Sunday, November 11, 2007

The problem of the Graduals and the Responsorial Psalms

A question comes to us:

Were responsorial psalm texts part of the editio typica of the Roman Missal issued in 1970 or were only gradual verses present, with responsorial psalms added in 1975 after having been introduced in the vernacularization process? I've always thought it was the latter, since the Solesmes Gregorian Missal has only gradual verses, no responsorial psalms.

But I've never seen the actual Latin Roman Missal of 1970 directly, so I don't know if it had both gradual verses and responsorial psalms as options, whereas the Solesmes Gregorian Missal just printed the gradual verses and left the responsorial psalms aside (since there was not traditional Gregorian chant for the responsorial psalms but there was for the gradual verses?).

I'm simply trying to teach my undergrads that at some point the responsorial psalms were introduced; I always thought it was after the 1970 Missal was issued, but lately I've begun to think that perhaps they were present already in the 1970 Missal.

By way of background, the issue here relates to the innovation called the "Responsorial Psalm" that Catholics know today, which are found in the Lectionary but are different from the text and music that one finds in the Graduale, the schola's book for the Roman Rite. Bugnini introduced the Responsorial Psalm text as a way of creating texts that can be sung more readily by the people, but various missteps have resulted in making this part of the Mass a triviality: what mostly predominates is a kiddie melody that people can instantly learn and forget.

Most competent music programs in parishes end up using alternative versions such as the Chabanel Psalms or write their own based on a pure Psalm tone style (which is what we do). Whatever you do, it is struggle to make it beautiful -- and imagine having to say this after 2000 years of Christian Psalm singing!

That's the background. As for the specific question here, it's my understanding that the Responsorial Psalm was in the 1970 Missal. Tell me if I'm wrong.

But I have another related question: what is this reference to the Responsorial Psalm in Musicam Sacram of 1967, paragraph 33?

"The song after the lessons, be it in the form of gradual or responsorial psalm, has a special importance among the songs of the Proper. By its very nature, it forms part of the Liturgy, of the Word. It should be performed with all seated and listening to it -- and, what is more, participating in it as far as possible."

So what is this Responsorial Psalm in 1967 to which this document refers?

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: