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CNP Feedback - What's the Right Psalm?

Q. Dear CNP:

I recently purchased from you the Graduale Romanum and Graduale simplex, and read the Guides to each one. While they seem to be very clear and straight-forward I am still confused. Our lectionary Responsorial Psalm for the 1st Sunday of Lent is Psalm 25 yet in the Graduale it is Psalm 90. Are we on a different lectionary cycle? Help!!


A. Dear In-psalm-niac:

Don't lose sleep over this. Your confusion with the texts in the Graduale Romanum and Graduale simplex is understandable.

First, let's look at the Graduale Romanum (GR). The volume has a long history that dates back well before the Second Vatican Council. Recall that it was the Council that gave the impetus for the revolutionary three-year Lectionary. Prior to that, the same readings were used at Mass every year. The GR came from that older tradition. There was only one set of Propers (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia/Tract, Offertory, Communion) for each Sunday, which would be repeated every year.

The Gradual, which was sung after the Epistle, came to be our present Responsorial Psalm, and can still be used after the First Reading. Confusion occurs because there is only one Gradual for the First Sunday of Lent (Angelis suis... [Ps.90/91]), found in the GR, while there are three different Responsorial Psalms found in the current Lectionary (Year A: Be merciful... [Ps 51], Year B: Your ways O Lord... [Ps 25], Year C: Be with me Lord [Ps 91]). Notice that the text from the GR (Ps 90/91:11-12) overlaps with the Responsorial Psalm for Year C (Ps 91:1-2, 10-15). The discrepancy in numbering the Psalm (that is, Psalm 90 or Psalm 91) occurs from using the Vulgate Bible system (old) or the New American Bible system (new)... don't worry too much about that, but more info is available, if you're interested, at Psalm Numbering.

The Graduale simplex (GS), which is a much more simplified book than the GR, also offers a setting of Psalm 90/91 as the Responsorial Psalm for Lent I (called Psalmus responsorius I), as well as a setting of Psalm 40/41 (called Psalmus responsorius II). A third option is even listed: Psalm 121/122 from the second Mass during Advent.

In any case, one is free to choose any of the options in GR or GS to sing after the First Reading on the First Sunday of Lent in any Year (A B or C). You may also, of course (as is common in most Catholic churches in the US), sing the assigned Responsorial Psalm (in English) from the Lectionary for the particular year, or even one of the three Common Responsorial Psalms for Lent (Psalm 51, Psalm 91, Psalm 130), also found in the Lectionary.

The chants from the GR and GS were composed and arranged at a time when there was less correlation "expected" among the texts of a particular liturgy. The texts for the Introit and Gradual, for example, may have spoken of general "Lenten" themes, without ever specifically addressing the stories in the readings or the Gospel.

The bottom line is, on the First Sunday of Lent (Year B), one can sing any of the following after the First Reading:

  • Angelis suis mandavit de te... [Psalm 90/91:11-12] (GR, p.72)
  • Scapulis suis obumbrabit... [Psalm 90/91] (GS, p.91)
  • Laetatus sum in eo... [Psalm 121/122] (GS, p.60)
  • Ego dixit: Domine ... [Psalm 40/41] (GS, p.92)
  • Yours ways, O Lord... [Psalm 25:4-9] (Lectionary for Mass I, p.177)
  • Be merciful, Lord... [Psalm 51:3-17] (Lectionary for Mass I, p.1015)
  • Be with me, Lord... [Psalm 91:1-16] (Lectionary for Mass I, p.1016)
  • With the Lord there is mercy... [Psalm 130:1-8] (Lectionary for Mass I, p.1016)

Any of these choices is equally appropriate and official.

Hope this helps.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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