The Psalm Responsory at Mass -
  • We have debated in past threads (which I cannot now find, hence this new one) whether or not the psalm sung responsorially at mass is a reading. Some hold that it is, whilst others of us hold that it is not. I just noticed that in the back of my lectionary there is an 'Index of Readings' followed by an 'Index of Responsorial Psalms', which includes Psalms, Old Testament Canticles, and New Testament Canticles. This seems rather a clear expression of how the Church defines these scriptures as being in two related but distinct categories. As I have noted before, the psalm responsory and the alleluya responsory are closely related in their functions during the sacred readings. They serve to underline the day's 'theme' and augment the readings both through their literary content and the increase of ritual drama by the responsorial manner in which they are sung, involving the voice of the entire congregation. They are in the Lectionary because they are integral elements in the Liturgy of the Word, but not 'readings' per se.
  • Two more proofs of "not readings".

    1. In the Graduals, the Psalms (and Alleluias) are supplied with the Mass formulary, even though the readings are not. This is particularly noticeable in the Graduale Simplex wherein the Mass "schemas" are not generally assigned to any particular Sunday.

    2. In the GIRM, the Psalm is repeatedly referred to outside of a context regarding Readings. Especially consider #367 in which (the choice of Readings having been previously discussed in #357 through #362) the choice of Psalm is enumerated with the other Chants.

    The Psalm is, however, an "integral part of the Liturgy of the Word" (GIRM #61, cf. OLM Praenotanda 19ff).
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Whilst I have said above and elsewhere that the responsorial psalm and its brother the responsorial alleluya (for that is precisely what it is!) 'increase the ritual drama as the Litrugy of the Word unfolds', I cannot but note that the pitiful, maudlin, energy-less, popular tune-styled responsories as found in R&A and elsewhere do nothing at all to 'increase the ritual drama'. If anything, they sap it. Something with the vigour and drive of plainchant-fashioned responsories would be far more appropriate for these important handmaidens of holy writ. Particularly unfortunate are the cute three dance-like alleluyas which make a mockery of so sacred an ejaculation of praise to Yahweh.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Jackson, as I am wont to constantly point out, not all of Alstott's responsories are created equal. Some do have gravitas and impetus, to whit:
    72-Justice shall flourish
    51-Be merciful, O Lord
    22- My God, my God
    145- I will praise Your Name forever
    103- The Lord is kind and merciful

    Now these don't expiate the mass of others that are perfunctory, but in a literal FCAP environment they often don't all necessarily fail.
  • donr
    Posts: 940
    Melofluent, I would agree with you that they are not all horrible. But there are many that are just awful.
  • Charles and donr -
    Yes, yes, I'll grant that, here and there, there is a responsory in R&A and ilk that has some glimmer of ritual gravitas; but 'here and there' means precious few. Nor does it help that the cantor's verses themselves are sung to a mere psalm tone, or a newly-composed likeness of one. Each verse should have its own chant-inspired melos.

    And whilst we are on the subject of 'sapping' ritual drama of its growing urgency, playing the responsories on the organ, THEN having the cantor or choir sing them, THEN having the people more or less add their not exactly heart-felt voice is a piteous exercise devoid of all appropriate impetus and forward motion. Where there should be an emotive spontaneity there is a congregation-centred coddling - complete, in many places, with pirouettists and arm flailers. Liturgical flow and ritual continuity has been lost. In its place has been put the all-too-familiar 'now we do this and now we do that' method of getting through the mass.
  • MJO: I agree with you warmly, and think that the Simplex / By Flowing Waters responsories are an excellent example of the very thing wanted: impetus and forward motion.

    But, MJO: ritual drama? Didn’t you just tell us how liturgy and theatre are light years apart? Ah, I suppose you are distinguishing theatre from drama, although I don't understand where that bright line of demarcation actually lies.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Andrew, you guessed rightly. In my mind there is drama, that emotive, whole-being-involving unfolding of symbolic action that moves us mind, body, soul, and spirit. Drama is an objective category that may inhere in a variety of contexts. There is, indeed, drama in theatre, and there is, indeed, drama in liturgy. Whilst they are, perhaps, kindred, their fundamental difference of purpose and origin are as distinct as night and day. Drama must move. It must have impetus. The absence of these is, to hit the nail on the head, precisely what is wrong with 'assembly'-centred liturgy that is peppered with non-ritual utterances. (This will have to do for a muddled off-the-cuff explanation.)
  • For my part, having lived in a community that chanted the psalms together as part of the liturgy of the hours, to use the same psalm tones for the chanting of the psalm at mass seemed the most natural thing possible in that setting. The familiarity of the tones served almost as an invitation to mediation upon the psalm. Then again, it is an institution on the grounds of a contemplative community, so perhaps the approach to liturgy in those institutions was rather more towards the contemplative and meditative end of the spectrum rather than being as theatrical and dramatic as some would prefer.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Stephen -
    I deeply appreciate your emphasis on the contemplative and meditative. To my mind these are not antitheses of drama, but categories that may have their own quiet drama. I do not see drama as necessarily boisterous or irreverent. Drama moves the soul, touches it. I would have to imagine that God speaking in that 'still small voice' within that burning bush was pungent with drama of a penetratingly holy power.

    Drama, of course, comes from the Greek word for 'action'. It is in this extended sense that I use it. Perhaps it isn't the best word after all because of its theatrical associations. What is meant is the flow of sacred ritualistic action of which all are part and are wholly involved.
    Thanked by 1StephenMatthew
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,104
    MJO, we need to have you compose and show up some examples of what you mean.
    Im sure that would be worthwhile!