I write this article to give encouragement to all liturgical musicians who also are actively engaged in planning the liturgical processes and future of their assigned parishes. Enlightenment, as you will hear and have likely already found, comes in a moment. Bring that seed to fruition is another story. This is ours….
Hi there! Been a while.
Indeed, good things come to those who wait. But a portion of that waiting must be a vigilance towards “carpe diem.”
Years ago, I wrote an article whose inspiration came from one of the seminars in the New Orleans Chant Intensive through the genius and encyclopedic medium of Professor William Mahrt, grand and esteemed president of CMAA. In the advanced chant group the subject of whether there existed a strategy by which the Mahrt concept of “stuffing the Mass” could actually be accomplished. (This notion I must claim as providing impetus, as my local situation I foresaw as likely never being able to fully realize the good professor’s mantra of “The Paradigm,” essentially a Solemn High Mass sung in either an EF or OF protocol. “Stuffing the Mass” essentially means a compatible programming of the proper processionals and the versions of other propers (Gradual/Alleluia/Tract/Sequences) along with the now-customary expectations of fourth option hymns.
You can look it up here, but Mahrt (at the time) did seem to almost have a light bulb moment in NOLA when he came up with the tradition and solution, “Circumambulation.” Readers of SACRED MUSIC will quickly recall his recent article in which he explicates the concept of enveloping the congregation through two processions, the Entrance and Offertory.
Well, I’m happy to report that after lo these many intervening years, we here in Central California were enabled to realize the feasibility, and more so, the beautiful viability of circumambulation at four of our Passion Sunday Masses in our mother parish (of four merged parishes.) We had prepared the congregation, or actually the whole parish, through articles in the bulletin even though the procedure would really only work at our mother parish. Our pastor and designated associate both were “bought in” at our liturgical committee meetings months before in which we considered options for Passion Sunday. And because the concept is actually quite simple to enact there was very basic preparation for acolytes and deacons to assimilate by instruction by our liturgical coordinator and myself over the course of the four Masses.
Simply, circumambulation literally means “walking around.” Liturgically it means that the Introit begins not at the narthex doors into the nave, but from the sacristy, as commonly done at daily Mass. Instead of me (or some other musical leader) announcing the hymn and the invitation to stand, the crucifer rings the sacristy bell, everyone stands, the ministers assemble and reverence the altar and proceed down our north (stage left) aisle as the schola sings the proper Introit (in our case, chanted vernacular.)
Of course, on this Sunday under the second rite, the “In Nomine…collect…blessing….Gospel, etc.” interrupts the full procession which was by design in our situation. And then as the Entrance procession was resumed the taking up of the hymn “All glory, laud and honor…” accompanied the entourage into the center aisle and sanctuary.
We had also planned to have the Passion chanted (three schola chanters from the GIA ritual settings) at these Masses only, so that the “solemn elevtion” of these particular “Sunday Masses” would coincide with the processions.
To complete the whole circumambulation process, the crucifer, light bearers and acolytes proceeded down the opposite south aisle to enfold the procession of the gifts to the sanctuary, thus enabling us to sing both the Offertorio and the hymn “O Sacred Head.”
To sum up, both the associate pastor and pastor were quite taken with the simple elegance of Dr. Mahrt’s brainstorm solution that had its genesis to this participant a number of years ago in NOLA. Though we all here are in his debt for this beautiful realization, the effect attests simple to ‘soli Deo gloria.”
I see this becoming normative for at least one or a few more Sunday Masses here in Central California . And, more hopefully, this watershed moment bodes well for whenever the construction of our 2500 capacity Church is complete and dedicated.