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!