suggestions, please let me know! I am specifically looking for post-conciliar Eucharistic choral anthems. I am trying to handle all of this with humility and am clinging to the hem of St. Ephram for his prayerful assistance!

Thank you.

A Catholic Chorister

A. Dear Catholic Chorister:

A general comment before we begin discussing Eucharistic anthems.

It might be useful, in a very kind and non-confrontational way, to mention to your music director (who thinks that we shouldn't sing in Latin) the following direct quotes from the Second Vatican Council document Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium):
Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. [SC #36]

Steps should be taken enabling the faithful to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them. [SC #54]
Clarification: "The Latin rites" means the liturgies celebrated by the Roman Rite, also called the "Latin Rite." ("Roman Catholics," in other words). The Ordinary of the Mass means the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Amen, Pater Noster, and Agnus Dei. (In other words, the parts that don't change text from week to week).

Now to your question.

I'm not sure I completely understand your situation. I'm assuming that at the beginning of Communion, there is either organ music or a congregational hymn or other responsorial-type music. Here's what the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy says about this time in its 1972 document Music in Catholic Worship:
The Communion Song should foster a sense of unity... Because they emphasize adoration rather than communion, most benediction hymns are not suitable. In general, during the most important seasons of the Church year -- Easter, Lent, Christmas, Advent -- it is preferable that most songs used at the communion be seasonal in nature. [MCW #62]
I'm further assuming that at or near the end of Communion in your parish the choir offers a piece which you're calling a Communion Meditation. Here's what the same document (MCW) says about this time:
The singing of a psalm or hymn of praise after communion is optional... A congregational song may well provide a fitting expression of oneness in the Eucharistic Lord. Since no particular text is specified, there is ample room for creativity. [MCW #72]
My point in citing these two passages is that music "during Communion" or "after Communion" need not be Eucharistic in theme, although it can be. Every Mass culminates in the miraculous event which brings Christ's very Body and Blood to our altars and to us, so a hymn or other music expounding this dogma is certainly appropriate to be sung communally, thereby demonstrating our unity in the Lord. However, each Mass is celebrated in the context of a rhythmic cycle of themes and events that we call the Liturgical Year (from Advent to Baptism of the Lord, and from Lent to Pentecost). It is more important that the mystery of the day's celebration be reflected in our music than that every Communion Meditation be Eucharistic. For similar reason, every anthem or hymn sung at Offertory time does not need to speak of "offering." The festival supercedes the functionality.

Having said that, you should be aware that my basis for offering those suggestions comes from a document which is precisely that ... suggestions. The U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy can help Catholics understand and plan the liturgy, but their documents certainly do not carry the weight of authority as do those issued by an Ecumenical Council. Hence, we seem quite the fool if we hold to the suggestion "Communion music need not be Eucharistic" and ignore the council's clear directive "The use of Latin is to be preserved." You can see why tact is very important in dealing with someone who disdains Latin ... he may well fit the role quoted above, and a fool makes a very unstable debate opponent.

If we are willing to admit that Communion music need not be Eucharistic in theme, there is a vast treasury of superb anthems in every style and from every era. However, your question was about Eucharistic-themed anthems, and there are indeed many of them, too. Some examples:
  • Adoro te devote (Gregorian chant) Booklet of Chant, Volume III; CNP Catalog #2003 or ICEL Resource Collection #129
  • Adoro te devote (arr. Gary Penkala) CNP Catalog #2010
  • Anima Christi (Robert Powell) [Augsburg Publ]
  • Anima Christi (Calvert Shenk) CNP Catalog #5110
  • Ave verum corpus (Gregorian chant) ICEL Resource Collection #131
  • Ave verum corpus (W.A. Mozart, William Byrd, Edward Elgar, Gabriel Fauré)
  • Bread of the World in Mercy Broken (Robert E. Smith) [GIA Publications]
  • Dixit Dominus from Solemn Vespers (W.A. Mozart)
  • Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether (Harold Friedell)
  • Eat This Bread (Jacques Berthier - Taizé Community)
  • Ecce panis angelorum (Gregorian chant) -- shortened sequence for Corpus Christi [Hymns, Psalms & Spiritual Canticles #150]
  • Ego sum panis (G.P. da Palestrina, William Byrd)
  • Gift of Finest Wheat (melody by Robert Kreutz, in many arrangements)
  • How Holy This Feast (Bob Moore) [GIA Publications]
  • In Memory of You (Alexander Peloquin) [GIA Publications]
  • Jesu dulcis memoria (Gregorian chant) ICEL Resource Collection #135
  • Lauda Sion (Gregorian chant) -- proper sequence for Corpus Christi [Liber usualis, p. 945]
  • O esca viatorum (Heinrich Isaac) [GIA Publications]
  • O Jesu dulcis memoria (Gregorian chant, Victoria)
  • O sacrum convivium (Giovanni Croce, G.P. da Palestrina)
  • O sacrum convivium (Eugene Englert) CNP Catalog #5083
  • Pange lingua gloriosi (Gregorian chant) Booklet of Chant, Volume II; CNP Catalog #2002 -or- ICEL Resource Collection #143 -or- Liber usualis, p.957
  • Panis angelicus (Cesar Franck, G.P. da Palestrina)
  • Sacris solemniis (Gregorian chant) Liber usualis, p.920
  • Sicut cervus (Palestrina / Angelini) CNP Catalog #7090
  • Tantum ergo sacramentum (Christopher Bord) CNP Catalog #5099
  • The Eyes of All Wait upon Thee (Jean Berger)
  • The Feast of Love (Eugene Englert) [GIA Publications]
  • Tu es sacerdos (Samuel Wesley) [Novello]
  • Ubi caritas (Gregorian chant, same arr. by Richard Proulx, Maurice Duruflé)
  • Verbum supernum prodiens (Gregorian chant) Liber usualis, p.940
Although I'm not exactly sure why it matters, those pieces in bold type were composed after the Second Vatican Council.

The Lectionary for Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours use the following psalms for Eucharistic feasts (Corpus Christi, Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist, etc). Anthems based on these psalms may have a "Eucharistic" theme also.

  • Psalm 23:1-6
  • Psalm 34:2-11
  • Psalm 42
  • Psalm 78:3-4,23-25, 54
  • Psalm 81
  • Psalm 110: 1-4
  • Psalm 111
  • Psalm 116: 12-18
  • Psalm 145:10-18
  • Psalm 147: 12-15,19-20
I hope this information is of some help to you. Remember to be kind and patient in all your discussions. Liturgy is a volatile subject... and musicians are fiery people. Arguing liturgy with a musician, then, can turn dangerously "explosive."

Good luck!

See CNP's Index of Eucharistic Music

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