Choosing Mass Music Wisely

When planners are asked to explain how they choose the music for the entrance chant, they usually say that they follow themes from the gospel or the lectionary’s other readings of the day. There is virtually no liturgical tradition behind such a choice, nor was the lectionary compiled to influence music outside the Liturgy of the Word. On occasion, one finds a link between the words of the Missal’s communion chant and the gospel of the day. But planners often choose the music for communion because the words contain some reference to the Body and Blood of Christ, a custom quite rare in the Missal. The Missal’s communion chants have their own inner logic. Some have been associated with specific days at least since the eighth century, such as the one for the First Sunday of Advent. Others form an inner group, such as the “I m” statements of Jesus in John’s gospel, which appear on the Third, Twelfth, Eighteenth, Twentieth, Twenty-Third, and Twenty-Fifth Sundays in Ordinary Time. Verses from the Beatitudes appear on the Fourth, Fifth, Seventeenth, and Twenty-Second Sundays in Ordinary Time. The words of these particular communion chants were new to the postconciliar Mass, and they invited a unique way of planning music. But these internal structures are commonly set aside when planners choose music that focuses more on the action of going to Communion.

Paul Turner, Whose Mass Is It? Why People Care So Much about the Catholic Liturgy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015), p. 28. Emphasis added. ISBN: 978-0-8146-4867-4.

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Article by Andrew Doohan

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