There is nothing more tragic than the complete elimination of the texts proper to the Mass. Certainly, we would be horrified if the second reading were to be eliminated and replaced with a generic faith reflection unrelated to the reading it seeks to supplant. Why, then, have we allowed the antiphons that accompany the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion processions to completely disappear from liturgical use? The GIRM, in listing the four options for the Entrance, speaks first of “the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting.” The next two options are also psalms and antiphons. It is not until the very last option that the GIRM mentions, “a suitable liturgical song.” The norms for the other proper chants reference the same principle.
Why have we made the last option the norm for our liturgical celebrations? Moreover, the songs chosen almost universally bear no resemblance of the chant texts in the Gradual. Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, Executive Director of the ICEL Secretariat, observes that these Propers represent the Church’s own thoughts about the readings, that they serve as a sort of lectio divina pointing us towards the mysteries and riches of the day’s liturgy. The problem with choosing hymns instead of receiving the Propers is the temptation to impose our own interpretation of the sacred texts that will be read during the Liturgy of the Word. According to Msgr. Wadsworth, “It is seriously deficient to consider that planning music for the liturgy ever begins with a blank sheet: there are texts given for every Mass in the Missal and these texts are intended for singing.”