Psalms at the Vigil, can they be shortened?
  • At the Easter Vigil we are able to reduce the number of readings and psalms, but can you shorten the psalms?

    I have experienced the Vigil having all of the readings, but only the minimum number of psalms were used.

    Now, this year the new idea being proposed is use all the readings and all the psalms, but only the first verse of each psalm. Is this in any way permitted?

    There is a loosely related old thread here:

    The thing about the Vigil is, if you can omit a reading and its psalm response entirely (and you can), it seems that under the principal that "he that can do the greater, may do the lesser" you could then choose to omit part of the psalm (but that seems to invite being able to omit part of the readings at will, which seems plainly dangerous). However, the rubrics seem to require three of the readings, so it seems at least three of the psalms should be used in full.

    In particular, the reading from Exodus with its Canticle is never to be omitted, so at the very least it seems that after the reading of Exodus 14 the full canticle from Exodus 15 given in place of a psalm should be used.

    I am merely a volunteer, not the person in charge, and in fact in this case the pastor and music director seem to be on different pages, with the pastor wanting all of the readings, and the music director thinking we need to keep the length down for the cantors and people. I don't really want to get in the middle of this, but on the other hand I would hate to see the Vigil become a cause of friction between the music director and pastor.

    I think I am going to offer the following suggestions, but am interested in other thoughts:
    1. The full Exodus canticle as given should always be used.
    2. It might in future be better, if necessary to shorten the psalms, to sing them directly through all the verses, so that the responsory is only sung at the beginning and end rather than between the verses. That would seem a reasonable compromise.


    Here is what seems to be the relevant section of Paschalis Sollemnitatis:

    85. The readings from Sacred Scripture constitute the second part of the Vigil. They give an account of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation, which the faithful are helped to meditate calmly upon by the singing of the responsorial psalm, by a silent pause and by the celebrant's prayer.

    The restored Order for the Vigil has seven readings from the Old Testament chosen from the Law and the Prophets, which are in use everywhere according to the most ancient tradition of East and West, and two readings from the New Testament, namely from the Apostle and from the Gospel. Thus the Church, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets" explains Christ's Paschal Mystery.[90] Consequently wherever this is possible, all the readings should be read so that the character of the Easter Vigil, which demands that it be somewhat prolonged, be respected at all costs.

    Where, however, pastoral conditions require that the number of readings be reduced, there should be at least three readings from the Old Testament, taken from the Law and the Prophets; the reading from Exodus chapter 14 with its canticle must never be omitted.[91]

    86. The typological import of the Old Testament texts is rooted in the New, and is made plain by the prayer pronounced by the celebrating priest after each reading; but it will also be helpful to introduce the people to the meaning of each reading by means of a brief introduction. This introduction may be given by the priest himself or by a deacon.

    National or diocesan liturgical commissions will prepare aids for pastors.

    Each reading is followed by the singing of a psalm, to which the people respond.

    Melodies should be provided for these responses which are capable of promoting the people's participation and devotion.[92] Great care is to be taken that trivial songs do not take the place of the psalms.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 1,032
    Given all the options and reductions that are already spelled out, one would think that the option to "shorten the psalm," if allowed, would also be explicitly stated. Since it is not, it is required to do the psalm as printed. As it is, most responsorial psalms are "shortened" versions of the psalms - i.e. they include only select verses or portions of the original psalm.

    The option you mention as a compromise, that the psalm be sung "directly" without the intervening response, is already legitimate (see GIRM #61 and the Intro to the Lectionary #20). So this would be a way of shortening the total length of the Liturgy of the Word.

    You quote the circular letter from the CDW, but the GIRM (3rd ed. of the Roman Missal) states it in stronger terms, that "all of these [readings and psalms at the Easter Vigil] must be read whenever it can be done, so that the character of a Vigil which takes place over some duration of time can be observed." It does make an exception for "grave pastoral circumstances" - which I would take to be substantial difficulty in having all the readings done, not simply the preference of the priest or musicians.
  • BenBen
    Posts: 3,114
    I doubt shortened psalms would be allowed.

    I wouldn't recommend it, but replacing one of them with a psalm tone version of the gregorian version would always be an option if you really want the shorter time.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,955
    Ben, for the Responsorial Psalms-not the Tracts- I don’t know why that is a bad idea...
    Thanked by 1StephenMatthew
  • BenBen
    Posts: 3,114
    I guess I just have an aversion to psalm toning texts that aren't normally sung to a psalm tone.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • The following is the 22 November 1974 Introduction of the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship to the editio typica altera of the Graduale Simplex, reprinted from Documents on the Liturgy 1963–1975: Conciliar, Papal, and Curial Texts (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1982), edited and translated by Thomas C. O’Brien:
    At least five verses of a psalm, chosen at will, are always sung, whenever more than five are given.
  • I am in agreement that shortening the psalms is probably not quite the thing to do. The trouble is i can't find anything that explicitly forbids it, other than the bit Paul Ford posted from the Graduale Simplex, but I know if I reference that the counter argument would be that those instructions only apply to the contents of the Graduale Simplex, not to the Lectionary Psalms.

    Thanks for all of the responses, I appreciate the feedback.

    In any case, I have successfully managed to make sure the canticle from Exodus is preserved in its entirety on the argument that it may never be omitted. I also managed to successfully push for the three alleluias with the step up which we have not usually done (usually just one with no step). However, fighting for all the verses of all the psalms seemed a bridge too far tactically at this late of a stage, so I will leave it to be sorted out in the future (or let the pastor insist on it if he wants).

    This parish has historically only done the absolute minimum number of readings and psalms, so this is in many ways at least a step in the right direction. This year all of the readings will be proclaimed, and all of them will get a psalm refrain and the first "verse" (musical verse, not psalm verse) as a responsory. Exodus 14 will get the full canticle from Exodus 15. The complete Alleluia Psalm with its three preliminary Alleluia's will be sung. So, I am going to count this as at least a partial victory. (The music director is not the enemy, rather more of an ally I think, bad liturgical praxis and formation is the enemy and we have at least a generation of that to get past.)
  • StephenMatthew, you are doing a wonderful thing and I will pray for your success.

    You say:
    I am in agreement that shortening the psalms is probably not quite the thing to do. The trouble is i can't find anything that explicitly forbids it, other than the bit Paul Ford posted from the Graduale Simplex, but I know if I reference that the counter argument would be that those instructions only apply to the contents of the Graduale Simplex, not to the Lectionary Psalms.

    These instructions do not only apply to the Graduale Simplex. On the canonical principle “odiosa restringenda, favorabilia amplianda”—favorable understandings are to be interpreted generously (favorabilia amplianda), troublesome ones are to be interpreted narrowly (odiosa restringenda):
    Liturgical law is subject to a broad interpretation (“stretches the meaning of the text to allow the most favorable interpretation without going beyond the meaning of the law” except “where the values underlying the law would be harmed”) in its (1) legal, historical, theological, and cultural context, (2) immediate context, (3) relations within the same book or rite, and (4) relation to other similar books and rites, according to custom which is (1) in accord with the law, (2) apart from the law, (3) contrary to the law, and (4) a factual custom.

    The sources for this principle are:
    (1) Francis G. Morrisey, “Papal and Curial Pronouncements: Their Canonical Significance in Light of the 1983 Code of Canon Law” (The Jurist 50 [1990] 102–125), (2) Ladislas Orsy, “The Interpreter and His Art” (The Jurist 40 [1980] 27–56), (3) John Huels, “The Interpretation of Liturgical Law,” One Table, Many Laws (Collegeville: Liturgical, 1986), 17–36, (4) John Huels, Liturgical Law: An Introduction (Washington: Pastoral, 1987), and (5) John Huels, Liturgy and Law: Liturgical Law in the System of Roman Catholic Canon Law (Quebec: Wilson & Lafleur, 2006).
  • Paul F. Ford,

    Thank for your continued input. I agree with the position you are advocating.

    It seems to me to be the natural approach to interpretation of liturgical law. The trouble is, while I am convinced, that doesn't mean I am in a position to convince the powers that be, and I must use what little influence I have rather judiciously. Perhaps in a year's time more can be done.
  • BenBen
    Posts: 3,114
    It's not an issue of finding something that forbids it. There is a general ban on adding, removing, or changing things within the liturgy. Not going to go through the trouble of citing them, but almost every liturgical document from the GIRM to canon law echoes it.

    Looking for something forbidding it is the wrong way to go about this. You need to assume changing it is forbidden unless you find permission given somewhere.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,158
    An old thread on this question produced a suggestion I think is very helpful: sing the psalm straight through, with the antiphon only at the beginning and end. If I understand right, GIRM #61 even allows that the response may be omitted altogether.

    ... the whole congregation sits and listens, normally taking part by means of the response, except when the Psalm is sung straight through, that is, without a response.
    Thanked by 1benedictgal
  • benedictgal
    Posts: 798
    We go through this every year at our parish. The psalms are shortened to one verse, including the canticle from Exodus. I am inclined to think that Chonak has a good point. We could just sing the response at the beginning and the end, like the LOTH. I may propose this for next year.
    Thanked by 1StephenMatthew
  • benedictgal
    Posts: 798
    By the way, for those doing the full-blown Pentecost Vigil, we will encounter the same problem.
  • Richard R.
    Posts: 774
    The Foreword to the 1970 Lectionary (the most authoritative document at hand) quotes the General Instruction, para. 36: "The psalm is an integral part of the liturgy of the word...". It seems to me this means it is to be treated with the same reverence as the readings themselves, which cannot be abbreviated, except as indicated in the Lectionary itself.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 517
    Considering that in the Gregorian tradition, even in the "Gregorian Missal," the chants following the lessons of the Easter Vigil are, musically speaking, tracts, that is chants that sing the psalm straight through, without a response, it should not be a problem to do the same in English.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen benedictgal
  • Richard R.,

    "except as indicated......."

    There's the rub. We sing the tract for the First Sunday of Lent (for non EF folks around here, it's most of the text of psalm 90, which David Haas turned into On Eagle's Wings), sometimes using the full melody, and sometimes using a psalm tone. Both respect the integrity of the text, singing what the Church prescribes. One takes about 5 minutes. The other takes closer to 15 minutes.

    Think of how many "shorter versions" exist in Ordinary Land. Think what gets left out when the shorter versions are used. Then, use the longer versions.

  • benedictgal
    Posts: 798
    However, Chris, the psalm text needs to be the official wording, either what is in the Lectionary or what is in the Roman Gradual. As insipid as "Eagle's Wings" is, I don't think that it follows the proper text.

    There is also the prohibition, in Redemptionis Sacramentum, regarding using a song as a substitute for the Responsorial Psalm.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,955
    I think the OEW reference was for edification.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood