The Renaissance of the Mass Propers
March 05, 2013
After years of neglect in many American parishes, chanted Mass propers are making a comeback, thanks in part to new online resources.
J. J. Ziegler
Members of the choir sing during the annual Christmas concert at St. Malachy's Church -- The Actors' Chapel in New York Dec. 13, 2010. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
The publication of the new English translation of the Roman Missal has helped revive interest in the use of chant in the ordinary form of Holy Mass. The Roman Missal includes many more chanted texts than did the previous edition, allowing clergy and people alike to “sing the Mass, rather than merely to sing at Mass,” as Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, executive director of the ICEL (International Committee on English in the Liturgy) Secretariat, said in a 2010 address.
The new Roman Missal includes a new translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), which also has fostered greater interest in chant. Citing Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) and subsequent curial documents, the GIRM states that “the main place should be given, all things being equal, to Gregorian chant, as being proper to the Roman Liturgy.… Since the faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is desirable that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Profession of Faith and the Lord’s Prayer, according to the simpler settings” (nos. 41-42).
When Catholics think of Gregorian chant at Mass, many tend first to think of chants associated with the Ordinary of the Mass—that is, the parts of the Mass that tend not to vary from day to day—for example, the Kyrie, Gloria, Profession of Faith (Credo), Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.
But there is also another set of chanted prayers at Mass: the propers, that is, five chants that are proper, or specific, to each Mass. The past two years have witnessed a revival of interest in the propers in parishes in the English-speaking world.
“I would contend that there are two primary reasons for the increased popularity of chanting the propers at Mass,” Father Dan Merz, associate director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CWR. “First, there is a renewed interest in the texts proposed by the Church herself for the Mass, as opposed to individual choices that may not coincide with the rest of the Mass as well. This goes together with the desire for more accurate translations of texts used at the Eucharist and the other liturgies of the Church. The entrance and Communion antiphons are often scriptural and serve as an official commentary or meditation of sorts on the Mass of the day, as opposed to hymns or songs chosen on the local level.”
“Second, there is a renewed interest in chant itself, including Gregorian chant,” he added. “Many Catholics grew up without any experience or knowledge of chant, and so there is a natural desire to uncover a part of the tradition that was lost—at least to them.”
Read the rest of the article at Catholic World Report.