When do we really say a mistake has been committed when singing
for the Holy Mass?
The following article gives us a few of the instances when this occurs.
It is sad to think that many of us who have served for years in church choirs and prayer group
communities are not fully aware of what can and cannot be sung within the Eucharistic celebration. Many have no idea
WHY guidelines exist.
At times we are told that what we've sung is unliturgical but what does this mean? This
article enlightens us on the role of music in relation to the Holy Mass. The following discussions are based on this
writer's understanding of the points raised in an interview with Fr. Atilano "Corks" Corcuera, an SVD priest who is considered
as an authority on this matter.
What do we mean by liturgical? By liturgical we mean anything pertaining
to the official worship of the Church. This includes, approved text, prayers, structure, music, color of vestments,
seasons, furnishings and vessels used, space allocation, time, etc...
Why is there a need for guidelines? The liturgy has been structured to
allow for the continued presence and saving action of Christ, no matter where the Holy Mass is held, what the language
is, who attends the celebration or who celebrates the Holy Mass. The guidelines safeguard the essence of the Eucharistic
celebration against abuses and arbitrary execution due to human limitations.
The Holy Mass is structured according to the Liturgical Calendar which unfolds the mystery of
Christ from the incarnation to the Pentecost and the expectation of the blessed hope for the coming of the Lord (quoted
from Liturgical Year, Volume 1 by Bernhard Raas, SVD).
This is why as singers of the Lord, we prepare our repertoire according to the seasons of the
Liturgical year which begins with Advent and ends with the Feast of Christ the King. Moreover, our music must conform
to the rites being celebrated.
What is the role of music as far as the liturgy is concerned? "The
music ministry is part of the team that generates the right atmosphere where God can meet His people," says Fr. Corks.
In this teamwork, the role of music ministries during the mass may be summed up as FUNCTIONAL (accompanying the entrance,
offertory and communion processions; encouraging the singing of the community; enriching the community singing by adding on
vocal arrangements; and inspiring the community with praise music during and/or after Holy Communion)
and INTEGRAL (singing with the community the prayers and responses such as in the case of the
Sanctus, Lord's Prayer, Acclamation, Great Amen, Lamb of God, etc.).
What are the common misconceptions and mistakes when singing for the Holy Mass?
To answer this, let us go through the different parts of the Eucharistic celebration.
THE ENTRANCE HYMN
WE CAN CHOOSE ANY SONG AS LONG AS IT'S ABOUT GOD
The entrance Hymn, in terms of function, accompanies the entrance procession. It signals
to us the current season or feast of theme of the Mass. It must be in accordance to the spirit of the season.
Thus an advent song is fitting for advent, Christmas song is fitting for the Christmas season, etc...
A SAD SLOW SONG FITS THE SEASON OF LENT
The spirit of Lent is NOT SAD but penitential. Thus, even an upbeat tune may be used as
long as it is in accordance to the mood and message of Lent.
THE LENGTH OF THE HYMN IS NOT AN ISSUE
Because the entrance hymn has the function to accompany the entrance procession, it must fade
out as soon as the procession ends to prevent any unnecessary delay in the liturgy of the mass.
THE PRAYER FOR MERCY
THE PRAYER OF MERCY MAY ALWAYS BE SUNG BEFORE GLORY TO GOD...
The singing of the prayer for mercy is according to the format of the penitential rite.
If the rite uses the "I confess" format then the Lord Have Mercy may be sung. However if the format used already
carries teh Lord have mercy text then the prayer for mercy must no longer be sung.
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN THE USE OF LUWALHATI AND PAPURI
So much debate has been made over what is the best term to use for Glory to God.
But today, the church accepts as a more fitting term, PAPURI. In the church's desire to bring about unity among
all Christians, the term papuri was preferred since it is also the term acceptable to our Christian brothers and sisters.
THE GLORIA IS NOT SUNG DURING ORDINARY TIME
The Gloria may be sung even during ordinary season specially during solemn local celebrations.
It is not allowed during the Lenten season. In Advent, it is suppressed so that at Christmas, we could appreciate it
THE RESPONSORIAL PSALM
THE RESPONSORIAL PSALM MUST BE SUNG DURING SPECIAL MASSES AND FEAST DAYS
Though there is no real objection to the singing of the responsorial psalm, it is recommended
that it be recited instead to prevent unnecessary delay in the mass rites and to give more time to the more important parts
as the Gospel. However, should it truly be desired that the responsorial psalm be sung, then it is recommended that
only the response be placed to music. Or if verses are sung, a simple melody must be used for the response.
Though very seldom do choirs make the mistake of singing the alleluia during Lent, it is included
in this list to serve as a reminder that just like the Gloria, the Alleluia is dropped in keeping with the spirit of the Lenten
season. However in Advent it is retained.
THE OFFERTORY HYMN
THE OFFERTORY IS AN OFFERING OF OURSELVES TO GOD
Yes and No. Though the offertory may include ourselves as offerings to the Lord, the real
offering that occurs in the Holy Mass is the offering of the Lord's body and blood to His Father. Thus the most fitting
offertory song must be able to carry text that praises and blesses our God: Blessed be God of all creation...Kapuri-puri
ang Poong Maykapal... Dakila Ka O Kristo, etc.
THE OFFERTORY IS A VENUE FOR REFLECTION ON THE GOSPEL READING
As in the entrance hymn, the role of the offertory hymn is to accompany the preparation of the
gifts, the presentation of the gifts, and the preparation of the altar. It is not a venue to provide music for reflection
on the Gospel reading. Therefore when all the offertory rites are finished, the offertory hymn must fade out to give
way to the next part of the Mass. Whenever there is no offertory procession, a short offertory song may still be sung.
IT IS ALRIGHT TO SING O COME LET US ADORE HIM DURING THE RAISING OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF
The singing of the Christmas Song O Come Let us Adore Him during the elevation of the
body and blood of Christ is an abuse that should not be allowed. The liturgy provides already the acclamation.
Also, the use of a Christmas song is not in accordance to the spirit of the rite.
"HE IS LORD" AS A FITTING ACCLAMATION SONG
The singing of the acclamation is part of the integral function of music in the liturgy.
Therefore it should be the declaration of the Paschal mystery - the dying, resurrection and second coming of the Lord Jesus
Christ. In no way does the song He is Lord cover this. It only declares that Christ is Lord. The
acclamation is preceded by the words... Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith. The song He is Lord
must not be used as an acclamation song.
THE GREAT AMEN
THE GREAT AMEN IS SUNG ONLY WHEN THE PRIEST SINGS THE DOXOLOGY
The mere mention of GREAT signals to us a majestic Amen. The Great Amen is preceded
by the doxology: through him, with him... which is the summation of the Eucharistic prayer. It is therefore fitting
that the Amen be sung, specially on Sundays and big occasions.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
THE OUR FATHER NEED NOT BE ALWAYS SUNG WITH THE COMMUNITY
The Lord's prayer is a community prayer. Therefore caution must be taken when choosing
an "Our Father" song. It must be one that the community can easily follow in terms of melody and pitch.
IT IS ALRIGHT TO SING THE ABRIDGED VERSION OF THE OUR FATHER\
The Lord's Prayer must be sung in FULL. There are communities who use compositions
that do not carry the last part of the prayer. This must not be done.
THE LAMB OF GOD
IN THE FILIPINO TEXT, THE INTERCHANGE OF SA AND NG IN THE LINE... NAG-AALIS NG MGA KASALANAN
NG MUNDO IS NOT AN ISSUE.
When in doubt, the best source would be the approved text of the liturgy. The correct phrase
is nag-aalis ng mga kasalanan NG mundo. In fact, if we analyze the English text NG is a fitting translation of
OF in the phrase... sins OF the world.
A MARIAN SONG MAY BE SUNG DURING COMMUNION ON A MARIAN FEAST
With the exception of the entrance song Ang Puso Ko'y Nagpupuri or Magnificat (Mary's
song of praise to God), no Marian song may be sung during the mass proper. The presence of the Holy trinity in
the Eucharistic celebration is the complete source of blessings. A praise song addressed to God however is encouraged
after Communion. However, Marian songs may be sung during the entrance and final processions on Marian feasts.
AN UPBEAT SONG IS NOT ALLOWED DURING COMMUNION
The fact that the Communion procession is a feast, a banquet where we share the body and blood
of Christ, there is no objection to an upbeat song as long as it expresses the message of a community taking part in the
banquet of the Lord. The theme of this rite is unity and eating together.
THE FINAL HYMN
THE FINAL HYMN IS PART OF THE HOLY MASS
The final hymn is not considered part of the Holy Mass. The Church does not put a final
note to the worship to communicate that the worship and living of the Gospel read in the celebration must continue outside
the church walls. However, should a song be sung, a short one that carries a message that is apostolic in nature is
recommended. One such example is Tell the World of His Love.
- Written by Ma. Lourdes Evidente-Domingo for Rejoice Musichordbook vol.6 p.44