From a reader…
My pastor (who likes to sing) sings from the beginning of the Canon to the end of the Consecration. It’s not a Gregorian sound, more like something from Les Miserables Broadway play. Is this a legitimate thing to do when celebrating Mass? He has a way of being the focus of the Liturgy. I could usually tune him out but this was too much for me. I avoid his masses, but pray for his conversation. Thank you. You and all Our Lady’s Warriors are in my prayers.
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
The Church has long put an emphasis on music in our Sacred Liturgy. Even before the renaissance, the most skilled and gifted musicians have found employ in the Church, and the result is a long and broad tradition of some of the most transcendent music the world has known. Da Celano, Palestrina, Ockeghem, des Prez, Clemens non Papa, through Byrd, Tallis, Gabrieli, to Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Durufle, Gounod, Franck, Faure, Monteverdi… and now? Who are the heirs picking up the musical threads of these giants? Who are the contemporary musicians whose names will be voiced in hushed reverence hundreds of years from now as collegiate choirs struggle to bring out the subtle nuances of… Sing a New Song? Eagles’ Wings? I am the Bread of Life?
Lamentation, wailing, and woe…
But back to the question at hand. For centuries, in the Roman Rite, the Canon was said sotto voce. Recited, quietly, often under the rapturous sound of a choir and orchestra, or even just a schola of men filling the hearts and souls of the congregation with sounds that echo from the heavens themselves. And then, for the consecration itself, profound and stunning silence. At the moment when the veil between heaven and earth is lifted, the church would be nearly silent, as the priest whispers those blessed words of Our Savior that make His Presence Real and Sacramental.
In many of the other liturgical Rites of the Church, the consecration was sung – the holy doors to the sanctuary being shut, the priest would offer this anaphora to the Father vocally, though the laity would not see what was happening. Which led to the old saw that in the West, the consecration was seen but not heard, and in the East, it was heard but not seen.
But we’re in the here and now.
Musicam Sacram was promulgated in 1967 by the Sacred Congregation for Rites, and encouraged, in the Latin Rite, that the liturgy be chanted – even in its entirety. When Paul VI promulgated his Missal in 1969, provisions were made for the chanting of the Eucharistic Prayer, even the Words of Institution. In the current edition of the Missale Romanum, there is chant notation available for chanting the Eucharistic Prayer. Though other melodies would need the approval of the Bishops’ Conference (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, #393), in practice, it would be difficult to stop Fr. George M. Cohan or Fr. Andrew Llyod Webber from attempting to sing a new church into being and imposing his musical sensibilities (or not) on a helpless congregation.
Were it not such a sacred moment, one might be inclined to pass out large posters among the parishioners in the front row and, when he’s done, flash a score back at him – 5.4, 8.6, 6.4, and from the Romanian judge, 1.3. One might even be inclined to throw roses, or, as the case may warrant, tomatoes.
Were it not such a sacred moment, that is.
In short, chanting the Eucharistic Prayer is now permitted, including the consecration. One must remember, that not all things which are permitted are therefore good.
Fr. Z ADDS:
Many years ago I learned from a great Church musician, the late Msgr Richard Schuler, that there is no one exclusively right way to sing the prayers. Besides, singing the Canon is a novelty in the Roman Rite, one of those innovations that the Council Fathers warned about. That said, there are tones which, over the years, have proven themselves and have become virtually codified. It’s really a good idea to stick to them, because they help to keep us from makingfools out of ourselves.