Communion Chant Placement (EF)
  • We have occasionally inverted the order of the Communion antiphon and motet when there was some good reason—usually difficulty getting the schola down for Holy Communion at the usual time. It is obviously preferable to sing the proper text first, but is there any rubric or rule explicitly prohibiting another chant, hymn, or motet before the Communion? There is no question of leaving out the proper Communion antiphon altogether.
    Expleta autem antiphona ad Communionem, praesertim si fidelium Communio diu protrahitur, licet quoque aliam cantiunculam latinam, sacrae actioni congruam, decantare. (Graduale Romanum)
  • As far as I'm aware, the Communion verse can be done at any time during the Communion time. I think the custom of doing it first is to ensure that you don't inadvertently run out of time... but the recited Communion verse itself is at the end of Communion, not the beginning.

    I've been singing it from the Communion rail while the choir receives first. It provides coverage while we are receiving Communion; I'm not typically rushed for time since the verses are typically short and we don't have multiple priests distributing; it allows the organist to receive first and then get back to the loft to bridge the time while choir is receiving and returning to the loft. It typically works pretty well.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen madorganist
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,839
    I think the custom of doing it first

    Not a custom that had been around for very long, see the changes in the Rubrics...
  • but the recited Communion verse itself is at the end of Communion, not the beginning
    Good point, especially in contrast with the novus ordo practice! I also note in the GR rubrics that at Masses where there is no Communion of the faithful, it is to be sung "dum sacerdos celebrans Sanctissimum Sacramentum sumit"—in other words, right after the Agnus Dei.
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • WGS
    Posts: 244
    Psallite Sapienter: A Musician's Practical Guide to the 1962 Roman Missal

    In this very helpful guide by B. Andrew Mills, he states:


    #73 If however, the congregation is to receive as well (this is almost always the case nowadays), the choirmaster must wait until after all have thrice said Domine, non sum dignus together (no bell will be rung for this, which should not be confused with the celebrant's use of the same prayer just before). Then, when the celebrant begins to distribute the Sacrament, the antiphon is sung.

    #74 It is sung by the cantor(s) to the asterisk, where the full choir join them to conclude the antiphon. If, at its conclusion, the distribution of Communion and the ablutions are not yet complete, there are four options:

    a. The chant may be expanded by the addition of Psalm verses sung by the cantor(s). In this case the antiphon should be repeated after every verse, or after every two verses. The last verse should be Gloria Patri, except during Passiontide and in Masses for the Dead (see par. 159).

    b. The organ may be played, if its use be not prohibited (see par. 21 et seq.).

    c. A suitable chant, motet or hymn in Latin may be sung.

    d. Reverent silence may be kept.

    Any music added at this point should be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible after the missal has been moved back to the Epistle side of the altar (the celebrant's right).
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,984
    End of section X of Ritus Servandus :
    Interim a choro canitur Antiphona /ad Communionem (1962)// quae dicitur Communio (1604)/
    No significant change there, surely.
    But it is not at all clear to what this 'meanwhile' refers. As it is the only reference it cannot just apply to the paragraph on Pontifical Mass, to which the instruction is appended.
  • In my experience, at most TLMs, the Communion is preceded by organ playing or a period of silence rather than being sung as soon as celebrant begins the distribution.
  • Do I understand correctly: it would be quite possible (and even a laudable practice) to sing the Communion antiphon before the choir receives?
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,984
    De Musica Sacra et … 1958
    27 c) The proper time for the chanting of the Communion antiphon is while the priest is receiving the holy Eucharist. But if the faithful are also to go to Communion the antiphon should be sung while they receive. ...
  • The De ritibus servandis in cantu Missae section of the 1961 Gradual quotes verbatim from De musica sacra, adding only "intonata ab uno, duobus aut quatuor cantoribus, ut ad Introitum dictum est."
  • especially in contrast with the novus ordo practice!

    The NO "Low Masses" which I have been to place the antiphon in a similar place to where it would be read in an EF Mass.
  • Interesting, @Casavant_Organist. Are you in the US? I believe the practice you describe in contrary to the approved version of the GIRM. See
    My understanding is that, here, there must be either the Communion antiphon or "another suitable song" at the NOM. I know that in some countries it is permissible to have silence or instrumental music throughout, but in the US something must be sung or recited. Incidentally, R. R. Terry (1865–1938) mentions that omitting the Communion chant was a widespread abuse in his day!
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,984
    All GIRMs in English agree with IGMR, either started during the celebrant's communion, or read by the celebrant directly after his communion. The OF malpractice identified by CasavantOrganist is widespread in England, or the antiphon is often omitted completely, alas.