Monday, December 17, 2007

An English Introit, Singing the Prophecy, and other notes from the weekend

Yesterday was my first time to sing the Old Testament reading, and it was tremendously exciting for me. The first time I heard the Prophecy tone, I thought: he must be making this up. It was too cool. But no, this was the precise tone as spelled out in the rubrics for lessons. It is very simple and yet in all my years of attending OF Masses, I think I've heard it only a few times and only at the CMAA colloquium. How is it possible that something so easy and effective--and can be done by any layperson--can be so rarely used? It is a mystery. We have such a wonderful kit of liturgical wonders at our disposal!

In any case, I was particularly struck by the effect. You know how the Mass seems to be going so well, from the Entrance to the Kyrie to the Gloria, and there is high drama? Then the readings begin, and the liturgical environment dips suddenly and you hear someone reading something at you. It is something of a let down. But if the first reading is sung, the drama is carried over and through this portion of the Mass. If the epistle and Gospel are sung too, all the better. By the time of the homily, we are reading for rest and a reduction of the liturgical tension.

This was also the third week that we used an English Psalm-tone entrance antiphon (we are doing this youth Mass in the neighboring town). It gets better each week. This time, the homilist even went so far as to publicly denounce the processional hymn as an action contrary to sound liturgical sense. He then praise the entrance as fitting to the day, in this case, Gaudete. I can't be happier about the impact of this change.

Again, the English entrance antiphon is right there at our disposal. So are the Psalm tones. Why isn't this simple approach used more often in place of the tired use of a processional hymn? Hard to say.

It made me realize just how much the OF can be improved even without the use of Latin. Sing the readings. Sing the Introit in translation with a plain tone. The entire liturgy takes on a new character.

By the way, the experiment of doing a stepped-up, ad orientem Mass for the Youth mass has been a smashing success, with more people coming each week.

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