QUAERITUR: Sequences…. Should we stand or should we sit? [PARODY SONG ALERT]

I got a question from a reader.  Perhaps you can chime in with answers.

I believe he is talking about the Novus Ordo.

Should the congregation STAND or SIT for the singing of the Sequence on Easter and Pentecost? At my church the cantor asked for people to remain seated for the Sequence. One of the priests said that was wrong, that the congregation should stand. Which is Correct?

I’ll let you readers get into this.

In the meantime, perhaps our WDTPRS parody song writer can come up with the answer… musically

"Should I stand or should I sit", might be just as good a title for someone going to the "Tridentine" Mass for the first time!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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28 Responses to QUAERITUR: Sequences…. Should we stand or should we sit? [PARODY SONG ALERT]

  1. GIRM # 62 and 64 address the Alleluia and Sequence.
    In the Novus Ordo I would say now we sit. #62 “After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant indicated by the rubrics is sung, as required by the liturgical season … it is sung by all while standing and is lead by the choir or a cantor … the verse, however is sung either by the choir or the cantor.” Since the change in the 2002 GIRM now puts the Sequence before the Alleluia (“#64 The Sequence, which is now optional except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is sung before the Alleluia”). Normally, it’s at the Alleluia that the people stand, so this would probably follow suit to stand after the Sequence at the beginning of the Alleluia.

    The more sarcastic side of me would say that we should sit because there is a trend in the Novus Ordo to never expect people to do anything that might be a bit onerous, like kneeling too long or standing too long, and it gives the cantor a chance to “perform.” And although it is a bit sarcastic to say that, I do think in all seriousness that people would have a gut instinct to sit for those very reasons.

  2. Tim Ferguson says:

    [EXCELLENT!]

    With apologies to the Clash…

    Monsignor, please hear my appeal,
    Should I sit, or stand or kneel?
    It’s my first time at this church,
    I’m feeling left out in a lurch,
    So I beg with open hand
    Should I kneel or sit or stand?

    I’m asking please, please, please!
    Should I just stay down on my knees?
    Your doin’ red and reading black,
    This kneeler’s screwing up my back,
    Well come on and tell me true,
    What’s the best posture in my pew?

    Should I kneel or should I stand now?
    Should I kneel or should I stand now?
    Can I sit for the Epistle?
    Or Genuflect at the Dismissal?
    Please come on and tell me true…

    This indecision’s bugging me,
    I just want faithful liturgy,
    Exactly where’m I s’posed to be?
    Does this chapel veil fit me?
    Come on, don’t make me quit,
    Should I kneel or stand or sit?

    Should I kneel or should I stand now?
    Should I kneel or should I stand now?
    Can I sit for the Epistle?
    Or Genuflect at the Dismissal?
    Please come on and tell me true,
    What’s the right posture in my pew?

  3. Michael K says:

    We sat at the beginning of the sequence. Then, our priest moved to the pulpit and assisted the cantor in singing, so we stood. Okay we have a small number that attend Mass, a latin novus ordo and our priest is the best singer by far. Typically, as in the sequence at the extraordinary rite, we should kneel (according to the missal- St. Andrew’s – I don’t recall what we did last year). I propose we think in terms of the hermeneutic of continuity and do as the tradition, that is the 1962 missal.

    So, what do we do in the extraordinary rite?

  4. Roger LaRade says:

    Kneel while imploring the Holy Spirit to come during the first verse; stand for the remainder.

  5. Jim says:

    [Another good one!]

    Father Z please lend a hand
    Should I sit or should I stand?
    If you say that my head should bow
    I promise not to ask you how
    But you’ve gotta lend a hand
    Should I sit or should I stand?

    All these beads, beads, beads
    Taking Communion on my knees
    My tongue outstretched at altar rail
    After the blessing my mind fails
    So please, please help me understand
    Should I sit or should I stand?

    Refrain:
    Should I sit or should I stand now?
    Should I sit or should I stand now?
    If I sit there will be trouble
    If I stand it might be double
    So come on Father lend a hand
    Should I sit or should I stand?

    This smokey incense choking me
    It got so thick I cannot see
    What everybody else is doing
    How they’re praying, how they’re moving
    So clear the smoke and show me how
    Should I stand tall or should I bow?

    Refrain…

  6. Stand if the celebrant stands, sit if the celebrant sits.

  7. magdalen says:

    At the church I went to it was not an issue because we just skipped it.
    No problem, no controversy.

  8. Michael K says:

    Of course we stand if the celebrant stands. But, where does kneeling fit into the picture – the celebrant will not kneel. I think Roger is correct.

  9. [My heavens! Three?]

    Guess we all took the same song hinted by from Father Z:
    (Clash’s “Should I stay or should I go”)

    Vatican, help us understand,
    Should we sit or should we stand?
    If you say don’t sit on our behinds,
    We’ll stand here ’til the end of time.
    So, Vatican, help us understand,
    Should we sit or should we stand?

    In years A and B and C
    This happens at least three times yearly.
    One person stands and then the rest,
    Then we’re told that might not be the best.
    So, Vatican, help us understand,
    Should we sit or should we stand?

    Should we sit or should we stand, now?
    Should we sit or should we stand, now?
    If I sit I’ll feel hollow,
    and if I stand everyone will follow.
    So please help us understand …

    This indecision’s buggin’ me.
    With Sequences and on Palm Sundee.
    With changes so arbitrary,
    Sometimes it makes me want to scream.
    Come on, help me understand,
    Should I park it or should I stand?

    Aarrrrrghhh!

    Should we sit or should we stand, now?
    Should we sit or should we stand, now?
    If I sit I’ll feel hollow,
    and if I stand everyone will follow.
    So please help us understand,
    Should I park it or should I stand?

    Should we sit or should we stand, now?
    If I sit I’ll feel hollow,
    and if I stand everyone will follow.
    So please help us understaaaaaand

    Should we sit or should we stand?

  10. Ken says:

    In the traditional Mass, just in case the question could be about it, it is usually the case that the congregation remains kneeling from the verse of the second Alleluia throughout the Sequence, then rising for the Gospel. I always wondered if there was an appropriate time to resume sitting after the 2nd Alleluia concludes and, thus, the Sequence begins, but never found instruction. Anyone know?

  11. Mike says:

    This video series might be expanded and be very helpful. Just click here.

  12. Cerimoniere says:

    The rubric is to kneel for the verse of the second Alleluia on Pentecost. It would make sense therefore that you resume whatever posture you were in before, when that verse is concluded. This would probably be sitting, though whoever had been actually singing the chants would be standing. I suppose there’s an argument that the people (and those in choir) should stand if they are going to join in the sequence, but something tells me that this is unlikely to happen!

  13. Mary says:

    Even having the Sequences (said or sung) would be a huge step forward in many parishes in the UK.

    Yesterday at my local parish, we had First Communions (know idea why). The musical ditties had absolutely nothing to do with either the Holy Spirit or the Holy Eucharist (or Catholic liturgy for that matter) – but the musicians knew them, so that’s OK then. Needelss to say, there was no Sequence. And to crown it all, a woman gave a rendition of the doxology at the end of the Eucharitic Prayer (the fact that she was a woman is obviously not the issue).

    No doubt the visitors thought this was typical fare at the parish. Lord, deliver us from this rubbish.

  14. Jeff Miller says:

    Nick Alexander who is the Catholic “Wierd Al” has on his a CD “A Time to Laugh” the song “Should I Stand or Should I Kneel” as a parody to the Clash song.

    http://www.nickalexander.com/

    He is pretty funny

    Song and all his CD’s are available at Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000S2FG1S/ref=dm_sp_adp?ie=UTF8&qid=1210610845&sr=8-1

  15. Ioannes says:

    As someone who doubts that kneeling is appropriate at all during prayers on Sundays, (yes…gulp…even during the Canon), I think that kneeling seems out of place duing the sequences. The first Council of Nicea states quite plainly:

    \”Since there are some who are bending their knee on the Lord\’s Day and on the
    days of Pentecost, the holy council has decided, so that there will
    be uniformity of practice in all things in every diocese, that
    prayers (eukhai) are to be directed to God in a standing position,\” (not my translation)

    The Easter sequence has a brief request at the end of forgiveness and the Pentecost sequence is a litany of requests. Although I suppose it is possible that \”eukhai\” refers to the great \”oratio\” of the mass, in the absence of more explicit information, it should be understood to refer to all prayers in the entire liturgy, which would include sequences.

    Contributors to this blog have often made comments that the Orthodox must be rolling their eyes at much of the nonsense that has crept into the Roman liturgy in the last 30 years. My Russian Orthodox friends remind me that the Catholics hasn\’t followed Nicea on this point for centuries, and it\’s a problem for them. Clearly, we can\’t do something because the Orthodox want it that way, but it seems likely that the tradition of standing on Sundays is preferable.

    Seems strange to me that people could be both pro-ad orientem posture and pro-kneeling on Sundays. On Sundays we should offer prayers, such as the Canon, standing eastward, priest and people alike.

  16. Michael K says:

    The missal says to kneel and the question is when and for how long. To challenge kneeling altogether is another debate.

  17. Tim Ferguson says:

    Ioannes, that’s an odd sort of archeologism that presumes Nicea is the last word on the matter. Do not subsequent councils, subsequent papal directives and subsequent customary development have anything to do with our practices?

    Nicea also recognized the prerogatives of the Churches of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch (and to a lesser degree, Jerusalem. Where is the Eastern horror over the insistence of Constantinople to patriarchal dignity? Nicea also commanded that no bishop ordain someone who is not under his jurisdiction – will the Orthodox condemn all those Orthodox ordinations of Western men?

    No – and nor should they. Nicea did not establish these canons in perpetuity, and the Church has every right to grow and adapt the law to the particular circumstances of the time. To quote the host of this blog, we are not like a fly in amber – whether one considers that amber to have been set in 1962, 1570 or 325.

  18. Scott Smith says:

    What about the posture of dancing?

    Can’t one do that during the sequence?

    Perhaps a congo line-gospel procession to the ambo and just skip the alleluia?

  19. Gloria says:

    At St. Stephen the First Martyr (FSSP) in Sacramento, CA, we had a Solemn High Mass on Pentecost. After the Subdeacon chanted the Epistle, while the Celebrant, Deacon and congregation sat, all went to the altar in their usual positions. The celebrant recited the Alleluias while the schola chanted them. When Father knelt after the first alleluia, so did the congregation, and stood again as he recited the Sequence. The priests sat down again while the schola continued to sing the Sequence, as did the congregation. At High Mass every Sunday this is the usual way. Also, while the schola chants the Gradual and Alleluia (Tract, etc.)with all the coloratura, the priest and congregation sit, preparing for the Gospel. It is the same with the Gloria and Credo. The celebrant recites at the altar. The schola continues the chant (the congregation sings the Gloria and Credo antiphonally unless it is a special Mass sung by the entire choir) and the celebrant and congregation sit. With the Credo, when Father finishes he comes to the foot of the altar and waits until the choir and congregation come to the “et homo factus est.” All then genuflect (no one does so when Father does as he recites from the altar; we wait for the sung phrase), then Father and congregation sit until the Credo is finished being sung.

  20. Ioannes says:

    Tim,

    I can see how what I wrote could convey the idea that we should follow
    Nicea’s canons in perpetuity. Closer to what I believe is that standing duing
    Sunday prayer is steeped with essential symbolic meaning from the earliest
    times as reflected in the canon of Nicea, which declared the posture normative.
    No all developments are wrong, clearly, but in the balance of the penitential
    posture of kneeling during the Sacrifice that atones for our sins and of the
    hopeful posture of standing that reflects our marching as one to meet the
    return of the Risen Lord, I think we lose something if we only ever kneel.
    Early Christians stood for significant reasons, and it was not simply because
    of meaningless custom or Nicea. I do not believe that the development that
    led to kneeling at every mass was the result of a more profound understanding
    or appreciation of an essential truth and thus an improvement. For what it’s
    worth, I think the canon seems to somewhat more doctrinal in its scope (lex
    orandi lex credendi) and less disciplinary than some other canons. At very
    least the canon accords with previous and then-current theological discussions
    on standing and kneeling which treat the matter as doctrinal in addition to
    disciplinary.

    Of secondary importance to the theological significance of standing during
    certain times of the year would be the proffering of ecumenical good-will in
    trying to meet the Orthodox at a point of historical departure. Even so, is
    the theology of kneeling at every mass so unassailable that we allow it to be
    a hurdle to our Lord’s desire that we all be one?

  21. Bernadette says:

    Well, we were at the EF Mass yesterday and were the only ones to stand. We stood because Father told us at the sequences we are supposed to stand, so we did as we were told. However, after reading the above, i’m not sure that was correct. Hmmm…

  22. Tim Ferguson says:

    Ioannes, I think that re-examining our traditions in light of the Lord’s command that we all be one is a worthwhile and laudable goal. At the same time, I think we need to be true to our own long-standing traditions, and not to dismiss them as accretions. Latin Catholics have been kneeling for the canon even during the Easter Season for nigh on a thousand years in most places – in some, longer. That’s substantial.

    I don’t think that most Latin Catholics equate kneeling with penance. Rather, it’s more commonly seen as a sign of reverence. Kneeling during the canon is not a penitential thing (we ordinarily stand during the Penitential Rite), but a profound act of acknowledgement of the awesome mystery taking place before our eyes.

    I’m also suspicious that many of our assimilation of Eastern liturgical traditions are seen by the East not as overtures aiding ecumenism, but as, alternately, pandering or imperialistic – hence Latins using icons in worship are frowned upon by many Eastern faithful (I have personal experience of this).

    There may have been significant doctrinal reasons for the insistence on standing during the Canon in the Easter Season. I don’t doubt that there were. I just don’t think those same reasons justify altering a millenial tradition in the Latin Church. If this Latin tradition is a barrier to ecumenism, I think that says more about the Eastern faithful who see it as such than it does about the Western faithful who adhere to our traditions.

  23. G says:

    Forgive me for no staying on task, but this thread inspired a different paroady — anyone know Guys and Dolls?
    (And for the record, our parish liturgist is not like this)

    I dreamt last night, I was kneelin’ in St Peter’s,
    And had, by chance, brought a liturgist along,
    And as I knelt, thinking God was due some reverence,
    She insisted that to kneel was all wrong,

    The liturgist shrieked, stand up!
    Stand up, you’re rocking the boat!
    The liturgist shrieked, stand up!
    Stand up, you’re rocking the boat!

    I guessed perhaps, it was all to be “inclusive,”
    The order was, genuflection was to cease!
    We wouldn’t want anyone to feel unwelcome,
    (And you know, the devil’s got no knees….)

    And the liturgist shrieked, stand up!
    Stand up, you’re rocking the boat!
    The liturgist shrieked, stand up!
    Stand up, you’re rocking the boat!

    My previous practices would not be allowed at,
    This nightmare liturgy in “bizarro Rome”
    And as I lost any hope of adoration
    I awoke, safe at my parish back at home

    But our liturgist shrieked, stand up!
    Stand up, you’re rocking the boat!
    The liturgist shrieked, stand up!
    Stand up, you’re rocking the boat!

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  24. Gordon says:

    As far as I am aware, we kneel at the 2nd part of the Alleluia verse, but stand for the sequence itself. But I don’t think we have a 2 part Alleluia in the novus ordo in the same way it is in the old rite But of course as others have pointerd out above, it really is down to what the priest is doing at that moment. What annoys me regards the sequence in the new rite is not the question of standing, is that the final Alleluia is ommitted. I noticed this also for the Victimae Paschale at Easter. It is most unfortunate, as is doing away with the Octave, but that’s another blogg!

  25. Tobias H says:

    “But I don’t think we have a 2 part Alleluia in the novus ordo in the same way it is in the old rite”

    You are partly correct. In the Ordinary Form the Sequence comes between the two Alleluias, whereas in the Extraordinary Form it immediately precedes the Gospel. Kneeling during the second Alleluia verse “Veni sancte” has been abolished in the OF.

    “What annoys me regards the sequence in the new rite is not the question of standing, is that the final Alleluia is ommitted. I noticed this also for the Victimae Paschale at Easter.”

    Annoying, perhaps (and I find the final “Amen. Alleluia” a worthy and beautiful conclusion to the Sequence), but quite consistent. The Sequence is originally a prolonged Alleluia and this is still how it functions in the EF. Instead of repeating “Alleluia” after the verse, the choir immediately takes up the Sequence. (It is really the same tune.) The “Alleluia” that concludes the Sequence is, as it were, the customary repetition of the second Alleluia.

    Now that in the OF the Sequence comes before the second Alleluia, it is superfluous to conclude it with “Alleluia”. Instead “Alleluia” is repeated after the second Alleluia verse.

    I think it was not a very bright idea to move the Sequence. The preliminary Latin edition of the current GIRM seemed to restore the Sequence to its traditional place between second Alleluia and the Gospel, but in the full Missal this was changed again.

  26. Mary Jane says:

    I’m confused about the placement of the Sequence in the Ordinary Form. When did it move? The Gregorian Missal puts it after the Alleluia and its verse – right before the Gospel. Then, another musician I’m working with on music for Corpus Christi said, “No, it comes before the Alleluia. That’s what we always do on Easter and Pentecost.” And now I see that the GIRM puts it there (paragraph 64).

    I would think people could stand through the short form of the sequence (beginning with “Ecce panis angelorum”), but maybe not. Catholics seem to tire easily.

  27. Fr. Augustine says:

    If I remember the old liturgical commentaries, the melisma of the alleluia represents a sort of divine ecstasy as we prepare to hear the words of the Gospel.

    The Sequence is the continuance (“sequentia”) of the melisma (originally, anyway), and generally a very festive thing. Sequences were traditionally done for Sundays and Feasts (and, for Great Feasts, the octave thereof).

    I have a confession: I’m an Orthodox Christian with a love for the Western Rite. Our Tradition (and the early Tradition of the West) was to *always* stand on Sundays, and always through Paschaltide. So, I’m biased.

    But, I think the more pious thing to do, objectively, is to stand for the sequence.

    Relatively speaking, though, obedience is most important: so, do what your rubrics say!

    Augustine

  28. Fr. Augustine says:

    If I remember the old liturgical commentaries, the melisma of the alleluia represents a sort of divine ecstasy as we prepare to hear the words of the Gospel.

    The Sequence is the continuance (“sequentia”) of the melisma (originally, anyway), and generally a very festive thing. Sequences were traditionally done for Sundays and Feasts (and, for Great Feasts, the octave thereof).

    I have a confession: I’m an Orthodox Christian with a love for the Western Rite. Our Tradition (and the early Tradition of the West) was to *always* stand on Sundays, and always through Paschaltide. So, I’m biased.

    But, I think the more pious thing to do, objectively, is to stand for the sequence.

    Relatively speaking, though, obedience is most important: so, do what your rubrics say!

    Augustine