New Year’s Resolution

As the first Sunday of Advent approaches, it is a good idea to think of one simple, non-confrontational, unobjectionable way to begin a program of parish musical reform.

This step avoids all the hot-button objections that folks raise against almost any other aspect of the reform of the reform. It does not require Latin, or a change of hymnal, or omitting the opening hymn, or anything else that people are extremely devoted to. It is simple and easy and every music program already has the materials.

Sing a responsorial Psalm during the reception of Communion.

Parishes that sing the “4-hymn sandwich” that is leftover from the low Mass tradition will observe that the sung participation during the Offertory and Communion is relatively low. This is because people are doing other things at these times. Instead of holding a hymnal, they are occupied with getting their envelopes together, passing the basket, lining up for Communion, and in general dealing with many other activities. In particular, Communion is the moment when a strophic hymn is least likely to be missed.

It is the perfect time, then, for the classic antiphon-Psalm structure to be used in the Liturgy.

All that is needed is to use the same collection of Psalms that is customarily used for the Responsorial Psalm after the first reading. Psalm 34, with its “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” is always appropriate. Psalm 23 is likewise very good. During Advent, Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation” would be a wonderful meditation as we await the true Light Who is coming into the world.

Sung participation is certainly possible, because the antiphons are relatively short. And if a cantor sings the Psalm verses, this allows the rest of the choir to receive Communion if they are so disposed, without interrupting the singing that is supposed to carry through from the priest’s Communion throughout the reception time.

The General Instruction allows for a hymn of praise to be sung at the end of Communion, and this would be a much better time for the people in the pews to open their hymnals.

It’s a small change, and unobjectionable–and a great beginning!

8 Replies to “New Year’s Resolution”

  1. We do this often at my parish and it works rather well. Its also a good time to use those psalm paraphrases, for example, Shepherd Me, O God, which are popular but shouldn't be used during the Liturgy of the Word.

  2. In the parishes where I have used this, or heard this practice, it has not engendered controversy. I would encourage the singing of the communion antiphon (with psalm verses) while the priest and other ministers are receiving. Then when the ministers leave the altar, begin the psalm antiphon with the entire choir, sing a second time, and set the cantor to singing verses alternatim.

  3. We do this at my church. Another option is to find a psalm that matches the Communion chant for the day. I have found success marrying the generally-good "refrains" with Meinrad tones for the verses (sung by a cantor). For example, Scott Soper's setting of Psalm 25 using Meinrad tone 6 on the verses.

  4. I used to do this fairly often when I was still choir director in my parish. (I've only recently started to sing with the choir again.) _As JOndrey said, if you can find a Psalm setting that corresponds to the assigned Communio (and good luck doing that if you're stuck with just about anything from OCP), that's a plus. I know WLP's "We Celebrate" has (or had) a nice setting of Ps 34 with "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord" as the refrain/antiphon, and I used it frequently.

  5. Here's what I do…hopefully is this more clear. I try to find the general psalm from which the Communio is drawn. Most times, the antiphon itself is one of the 'verses' from the OCP psalm ( we use Heritage Missal; not a fan, btw…) So, in my mind, we are either hitting option 1 (as assigned in the GR or another setting) or option 3 (…a psalm..), not 'the dreaded' option 4.

  6. This is what we do in my parish. We also have the choir chant psalms 148 to 150 as a single psalm, but with the antiphon sung at the beginnin of 148 and repeated after psalm 150. This is taken from Lauds and our choir sings it every Sunday before the 9:00 am euchrist. Then the Benedictus with its antiphon is sung as a Communion meditation. Our people are picking up on this and have no problem singing the antiphon before and after the canticle.

    This is a good way to introduce psalmody and the canticles to a congregation unaccustomed to celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours.

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