Cutting Verses from Psalms?
  • TL
    Posts: 13
    The newer priest at our church is long winded (20+ minute Homilies the norm). He is getting a lot of evidence that people are moving to a nearby parish and citing long mass as a reason. Thus, he has started asking that psalms be cut to 2-3 verses only.

    My opinion has been that the liturgy of the Word should not be compromised for a long-winded homily. But, I cant find any documentation to address the appropriateness of cutting psalm verses from the liturgy. Part of my position is the fact that each additional verse/refrain element typically adds less than 1 minute to the mass.

    Are there any references to cutting the verses from the psalm in GRIM, STTL, etc.?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    This is not allowed.

    "3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority."

    SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    For considerable pastoral reasons the second reading may be omitted, but never the psalm or the gospel. If the pastor really wants to reduce the length of the psalm, consider singing it straight through, without repeating the antiphon after each verse or pair of verses. Also, are you using an elaborate song-like setting of the psalm, or a simple psalm-tone setting? A psalm tone is the most efficient way of proclaiming the text.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    TL, try this site:

    Chabanel Psalms

    These are some of the composers:

    The composers who have sent Jeff their pictures

    ;-)
  • According to the prænotanda of the Graduale Simplex, "At least five verses of a psalm, chosen at will, are always sung, whenever more than five are given":

    20. The following is the arrangement of the chants between the readings:

    When there are two readings before the gospel:

    1. Outside Lent and the Easter season, the responsorial psalm is sung after the first reading; after the second reading, the psalm with Alleluia as the verse or the antiphon Alleluia with its own verses.

    2. During Lent, after the first reading, the first responsorial psalm is sung; after the second, either the second responsorial psalm or an antiphon of acclamation or a tract.

    3. During the Easter season, after the first reading the first or second psalm with Alleluia as the verse is sung; after the second reading, either the second psalm with Alleluia as the verse or the antiphon Alleluia with its verses.

    Whenever there is only a single reading before the gospel, a single chant may be chosen at will from those appropriate to the reading.

    At least five verses of a psalm, chosen at will, are always sung, whenever more than five are given.
  • TL
    Posts: 13
    Jeff,

    Thank you for the specific quote from SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM. However, I also know that with so many church documents; it will be absolute in one statement and then in a later paragraph allow for pastoral judgment. (I hear that phrase often "pastoral judgment" used often...)

    I know the psalm is not to be omitted, but I am still not sure that verses can't be cut...

    incantu,

    Good points about psalm setting. In the most recent instance, the setting was melodic, but without any deviation from the scriptural text (no elaborate repetition or embellishment for musical purposes). I'd estimate that held notes only added a total of 10 seconds across the entire setting when compared to the psalm tones setting. Still, you make an interesting suggestion of skipping the responsorial refrains in between the verses. It makes me wonder, what is the purpose of the responsorial psalm if we are omitting the congregational responses?
  • TL
    Posts: 13
    Paul,

    Does this text only apply to liturgies of Easter and Lent?

    Also, we rarely have psalms with more than five "verses" in our settings - however, they may be constructed upon several scriptural verses numbering more than 5.

    If the psalm setting contains a doxology as the final verse, we omit that on Sunday mass.
  • TL
    Posts: 13
    Oh, and I should have noted... That the assumption is that a psalm with less than five verses must require that all verses are sung b/c of the rule of five for psalms with more than 5 verses. I didn't take logic in college, but I think this is one of those errors... At least it is just an interpretation to suggest that any psalm under 5 verses would require that all verses be sung. Correct?
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    It makes me wonder, what is the purpose of the responsorial psalm if we are omitting the congregational responses?


    What indeed. Of course, I have heard different arguments about what "responsorial" means in the case of the chant between the readings. Some sources say that the psalm is sung as a "response" to the first reading. Others suggest that "responsorial" refers to its being sung responsorially, as opposed to, for example, antiphonally. But the Introit and Communion also consist of an antiphon (or "response") and a psalm (as does the Offertory in the GS). We do not call these the "responsorial entrance" or the "responsorial communion." And sources like the GIRM that designate the Lectionary psalm as an alternative to the gradual (STtL even says it is to be preferred) provide various options of singing the psalm, responsorially being only one of them. I think the term "responsorial psalm" is confusing at best (I prefer "Lectionary psalm"), but the fact remains that its inclusion in the Mass of Vatican II was to promote in some way the participation of the people. If the pastor does not want to provide ample time for the external participation of the assembly at this time, why not just sing the Gradual? It can be rather long as well, but there's no reason you can't sing it to a psalm tone. Of course this is not ideal, but it doesn't seem like the ideal is an option for you with your current pastor.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    If you really want to make it short, sing the Gradual. That should take all of 5 seconds.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I'm sorry but I am very confused. So the 'Response' and the 'Antiphone' are basically the same, the short repeated part,( which is the main theme of the Psalm,) of the psalm singing? Responorial Psalm just got the name for the participation of the congregation?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    The GIRM allows the Psalm to be read straight through, unless I am very much mistaken.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Here is what the GIRM says about the responsorial psalm. There seems to be a great deal of flexibility here. It seems to me that if you give the right to substitute other readings for it, then you inherently give the right to substitute only the first few verses rather than the entire reading. And it can be sung or spoken, antiphonally or straight through.

    It might be worth timing the presentation with reduced verses. Then ask the priest whether the savings of 10 seconds is going to make up a lot of time, and whether it is worth the confusion of the PIPs who are reading along.

    61. After the first reading comes the responsorial Psalm, which is an integral part of the
    Liturgy of the Word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it fosters
    meditation on the word of God.

    The responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should, as a rule, be taken from
    the Lectionary.
    It is preferable that the responsorial Psalm be sung, at least as far as the people’s response is
    concerned. Hence, the psalmist, or the cantor of the Psalm, sings the verses of the Psalm from the
    ambo or another suitable place. The entire congregation remains seated and listens but, as a rule,
    takes part by singing the response, except when the Psalm is sung straight through without a
    response. In order, however, that the people may be able to sing the Psalm response more
    readily, texts of some responses and Psalms have been chosen for the various seasons of the year
    or for the various categories of Saints. These may be used in place of the text corresponding to
    the reading whenever the Psalm is sung. If the Psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited in
    such a way that it is particularly suited to fostering meditation on the word of God.
    In the dioceses of the United States of America, the following may also be sung in place of the
    Psalm assigned in the Lectionary for Mass: either the proper or seasonal antiphon and Psalm
    from the Lectionary, as found either in the Roman Gradual or Simple Gradual or in another
    musical setting; or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of the psalms and antiphons,
    including psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not
    be used in place of the responsorial Psalm.
  • The GIRM may well allow the psalm that follows the first lesson at Mass to be sung straight through; but if the psalm is sung without a refrain, it is not a responsorial psalm. The mere fact that the psalm follows a lesson does not make it responsorial.

    James McKinnon, in "The Advent Project," presented compelling evidence that the psalm had entered the Liturgy of the Word as a lesson in its own right and not as a response to another lesson. He pointed out that in the pre-Nicene era the number of lessons read had varied widely from place to place, but that no more than one psalm had ever been included.

    Going beyond the evidence he made the plausible suggestion that because of their lyrical character the psalms had been sung to more elaborate melodic (in directum) formulas than the other lessons and that refrains had soon been added on festal occasions. (Hence, direct psalmody, in the form of the tracts, survives in the Mass only during penitential seasons.)

    From postings to this forum I deduce that many CMAA members detest responsorial psalms. The reason eludes me. Much of the music composed for these psalms in recent decades has been trite; but so has much of the music for the Ordinary of the Mass. Responsorial psalmody is not a novelty. References to a responsorial psalm at Mass appear in the writings of St. Augustine. The gregorian graduals are, in fact, responsorial psalms--albeit truncated responsorial psalms.

    Among the "treasures of sacred scripture" that the three-year lectionary has opened to the faithful (not only in the Roman Catholic Church but throughout Western Christendom) are the psalms. I, for one, became much more familiar with them after 1970. While I love the Gregorian graduals, I think that in parish churches the use of responsorial psalms is preferable. In monasteries where the Daily Office is sung each day, snippets of psalmody at Mass may be adequate; but I think that in parishes a more substantial dose of psalmody is desirable.

    Proclamation of the responsorial psalm/gradual from an ambo or lectern is also traditional. The tradition survived into the late Middle Ages. The Sarum rubrics, for example, directed the cantors who sang the gradual and alleluia verses to stand at a lectern in the midst of choir. J.B. O'Connell in "The Ceremonies of the Mass" (a pre-Conciliar Roman rite ceremonial directory) cites a directive from the Sacred Congregation of Rites that the cantors, if they were in the sanctuary, should be placed inconspicuously. This directive certainly does not accord with earlier tradition.

    Further observations about what makes a psalm responsorial-- In responsorial psalmody the verses of the psalm are sung by a soloist and the response is sung by the whole choir or congregation. In antiphonal psalmody (as originally devised) the verses of the psalm are also sung by a soloist, but the response (antiphon) is sung by two groups in alternation (one group after the first verse, the other group after the second, etc.). What is now commonly called antiphonal psalmody, in which the VERSES are sung by two groups alternatim and the antiphon is sung full is more appropriately called alternate psalmody. It evolved from antiphonal psalmody when repetition of the antiphons in antiphonal psalmody of the Office came to be regarded as wearisome. See Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Essays in Liturgical Understanding (Washington, D.C. : Pastoral Press, 1984), 157-159. [Can anything good come out of Nazareth?]
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    Paul, are such introductions to official liturgical books descriptive or prescriptive? or does it depend?
    And is there anything "prescriptive" explaining that?

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • TL
    Posts: 13
    Jeff - yes. Once, I was even instructed to not sing but read the psalm from the choir book. I was not pleased, but did so w/o complaint. At the time, I felt it to be an unnecessary compromise of the liturgy, but I could not back it up with any doctrine.

    priorstf - yes, there is a great deal of flexibility. However, yet that appears to be an interpretation. As I read the same text, I see it as a series of exceptions - each based upon a real barrier to full expression of the psalm. Thus, if it can't be sung, then at least the people should sing it. If they can't sing it, then recited a particular way, etc...

    I my case, we have a willing congregation, available appropriate psalms, and cantors capable and willing to sing it. Thus, in this one person's interpretation of GIRM, we are required to sing it when those capabilities exist.

    priorstf - also each time we've been asked to shorten the number of verses of the psalm, we immediately confirm that the time savings is never more than 2 minutes, often less than 1 minute. In terms of gross return on investment, the impact of confusing the congregation with a partial psalm outweighs the time savings of
  • TL
    Posts: 13
    Bruce - "I think that in parishes a more substantial dose of psalmody is desirable."

    One thing that I've noticed: Catholics don't sing at the masses I've attended. Compared to many other Christian religions, they just aren't as engaged in song. That said, the one place where they do tend to sing is in the responsorial psalm... But that is a diff topic all together.

    All - btw, our pastor is one who likes to cite rubrics and doctrine. I assume that I have to prepare in like kind to suggest alternative strategies. However, I also know that he gets very mad when others cite rubrics and doctrine. It comes across as pointing out inadequacy in his command of the documents. I've got a tough road ahead on this little topic...
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    "either the proper or seasonal antiphon and Psalm
    from the Lectionary, as found either in the Roman Gradual or Simple Gradual or in another
    musical setting; or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of the psalms and antiphons,
    including psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop."

    May I be frank? No matter how many times I read this, I still find it confusing. Call me a fool. But year after year, I read it, and it still seems ... odd. It seems to say that you could read psalm 50 (Miserere Mei) on Easter Sunday in hymn style if a Bishop approves it....
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Incidentally (as documented in my article in CMAA) I also agree with Bruce Ford that Vatican II did not "invent" the idea of a Responsorial Psalm --- it is just that they eventually got so shortened and ornate that it was hard to recognize the Gradual as a Responsorial Psalm by the year 1962.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    "Whenever there is only a single reading before the gospel, a single chant may be chosen at will from those appropriate to the reading. At least five verses of a psalm, chosen at will, are always sung, whenever more than five are given."

    Did this surprise anyone else?
  • TL asked
    Does this text only apply to liturgies of Easter and Lent?

    Also, we rarely have psalms with more than five "verses" in our settings—however, they may be constructed upon several scriptural verses numbering more than 5.


    The rule, "At least five verses of a psalm, chosen at will, are always sung, whenever more than five are given," applies to the chants between the readings ALL year long.

    "Verses" means "verses," not strophes. Most of our lectionary psalms are divided into three or four strophes, but each strophe is usually comprised of two verses. So most of our lectionary psalms have six to eight verses. Only five are required.

    It IS a rule. In liturgical law, the rules, the juridic norms, appear toward the beginning of a text. In the case of the Graduale Simplex, these are found in the prænotanda and in the suite of antiphons for Advent 1 in the Graduale Simplex, 53-58 (By Flowing Waters , 1-6.

    Most of these norms are obligatory and all negative commands are stronger than positive commands.

    The norms range:
    FROM strong commands, written in the imperative, which are the most imperious (in the negative: nefas est = "it is absolutely prohibited") or in the present indicative (which means "must be done" (in the negative: vetitum est = "it is prohibited"; non licet ="it is not allowed"; non potest = "may not," "cannot"; not debet ="must not"),
    THROUGH "to be" + gerundive = necessity, obligation,
    THROUGH indicative commands = specific regulations,
    ALL THE WAY TO mild commands, written in the present or jussive subjunctive = the general rule (translated "should" or "is to [do such and such] "; in the negative: "are not to be . . . ").

    Does this make it any clearer?

    Blessings,
    Paul
  • TL
    Posts: 13
    Paul - yes, thank you.

    FYI, the psalm in question was Psalm 23 for All Saints this past weekend. Our setting was RS 44:
    http://www.hymnprint.net/download/RS44_Psalm23TheLordIsMyShepherd.jpg

    It appears to cover all 6 scripture verses of Psalm 23. Singing only melodic verses 1 & 2 would have covered only scripture verses 1-4. Thus, a violation of the rule stated.

    All, OK. so let's take this from the opposing perspective... Is there any text that could be interpreted to grant the celebrant authority to reduce the number of verses of the psalm? Or possibly more broadly, what music can the pastor cut when desired or necessary?
  • Not to be a downer, but does any of this really matter right now?

    Our country just elected to power one of the most pro-abortion presidents we've ever known. Millions of defenseless babies were slaughtered for naught, and once Obama and his colleagues pass FOCA, millions will seem like a drop in a bucket.

    To what end do we argue about the number of verses of a psalm sung at Mass when we've just watched a nation willingly and willfully invite the unbridled wrath of God down upon us?

    Just take a few minutes to pray, folks. The world as we know it has changed in the blink of an eye.
  • Dear JMO,

    Here is the Latin text from which the U.S. GIRM is translated:
    61. .. Loco psalmi in lectionario assignati cani potest etiam vel responsorium graduale
    e Graduali romano, vel psalmus responsorius aut alleluiaticus e Graduali
    simplici, sicut in his libris describuntur.


    The reason you find the U.S. edition confusing is that it is mistranslated.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    David, yes, abortion is very bad (and has been going on in America at a staggering rate, just like the creation and murder of so many "test-tube" babies) and we need to pray that it ends, and yes, Obama is even more pro-abortion than Clinton was, but I don't see why that means we should not seek to do what the Church asks for in her liturgy.
  • I'm sorry all.

    Things just seem too upside down to take seriously an issue like how many verses of a psalm we should or shouldn't be singing at Mass.
  • TL asked
    Is there any text that could be interpreted to grant the celebrant authority to reduce the number of verses of the psalm? Or possibly more broadly, what music can the pastor cut when desired or necessary?


    In general answer, let me cite the following passage from the GIRM:

    352. The pastoral effectiveness of a celebration will be greatly increased if the texts of the readings, the prayers, and the liturgical songs correspond as closely as possible to the needs, spiritual preparation, and culture of those taking part. [emphasis added] This is achieved by appropriate use of the wide options described below.

    The priest, therefore, in planning the celebration of Mass, should have in mind the common spiritual good of the people of God, rather than his own inclinations. [emphasis added] He should, moreover, remember that the selection of different parts is to be made in agreement with those who have some role in the celebration, including the faithful, in regard to the parts that more directly pertain to each.

    Since, indeed, a variety of options is provided for the different parts of the Mass, it is necessary for the deacon, the lectors, the psalmist, the cantor, the commentator, and the choir to be completely sure before the celebration which text for which each is responsible is to be used and that nothing be improvised. Harmonious planning and carrying out of the rites will great assistance in disposing the faithful to participate in the Eucharist.


    Blessings,
    Paul
  • David,

    I know our concerns feel trivial. But when we sing the psalms, we teach ourselves how to pray. And what you seem to need to pray are the psalms of lament.

    And when we get up from our knees, we need to go about the Lord's business as He has called us: As musicians, to sing and make music to the Lord; as citizens, to work for a culture of life.

    Blessings,
    Paul
  • This thread has been very illuminating and beneficial; thanks to all.
    For those that have heard this rant of mine before, a priori apologies-
    From whatever source one appropriates a responsorial psalm, or whether a psalmist/schola cants a gradual, or even if a psalmist elocutes the psalm- the artistry and proficiency of that performance will always be a huge mitigating factor. So, I chide any who stauchly adhere to the notion that the medium trumps the performance in all circumstances. A poorly rendered gradual does not benefit worship moreso than a trite responsorial setting performed with humility, precision and beauty.