"Does the music correspond to the readings?"
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    I had the pleasure of hosting several college students the other night who had expressed interest in learning and singing sacred music. At one point, I gently explained that instead of the usual pick-a-song approach, the Church actually prescribes preferred music in the Graduale Romanum

    …at which point a young lady eagerly asked if this music corresponds to the readings. "I like it when it does that," she told me. Not wanting to deflate her enthusiasm, I smiled and said that yes, it often does — even though I knew better. I think.

    Am I correct in understanding that the whole notion of readings corresponding to one another (first reading, second reading, Gospel), let alone the music corresponding to the readings, is a fairly recent phenomenon? For the Liturgy of the Word, I understand that although there may sometimes be some thematic connection (particularly between the Epistle and the Gospel), the readings are often fairly independent of one another.

    And for the music, would I have been correct in explaining to her (again, gently) that the Propers are actually sung Scripture ("readings") in and of themselves, and that as such, each Proper stands alone as part of the whole of the Mass… that the music here isn't really meant to serve in a supportive role to the spoken readings?
  • dvalerio
    Posts: 341
    > the whole notion of readings corresponding to one another (first reading, second reading, Gospel), let alone the music corresponding to the readings, is a fairly recent phenomenon?

    Today that principle is not always followed. You can find it in Solemnities and Feasts (e.g. Holy Family, Mother of God, Epiphany, or Baptism of the Lord, to recall recent ones), but:

    - Sundays in Common Time: the Epistle and the Gospel are read semi-continuously, which means that they seldom match (the first reading matches the Gospel);

    - ferial days in Common Time: both the first (and only) reading (whether from the Old or the New Testament) and the Gospel are read semi-continuously, which means that they seldom match;

    - Sundays in Easter Time: readings before the Gospel (one from Acts, another from an Epistle or Revelation) are read semi-continuously, which means that they seldom correspond to each other or the Gospel...

    ...shall I go on? The responsorial psalm does normally match the first reading (sometimes the Gospel).

    In the 1962 Missale, things are better in what Sundays after Pentecost are concerned, since authors claim that Epistle and Gospel often do match (I never checked it myself).

    Sung propers often (though of course not always!) follow the numerical order or psalms. You can check that in pages 91 (bottom) to 95 of Willi Apel's Gregorian Chant. It concerns the 1962 Missale, but that's still true of the 2002 one.

    I'm sure someone can provide a more detailed and exact answer.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    dvalerio raises an interesting observation, that the sung propers follow the numerical ordering of the Psalms. If this is true, it would hearken back to the monastic orders that consider the Mass to be a part of the Opus Dei, which (depending on the Rule, but most typically the Rule of St. Benedict) prescribes an ordering and distribution of the Psalms over the course of a week.

    Does anyone know more about this idea that the sung propers follow a sequential ordering?

    Also, this would relate to another thread discussing the texts of the Alleluia verses, and how the ones in the Gregorian Missal are at variance with those that appear in the 3-year lectionary cycle.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    The communio, as a rule, corresponds to the Gospel.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Don't prescribed church music and the readings follow the liturgical year? I guess Ordinary time could be a little dissonant.
  • Hmm....actually, incantu, there is considerable variety even among the communions.

    Communions correspond to the gospel reading far mroe frequently than do other chants of the Proper, but there are still notable, conspicuous exceptions to this.

    For consideration, I will offer that, according to McKinnon, the Advent and Christmas propers were among the first to be written, and these reflect a well-done, thought-through project. Yet none of the Sundays of Advent has a gospel quote in its propers, and Christmas itself has psalmic communions.

    Look at Easter, whose communion is from the Epistles.

    Look at Ascension in the EF....Psalm 68.

    First Sunday of Lent is all Psalm 91....which, granted, is because that is the psalm Jesus quotes in the day’s gospel pericope.

    It’s either Tietze or McKinnon who shows that the week-to-week organization of the Proper in what we now call Ordinary Time follows the numerical ordering of the psalms more than anything.
  • I also think that there is merit to considering “singing” and “psalms” as mutually implicit: that when the text is a psalm, we ought to sing—that’s the one most people accept—but also that, if we sing, we “ought” to sing psalms. The Mass Proper, considered as a whole, very much embodies this principle by providing each Mass with several psalmic texts.