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Introit and Hymn

Q. Dear CNP:

First let me thank you for this website. The articles are helpful, inspiring and true to Church documents. So refreshing!

A question: According to the GIRM, when the Introit is chanted should it be preceded by a hymn? Or is this redundant? A few years ago we did this in a parish, and if I understood correctly, it was to ease the criticism of some people who did not like a chant Mass. Now we are starting to have a scheduled chant Mass in another parish, that does not have this problem. I personally feel the Introit given to us by the Church is all that is necessary. Am I correct or in left field? I am seeking the Church's teachings on this point.

N. Troyten Himm

A. Dear Mr. Himm:

Thank you for your kind words about our website; we're glad you find it useful.

The GIRM gives several options for music at the Entrance Procession of a Mass, in order of preference:

  1. The antiphon from the Roman Missal or the antiphon/psalm from the Graduale Romanum, sung with Gregorian chant or other music
  2. The antiphon/psalm from the Graduale simplex
  3. A chant from another approved collection of psalms/antiphons
  4. Another liturgical chant [a hymn loosely fits here]

The Church envisions one piece of music to accompany the procession [unless it will be unduly long, like at the Ordination of a Bishop, where it might take 20 minutes or more]. You've witnessed the practice of singing a chant Introit followed (or occasionally preceded) by a congregational hymn. You are absolutely correct in thinking that this is a little odd — it's a compromise solution that allows a chanted Introit proper to be sung [according to the wishes of the Church], while still giving the congregation what they're accustomed to. Having sung an Opening Song [or a so-called "Gathering Song"] for 50 years, congregations have come to expect it, and they (unfortunately) feel "cheated" if they don't get to sing one. Thousands of priests and hundreds of bishops agree with them, mainly because they don't truly understand what the Church is asking for here [or they summarily ignore it]. Having a schola chant a Latin Introit during the Entrance Procession sounds, to many a priest, like a liturgical/pastoral sin — but it's completely within the rubrics — at the top, in fact.

So, there's the back story on parishes that sing Introit & Hymn, or Hymn & Introit. It's a pastoral (perhaps temporary) solution to an emotion-laden problem. It allows parishes to begin using Propers (like the Introit) without causing too much dissent at the outset.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by the "chant Mass" that is starting. Is this a Traditional Latin Mass [Extraordinary Form], or a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin, or simply an English Mass with conservative music? In any case, if the congregation is comfortable with participating both by singing and by attentive listening, then there should be no problem whatsoever in singing only the Introit Proper to begin Mass.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications
Article written 12 September 2015

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