The USCCB’s Divine Worship on Hymns and Proper Chants

I find it extremely encouraging that the Office of Divine Worship is answering questions about music and the propers of the Mass. The questioner in this case is not correct in assuming that the practice of singing both a hymn and the proper chant is wrong. And the answer clearly states this. In any case, the very fact that this exchange is taking place at all is a very good sign. To ask the right questions on the right subjects is more than half the battle.

As relayed by the

Dubium: A Major Catholic Basilica in America has the following practice: as the priest processes to the altar, they sing an opening hymn. Then, as the Bishop incenses the altar, they sing the Proper Introit in Gregorian chant. Is this practice licit?

Responsum (Feb 14, 2012 at 7:29 AM): Thank you for your question. Why would you think it illicit to sing both a hymn and the antiphon during the entrance, especially at a more solemn liturgy involving the bishop when the procession and the incensation of the altar might require more music to accompany the action? This is, in fact, the practice in many cathedrals, especially at stational masses of the bishop which include the whole presbyterate of a diocese (such as the Chrism Mass or ordinations).

Executive Director, Secretariat of Divine Worship, USCCB, 3211 4th St. NE, Washington, DC 20017

Dubium: What is the proper response to people who point out that the current GIRM does not allow this practice?

Responsum (Feb 14, 2012 at 9:58 AM): To say “the GIRM does not allow for this practice” is a bit of a stretch, because it simply gives several options for what could be sung at the entrance. It does not speak in one way or another about whether one could do both, because it speaks only to the normative practice of an entrance procession that includes priest, deacon, and other assisting ministers, and not a more elaborate entrance procession at a stational mass with the bishop and the presbyterate. The GIRM never speaks to every possible scenario that could take place.

Executive Director, Secretariat of Divine Worship, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 3211 4th St. NE, Washington, DC 20017

A New Exultet and Its Mighty Significance

This year we will experience a new Exultet Easter Proclamation. The words are much better, much clearer, less abbreviated, closer to the Latin. As part of this, I want to draw your attention to a new book published by the Liturgical Press. It is called The Easter Proclamation.

It is a pretty book, very elegant, with all original artwork that nicely draws from tradition to present something new and contemporary. It doesn’t look like the official music books of the preconcilar times but it does not depart from them too far either. The production values are absolutely wonderful. In fact, this book is so nice that i wonder why it has received so little attention.

You can actually look at samples here.

The notation is on a 5-line staff, with the same methods used in the Missal. It is a very singable setting. And I really like the way the pages turn and the pictures jump off the page. It is just ideal for any parish.

But let’s not miss the significance here. This is an official book for Catholic liturgy, approved by ICEL and the U.S. Bishops, that contains only music. This is huge. I’m not aware of another official book for liturgy in the modern Roman Rite that contains only music. Again, this is not a “study edition” but an official liturgical book. Is it the first one to appear since the promulgation of the ordinary form of Mass? I’m not entirely sure about that but it is surely rare, regardless.

Whether you are drawn to the style of this work or not, its existence alone is a great cause for hope. It means that the Bishops are more and more seeing the need to approve the publication of books that are only music books. This dramatically elevates the place of music in the current liturgical priorities of the Catholic faith. It is a beginning and a very strong one.