Throughout the next year, and until the implementation of the New Translation of the Roman Missal, The Authentic Update will focus on issues surrounding the New Translation and developments in Sacred Music arising from it. I hope you will visit here frequently and join in the conversation as the Church enters into this remarkable period of liturgical transformation.

Monday, January 24, 2011

An Intriguing Detail in the Order of Mass

Reading through the Order of Mass (New Translation), there are a few interesting details compared to the current version. Take for example the instruction to begin Mass...

Current Version:After the people have assembled, an opening song or entrance antiphon is sung or recited as the priest and the ministers enter the church and process to the altar; after reverencing the altar (sometimes also using incense), they go to their chairs

New Version:When the people are gathered, the Priest approaches the altar with the ministers while the Entrance Chant is sung.
When he has arrived at the altar, after making a profound bow with the ministers, the Priest venerates the altar with a kiss and, if appropriate, incenses the cross and the altar. Then, with the ministers, he goes to the chair.
When the Entrance Chant is concluded, the Priest and the faithful, standing, sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross, while the Priest, facing the people, says.....

Now, maybe it's just a detail... but maybe not. Notice that there is no longer any mention of an 'opening song", but rather the Entrance Chant... and it is capitalized. And it's mentioned twice, once when it starts, and again indicating when it ends. That seems quite specific, indicating that the Entrance Chant (not something else) is to be sung at this point.

And the specificity just gets greater when it comes to the Offertory...

Current Version: The Offertory Antiphon may be sung as the gifts are brought to the altar

Now, this is one of those instructions that seems to say one thing, but could actually mean just about whatever the reader would like. Certainly, the Antiphon may be sung, but there's nothing saying that something else can't be sung here. This confusion is certainly cleared up in the new version...

New Version: When all this has been done, the Offertory Chant begins. Meanwhile, the ministers place the corporal, the purificator, the chalice, the pall, and the Missal on the altar.

22. It is desirable that the faithful express their participation by making an offering, bringing forward bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist and perhaps other gifts to relieve the needs of the Church and of the poor.

(and then a little later)

Then he places the paten with the bread on the corporal.
If, however, the Offertory Chant is not sung, the Priest may speak these words aloud; at the end, the people may acclaim:
Blessed be God for ever.

(and a little later still...)

Then he places the chalice on the corporal.
If, however, the Offertory Chant is not sung, the Priest may speak these words aloud; at the end, the people may acclaim:
Blessed be God for ever.

Three times the Offertory Chant (again, capitalized... this is a specific term, a "thing", the actual Offertory Chant, not something else sung during the offertory) is identified, either to be sung or NOT to be sung. No mention anywhere of "...or some other song". The intention here is clear. Either the Offertory Chant is sung, or it isn't sung. There is no option specified for something else to be sung. Certainly that option exists, doesn't it? Hmm...

But it is the instruction at communion that is the most telling....

Current Version: No Instruction

Now, we all know that in the absence of an instruction, one is free to make up any instruction that one might wish. And that has certainly been the case when it comes to communion. But what does the new version say?

New Version:em>While the Priest is receiving the Body of Christ, the Communion Chant begins.

So far, this is like the previous two examples. Clear and unequivocal... the Communion Chant (capitalized) begins at this point. No mention of something else going on here. But it is the final instruction at this point that really makes the point I think...

Then the Priest may return to the chair. If appropriate, a sacred silence may be observed for a while, or a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may be sung.

I say "WOW", and here's why. At this point it becomes clear that Entrance Chant, Offertory Chant and Communion Chant are not generic terms.... there are such things as psalms and canticles of praise and even... gasp HYMNS!! They specify them for this point in the Mass... but NOT at the entrance, offertory of communion processions... at those points they specify other things... the Chants appropriate to those processions!

I think there is something going on here... or there WILL BE something going on here that we don't yet know about. Just as the rather odd statements and instructions in Sing to the Lord make a lot more sense in light of what we now know about the new translation and liturgical developments since 2006, I wonder what may occur in the near future that will make these instructions necessary....

Kinda makes one think a little!


aquinasadmirer said...

Do you have a link to the "current" order of the mass? I'd like to see the stuff you highlighted with the whole documents side-by-side.



Chironomo said...


Unfortunately, whether for copyright reasons or whatever, there is no "online" version of the 1970 translation of the Missal, although there are several websites that have posted excerpts and the such. I avoid those because they are often edited or added to for various reasons.

I used my hard copy (a 1972 printing) for these texts.