The past couple of weeks before Masses, I’ve been speaking briefly about the singing of antiphons, or the Propers of the Mass. Here is that information in expanded, written form for your reference!
The parts of Mass that we sing fall into two main categories: the Ordinary and the Propers. The Ordinary consists of the parts of the Mass with unchanging words: the Kyrie (Lord have mercy), Gloria, Creed, Holy Holy, Memorial Acclamation, and Lamb of God. Each part of the Ordinary is our direct response as the people of God to some action or prayer in the liturgy. For instance, in the beginning of the Mass we’re asked to call to mind our sins, and after doing that by praying the Confiteor (I confess to almighty God) we are so moved we break out into singing “Lord have mercy!” After being assured of God’s mercy, our grateful response is to extol his greatness in singing the Gloria. Later, during the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer, after we’re asked to lift our hearts to God, we recall that we are worshipping with the all of the saints of history, all the angels ever created, and in response to that awesome reality we sing the angels’ own prayer with them: Holy, Holy, Holy.
The Propers are the parts of the Mass with words that change depending on the day. They consist of scripture passages given to us to meditate on that pertain to the season, the saint of the day, or some particular theme. It’s important to note that they are scripture; in the Mass the incarnate Word of God comes in our midst, and as we receive him he becomes amazingly close to us. It’s fitting that our meditation should be that same Word, the same identity as the Eucharist. There are Propers assigned to the Entrance, Responsorial Psalm, Gospel Acclamation, Offertory (Presentation of the Gifts) and Communion. We’re currently incorporating antiphons into the Offertory and Communion times as a way of moving towards singing Propers.
So why do we sometimes sing songs in places where there are antiphons prescribed? The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, a document that the church produced to lay out the guidelines for celebrating the Mass, lays out some instruction on what to do here:
…there are four options for the Entrance Chant (or Offertory or Communion Chant): (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduale Simplex for the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.
(General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 48)
You can see at option 4, there’s an allowance for other chants if the first three options are not possible. We’re incorporating antiphons into the liturgy here at St. Brendan to even more faithfully follow what the church teaches on how to pray the liturgy.
The author of this piece goes into some more detail and offers some neat resources for singing antiphons as well: www.thomryng.com/amateurmonk/antiphony-reborn/
Thanks for reading! God bless you.