As someone who was raised in a Protestant church, one of my first impressions of the Catholic Mass was how much stayed the same every week. There were no printed worship aids at the first Catholic churches I attended, but everyone knew exactly what was next and all the proper responses. I was amazed! At first, this seemed a little rigid and monotonous to me, but as I spent more time worshiping with Catholics and studying Church documents, I came to discover the rich variety that is possible in the celebration of Mass.
The General Instructions of the Roman Missal (GIRM) provide the basic instructions for how we are to celebrate Mass. Like most instruction manuals though, once we’ve found a solution, we tend not to refer to them again. Unless we encounter a problem, we generally stick to what we’ve found and don’t go looking for any other information.
The GIRM gives options for what we should sing at the Entrance, Offertory and Communion. Typically the choices offered are chants from the historical books of chant (the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex), another musical setting of these texts, a different Psalm with antiphon approved by the bishops, or “another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.” (GIRM, #48). This last option is what is most often chosen in the United States, though the choir here regularly sings the chants from the Graduale Romanum for the Entrance and Communion at the 11am Mass.
What most people do not realize is that there is not any requirement or musical options given for a closing hymn at the end of Mass. After the Dismissal, the priest (and deacon) venerate the altar and withdraw. No mention of music or singing at this moment is included in the GIRM. For this reason and as an experiment in progressive solemnity, we will not be singing a closing hymn for a few weeks this summer. In addition to changing the music that we sing for the Eucharistic Acclamations to mark the seasons and relative solemnity of our celebrations, this change in the number of hymns we sing gives more variety to our Liturgy throughout the year and will allow us to focus on quality singing rather than quantity.
Encouraging you to sing,
Bulletin Notes for the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, July 19, 2015