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Musical Musings: Liturgy

Liturgical Surprises

by Gary D. Penkala

There are many passages from the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) at the beginning of the Sacramentary and other liturgical rubrics which are often overlooked or ignored. Be prepared for some surprises!

  • "The purpose of the [the Entrance] song is to open the celebration, intensify the unity of the gathered people, lead their thoughts to the mystery of the season or feast, and accompany the procession of priests and ministers." (GIRM #25)

    Notice the order of these purposes: only lastly does this song serve as "walking music." The Opening Song clearly should not be ended solely because the priest has made his entrance.
  • "The entrance song is sung alternately either by the choir and the congregation or by the cantor and the congregation; or it is sung entirely by the congregation or by the choir alone." (GIRM #26)

    Notice carefully the last phrase: "by the choir alone." How many priests and congregations would currently be shocked by this, erroneously thinking that the choir was stepping on their sacred and rightful territory? The text could not be clearer! A choir can occasionally sing a rousing (or contemplative) Introit.
  • [At the entrance] "the antiphon and psalm of the Graduale Romanum or The Simple Gradual may be used, or another song that is suited to this part of the Mass, the day, or the season and that has a text approved by the conference of bishops." (GIRM #26)

    The preference in the Roman Rite is clearly given to singing an antiphon and psalm as the Opening Song. How few parishes embrace this ancient practice which has its roots in the procession of the pope (or bishop) to the church where Mass was to have been celebrated that day!
  • "After the Entrance Song, the priest and the whole assembly make the sign of the cross." (GIRM #28)

    This brief excerpt speaks volumes to those parishes wherein the Entrance Song ends as soon as the priest reaches the altar. This is completely backwards! The rubrics indicate Mass continues (with the Sign of the Cross and the Greeting) only AFTER the Entrance Song is completed. The congregation's first prayer of the liturgy should not end as soon as the priest arrives!
  • The Sacramentary offers three options for the Penitential Rite, all beginning with an introduction by the priest.

    Option A continues with the Confiteor, "I confess to almighty God..." and the priest's absolution, "May almighty God have mercy on us..." Then, because this litany was not included in the text of the Confiteor, the "Lord, have mercy" is prayed alternately by the priest and congregation.

    Option B also has an unchanging form: "Lord, we have sinned against you: Lord, have mercy." "Lord, have mercy." "Lord, show us your mercy and love." "And grant us your salvation." Then follows the absolution.

    Option C is the one in which the priest or deacon develops original invocations prior to each petition of "Lord, have mercy" or "Christ, have mercy." The people respond appropriately. The priest (not the deacon) then offers absolution.

    It is important to realize that nowhere among these choices is there an option to abbreviate the Penitential Rite to MERELY the three-fold litany. SOMETHING must precede it!

 Back to Liturgy Index

Part II: More Surprises! 

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