Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Antiphons in the Roman Missal vs. the Roman Gradual

Reflections by Jeff Ostrowski

During 2011, Corpus Christi Watershed's Gregorian chant websites (created in 2009) hit a significant milestone when the total number of chant downloads reached 14 million. Other organizations dedicated to the promotion of the sacred liturgy have reported similar success stories. With the resurgence of singing the Mass Propers and newfound popularity of the Simple English Propers, I and others have received many E-mails asking the following question: "Why aren't the Propers from the Roman Gradual identical to the Mass Propers printed in the Roman Missal?" This apparent contradiction is, it turns out, perfectly natural and (more importantly) intentional. This article will attempt to put forth a simple and clear explanation.

It might be helpful to first explain what the Roman Gradual is, as priests are sometimes hesitant or embarrassed to admit ignorance regarding this book. The Roman Gradual is a collection of prayers (chants) carefully assigned to each Mass. Each Proper is usually about one or two sentences long and almost always an excerpt from Sacred Scripture. These prayers (chants) have been developed and perfected by the Western Church for more than 1,500 years. Believe it or not, musical notation itself was invented for the sole purpose of notating these chants. Furthermore, thanks to technological advances, we can view the earliest manuscripts of the Roman Gradual without leaving the comfort of our home. Here are but a few examples that will leave lovers of Gregorian chant utterly bewildered with delight: Einsiedeln 121 (AD 960-970); Laon 239 (10th century); St Gall 359 (AD 922-925); and St Gall 339 (AD 1000).

The Roman Gradual was revised in 1974 for the post-Conciliar liturgy, and this "1974 Graduale Romanum" is recommended for musicians who sing at Ordinary Form Masses, even though the chants are basically the same as the 1908 Graduale. Because the 1974 Roman Gradual is written in Latin, many Americans prefer the "Gregorian Missal," which is identical to the 1974 book except it is written in English and lacks the daily Masses. Many vendors sell this "must have" book, and it is also available for free download.

The prayers (chants) found in the Roman Gradual are called by many names: Graduale Propers, Sung Propers, Mass Propers, etc. Having been refined by the Church over so many centuries, the Propers contain deep theology and perfectly suite each Mass, whether it is Christmas Day, Holy Thursday, Pentecost, Epiphany, etc. The Consilium (the group of bishops and experts set up by Pope Paul VI to implement the Constitution on the Liturgy) wrote in 1969 that those who do not sing the Propers "cheat the people."

Those of us familiar with the 1962 Missal are quite familiar with things called "Missals," containing the complete texts for the Rite: Introits, Collects, Prefaces, Offertory antiphons, Readings, Roman Canon, and so forth. Fortescue, writing in 1912, explains how we became so accustomed to Missals:

It was Low Mass that caused the compilation of missals. In the earliest period, as we have seen (p. 116), the books were arranged for the people who used them. The priest's book was the Sacramentary, containing his part of Mass and other services. He did not need to have the lessons nor antiphons in his book, as he did not say them. But at a private celebration he did say these parts, himself substituting for the absent ministers and choir. So books had to be arranged containing these parts too. Such a book was called Missale plenarium, giving the text of the whole Mass. Its introduction marks the period when Low Mass was becoming a common practice. As early as the VIth century there are Sacramentaries that show the beginning of this development; by the IXth century certain Missæ quotidianæ, most often used, and the Common Masses of the Saints are often provided with Epistle, Gospel, and the choir's part. From the Xth century the perfect Missal plenarium begins; from the XIIIth it rapidly becomes the only book used. The Missale secundum consuetudinem romanæ curiæ spread everywhere with the final triumph of the Roman rite; one hears no more of Sacramentaries. Low Mass then reacted on High Mass. Originally the celebrant said or sang his part and listened, like everyone else, to the other parts—the lessons, gradual, and so on. (In the Amiens Sacramentary and some other similar books he is directed, while the choir are singing the Sanctus, to say a long private prayer : Deus qui non mortem, etc.) Later, having become used to saying these other parts at Low Mass (in which he had to take the place of ministers and choir himself), he began to say them at High Mass too. So we have our present arrangement that the celebrant also repeats in a low voice at the altar whatever is sung by the ministers and choir. (Except the short answers, such as "Et cum spiritu tuo" etc. which it would be absurd for him to say too. (For more, see Adrian Fortescue's The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, 187-190).

In the post-Conciliar liturgy, we no longer have true Missals, because they would be 4,000 pages long. The post-Conciliar liturgy added all kinds of things: a three-year cycle of readings, a two-year cycle of readings, numerous options, and much more, to say nothing of the possibility of different languages that can now be used in the Mass.

It is crucial to grasp that the Missale Romanum used by our priests at Mass no longer contains all that is necessary to say Mass. The post-Conciliar liturgy assumes that each person involved will know where to find the proper book. The readings must come from the Lectionary. The antiphons sung by the choir must come from the Roman Gradual, or some other source (e.g. a book that contains Responsorial Psalms).

However, if what I have said above is true, why does the Roman Missal in the Ordinary Form contain the Entrance and Communion antiphons? And why are they so often different texts than what is indicated in the Roman Gradual? The clearest answer comes to us in a 1969 statement by Paul VI. Note that I have provided the reader with four (4) different English translations, so there is no question of the intent. As Pope Paul VI explains, the decision was made to revise the Entrance and Communion antiphons for "Masses without singing." This decision was in part based on a survey sent out in 1968. Regarding this, please read this insightful article by Christoph Tietze.

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) has always stated that the antiphon from the Roman Gradual is the first option when it comes to singing the Entrance and Communion chants. One can see by comparing various versions and translations of the GIRM in Latin and English:

Entrance chant (GIRM)Offertory Chant (GIRM)Communion Chant (GIRM)

Please note that the 1975 GIRM (USA English Translation) made it very clear that the Entrance and Communion antiphons in the Missal were only to be used if there was no singing whatsoever:

ENTRANCE CHANT: Only if none of the above alternatives is employed and there is no entrance song, is the antiphon in the Missal recited.

COMMUNION CHANT: Only if none of the above alternatives is employed and there is no Communion song, is the antiphon in the “Missal" recited.

Perhaps the Bishops conference chose to emphasize this in 1975 to make absolutely sure the instruction found in the GIRM was clear:

If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon given in the Missal is recited.
Si ad introitum non habetur cantus, antiphona in Missali proposita recitatur.

As we know, the GIRM allows for a choice in the singing of the chant after the First Reading. One can sing the Responsorial Psalm, or one can sing the Gradual chant (please do not be confused that there is a chant called the "Gradual" contained in the Roman Gradual). Paul VI noted (in the 1969 statement already quoted) that the Responsorial psalm was a very good option in Masses without singing. But what about the Alleluia and Offertory? Why were those Propers not also revised for spoken Masses, like the Entrance chant (a.k.a. "Introit") and Communion antiphons? We can only speculate, and the following are some possibilities. The Alleluia can be omitted if not sung (according to the GIRM), because in a spoken Mass, it does not make sense for the priest to "recite" the Alleluia while he processes to read the Gospel. Similarly, the Offertory Antiphon is to be omitted if not sung (according to the GIRM) because the Offertory is sung while the priest is receiving the gifts, and he cannot also read an Offertory antiphon while doing this action. Furthermore, as any student of the liturgy knows, many of the Offertory prayers were deleted in the post-Conciliar liturgy (this being one of the major differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary form), and so perhaps we should not be altogether surprised that the Offertory antiphon did not survive.

If one examines the various versions and translations of the GIRM provided above, one notices a very curious fact. Starting in 2003, the United States made a special American adaptation allowing the "spoken" antiphons found in the Missal (for Introit and Communion) to be sung. Until this time, singing the Missal antiphons would have been considered "4th option," that is, possible, but requiring the Bishop's permission. This is at variance with the "Universal" GIRM, and neither the Canadian nor the British Adaptations of the GIRM allow for this change. In the article cited above, Christoph Tietze puts forth evidence that this was an oversight on the part of the Bishops' Committee. On the other hand, in a 2009 exchange of letters, the former Chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship suggests that this USA adaptation was done on purpose, officially "recognizing" that some composers had been setting the Missal antiphons to music. Perhaps we will never know for sure the reasoning behind this curious change.

What, then, specifically are the differences between the antiphons found in the Missal and the antiphons found in the Roman Gradual? Tietze's article (above) makes excellent observations, and we can expand on these:

A. The antiphons as found in the Roman Gradual are about 1,600 years more ancient than many of the Missal chants.

B. The Entrance antiphon traditionally has a psalm verse and "Glory Be," but the Missal antiphons lack these.

C. Although many of the Entrance antiphons in the Missal are similar to those found in the Roman Gradual, the Communion antiphons often have nothing whatsoever in common.

Let us look at just two examples to make it clear:

1. Christmas Midnight Mass (Solemnity)

  Entrance antiphon ("Introit") from the Roman Missal (for spoken Masses):
  Dóminus dixit ad me: Fílius meus es tu, ego hódie génui te.
  The Lord said to me: You are my Son. It is I who have begotten you this day.
  Gaudeámus omnes in Dómino, quia Salvátor noster natus est in mundo.
  Hódie nobis de cælo pax vera descéndit.

  Let us all rejoice in the Lord, for our Savior has been born in the world.
  Today true peace has come down to us from heaven.

  Entrance antiphon ("Introit") from the Roman Gradual (for sung Masses):
  Dóminus dixit ad me: Fílius meus es tu, ego hódie génui te.
  Ps. Quare fremuérunt gentes: et pópuli meditáti sunt inánia?
  The Lord said unto me: You are my Son, today I have begotten you.
  Vs. Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?

  Communion antiphon ("Introit") from the Roman Missal (for spoken Masses):
  Verbum caro factum est, et vídimus glóriam ejus.
  The Word became flesh, and we have seen his glory.

  Communion antiphon from the Roman Gradual (for sung Masses):
  In splendóribus Sanctórum, ex útero ante lucíferum génui te. [score]
  Amidst the splendours of the heavenly sanctuary, from the womb,
  before the morning star, I have begotten you.

2. Tuesday, Fifth Week of Lent (Daily Mass)

  Entrance antiphon ("Introit") from the Roman Missal (for spoken Masses):
  Expécta Dóminum, viríliter age; et confortétur cor tuum, et sústine Dóminum.
  Wait for the Lord; be strong; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord!

  Entrance antiphon ("Introit") from the Roman Gradual (for sung Masses):
  Expécta Dóminum, viríliter age; et confortétur cor tuum, et sústine Dóminum.
  Ps. Dóminus illuminátio mea, et salus mea, quem timébo?

  Expect the Lord, do manfully, and let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord.
  Ps. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?

  [ By the way, this is identical to the 1961 Graduale assignment. ]

  Communion antiphon ("Introit") from the Roman Missal (for spoken Masses):
  Cum exaltátus fúero a terra, ómnia traham ad meípsum, dicit Dóminus.
  When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.

  Communion antiphon from the Roman Gradual (for sung Masses):
  Rédime me, Deus Isräel, ex ómnibus angústiis meis.
  Deliver Israel, O God, from all his tribulations.
  [ By the way, this is identical to the 1961 Graduale assignment. ]

It may be asked, "If America has made a special provision that allows the Missal chants to be sung as option no. 1, along with the Roman Gradual chants, why wouldn't composers set these texts as well?" Tietze's article (above) addresses this question and makes several key points. However, we could also add a few more reasons:

i. These texts were never meant to be sung.

ii. They are only considered as part of "Option 1" inside the United States, and seem to have been placed there by a misunderstanding (see above). The Roman Gradual Propers alone are "Option 1" for the rest of the world.

iii. The Propers from the Roman Gradual are clearly the texts intended by the Church to be sung. It requires no "mental gymnastics" or any kind of distortion of the documents to come to this conclusion.

iv. The traditional texts are those of the Roman Gradual. Adding another set only leads to confusion.

v. A crucial reason not to set the Missal ("spoken") antiphons to music (in English) is that they are subject to change. Just recently (Advent 2011), all the antiphon translations were changed. For example, the official Missal text for Christmas Midnight Mass (first option) used to be: "The Lord said to me: You are my Son; this day have I begotten you." By comparing to the 2011 translation (above) we see major differences. I know of a colossal project setting the Mass Propers in English whose author spent the last decade setting the antiphons to Gregorian melodies. I cannot even estimate the amount of time spent preparing this—I've seen drafts, and it is hundreds and hundreds of pages long. Now that there is a new translation, he decided to abandon all his work and start over, and his heart is broken. Had he chosen to set the Roman Gradual text, this collection would now be in use. Incidentally, there are also questions as to whether approvals on expired translations are even valid, but this subject is beyond the scope of this article.

Finally, let us remember that not everything "allowed" is good or right. Many people choose never to sing the Propers, because a loophole in the GIRM allows for this. However, these same people are not aware, for example, that there is nothing preventing one from singing the same exact Responsorial Psalm all throughout Ordinary Time (if one uses a Seasonal Psalm). In the same way that this is permitted, it is permitted to replace the Propers. Again, not everything "allowed" is good or right.

The good news: there are many new conferences and resources promoting renewal of the sacred liturgy. Let us take the opportunity of the new Mass translation to start singing the Propers, as the Church desires.

The bad news: there still remains an unbelievable amount of confusion regarding the Propers, the GIRM, etc. Good people do not want to do anything forbidden by the Church, and when they notice that the antiphons in the Missal do not match the Propers, they get worried. Reading the words of Paul VI (above) will dispel all doubts. Just yesterday I spoke to a priest who was ordained in the 1950's, who said, "You know, I am so glad you shared this information. I always wondered why the antiphons in the Missal don't match the Graduale."

To allow the congregation to follow the various prayers at Mass (in accordance with Sing To The Lord, §76, and Musicam Sacram, §15), the reader may desire to look into purchasing the Vatican II Hymnal, which puts emphasis on the different options (Responsorial Psalms, Introits, Offertory antiphons, etc.) in a special way no other "pew book" does.

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