Can the communion hymn be sacramental?


#1

A paragraph, reprinted from Living Liturgy (2011), was printed on the back of our 'worship aid' at Mass yesterday. This is the part of the paragraph about which I have a question:

"GIRM indicates the Communion song is an outward expression of our inward unity in Christ. This means the song is itself sacramental. It both celebrates our communion and assists it to happen. It is never to be lightly omitted, either by the liturgy planners or by an individual member of the assembly who chooses not to sing...."

Can a song be sacramental?

Here's the rest of the paragraph:

..."For the planners this means choosing Communion songs with the assembly's ability to sing them well and easily in mind.For the individual assembly member this means choosing to enter into the communal singing even when the hymn is somewhat unfamiliar, or not to one's liking, or a distraction from private prayer. It means entering in with full heart and letting the community's common voice carry one's singluar struggling voice. It means entering in with full heart and letting the text of the hymn transform one's private prayer into the shared prayer of the Body of Christ."


#2

It means sacramental in the sense of being "a sacramental," i.e. it is not a sacrament but helps to dispose us to receive divine grace, which comes primarily from the Sacraments of the Church.

-ACEGC


#3

:popcorn:


#4

[quote="ojmom, post:1, topic:289311"]
a distraction from private prayer. It means entering in with full heart and letting the community's common voice carry one's singluar struggling voice. It means entering in with full heart and letting the text of the hymn transform one's private prayer into the shared prayer of the Body of Christ."

[/quote]

I'm actually surprised at this part. So, when the electric guitars are going, the drummer gets louder and the soloist does their own thing it's OK that no one can pray or really sing along? I thought communion was a time of reverence.

[quote="Elizium23, post:3, topic:289311"]
:popcorn:

[/quote]

I think I'll join you. :popcorn:


#5

[quote="maltmom, post:4, topic:289311"]
I'm actually surprised at this part. So, when the electric guitars are going, the drummer gets louder and the soloist does their own thing it's OK that no one can pray or really sing along? I thought communion was a time of reverence.:

[/quote]

I must say that I feel for you, here, and I genuinely wonder if there's a difference between a communal prayer that one cannot fully participate in, and a "communal" prayer that is genuinely a distraction. I think it's a matter of balance. I cannot seriously expect every single person in the church to be able to sing along to even a well-known song or prayer like the Our Father, because some just plain and simply can't do it even when they desperately want to. If everyone prays together - that's good. But if not everyone can, or if something's unfamiliar, that's fine! The question is - what is going too far? The only meaningful answer I could give to this is that that's not the responsibility of the person who's trying to join in with the prayer, it's the responsibility of the people leading the prayer to ensure that it is within reason for everyone to pray with them.


#6

Yes a song can be sacramental, but not as thought it's an eighth sacrament - sacramental like holy water or a scapular are sacramental.

The older I get the more I seem to see a pattern in liturgical planning. More often than not, books like the LL series strike me as being only slightly helpful at best, but imposing liberalizing ideologies on the poorly-catechized at worst.

The part about goading individual assembly members into conformity made me think this is less of a "worship aid" and more of a spiritual bayonet.

At any rate, that is not quite what the GIRM says. It looks to me like LL is appealing to an idiosyncratically-defined "Spirit of the GIRM" of some kind. See for yourselves what the GIRM actually says (scroll down to paragraph 86, which is what LL seems to have in mind): usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/roman-missal/general-instruction-of-the-roman-missal/girm-chapter-2.cfm

Does anyone else see LL's subtle misinterpretation? The GIRM refers to a communion chant, and discusses it separately from a (post-)communion hymn. LL seems to think these are the same thing. The chant comes from the proper of the mass, and this is what is expressive of the communitarianism. The reason it is not lightly to be omitted is because it is part of the mass. The postcommunion hymn, however, is totally separate and totally optional - and more importantly, is totally after communion.

The difference is the communion chant is always simple, straightforward, and short, and usually consists of a very familiar quotation from scripture, especially something from the readings of the day, or from the spirituality of the Church - never complicated, never taxing to the mind, does not have "verses", refrains, choruses, or four-bar intros. Indeed it rarely amounts to more than a single sentence.

In fact, the communion chant is so short that there will be plenty of time for silent prayer and reflection while the rest of the congregation is receiving communion (especially if you don't have EMHCs). Then you can sing a postcommunion hymn.


#7

Argh argh argh argh argh no.

First off, the “Communio” is the DEFAULT. I grant you that in US Catholicism, EF or OF, most people have never ever heard a Communio chant, but it’s still the default option, the first option, the option that is supposed to be normal.

What is a Communio chant?

It is a designated liturgical text, assigned to a specific Sunday in the liturgical cycle. There is an antiphon with a designated chant melody, and then there are designated psalm verses, which may include the entire length of the psalm if needed. You can sing it in Latin or English. If you want to be really different, you sing a different melodic setting of the Communio chant, in whatever style is appropriate. And if you’re really feeling wild, you sing a metrical or song version of the antiphon and psalm verses. Woohoo! Livin’ crazy!

Way after all that, you have the option to sing a hymn at Communion instead, or in addition to it, after the Communio.

The GIRM is somewhat mis-emphasizing the importance of the Communion chant or hymn. It is supposed to primarily continue the lectionary theme, allowing us both to worship God and be educated by His Word about these things. At the same time, it does allow us to thank God for the wonder of the Eucharist, whether or not one happens to be receiving said Eucharist; but very often, the designated chants for Communion are not explicitly about Communion. Heck, most of the time. The Mass is a whole, and the lectionary texts of the day are a set, not Lego bricks of all different shapes and sizes.

The Communio is actually a lot more like a “closing song.”

(Because there is no designated liturgical text for singing at the end of Mass. After the “Missa est,” since we don’t have the Last Gospel in the OF, we’re done. If the EF has a liturgical closing song, it’s technically the way they used to chant the Last Gospel reading: “In the beginning was the Word…” And since laypeople were encouraged to stick around and pray after Mass, you really didn’t need a song processional anyway since the people weren’t going anywhere right away.)

So yeah… they’re not exactly giving you good info, in the GIRM. This is why there are many other documents on church music to consult. The Communio is holy, sure, because it’s the Word of God and it’s in the lectionary. J. Random Hymn is only holy as a sort of Nutrasweet version of the Communio.

Anyway: here’s the list of designated readings (or chantings, really, since Mass readings are really all intended to be sung – that’s another default thing that we miss out on):

Introit antiphon and psalm verses (usually replaced by the “opening song”)
1st reading
Psalm or gradual
Alleluia, or alleluia and sequence
Gospel
Antiphon for the offering of the gifts, in the EF; nothing in the OF
Communion antiphon

And I don’t hate hymns. I love hymns. But I hate missing out on all this spiritual food from the Psalms illuminating the rest of the readings, and it’s ludicrous that music directors don’t usually even try to hit the themes of the antiphons when hymns are supposed to be replacements for them. Why? Because we’ve totally forgotten them over the last 150 years, in favor of hymns.


#8

For example, here's this week's Communio text.

All the lectionary texts concern the Lord's greatness(Introit: All nations clap your hands, sing unto God in a voice of joy), how He does great things for us and hurries to rescue us, how He even made Himself poor and helpless and dead to make us rich and powerful and alive. He raised the little girl from death. In the Offertory text, we offer up worship and sacrifice to Him (by His hands, with Him as the sacrifice). In the Communion text, we emphasize either His rising from the dead and conquest of death (in year A in the OF, or all years in the EF) or His rescuing power again, with a different melody and emphasis (in year B and C in the OF).

Most parishes will probably have hymns this weekend dealing with greatness in general, but most will replace the psalm with a general seasonal psalm like "The Lord is kind and merciful" instead of "I will praise You, Lord, for You have rescued me."


#9

[quote="ojmom, post:1, topic:289311"]
Can a song be sacramental?

[/quote]

Unfortunately, the English language uses the same suffix to mean "of" the sacraments, "of the sacramentals" and "kinda like a" sacrament. :eek:


#10

[quote="Spirithound, post:9, topic:289311"]
Unfortunately, the English language uses the same suffix to mean "of" the sacraments, "of the sacramentals" and "kinda like a" sacrament. :eek:

[/quote]

American English is like that.

And I think we have to be careful not to do literary gymnastics to interpret the passage in the OP. The obvious meaning of the paragraph quoted should be used rather than searching for a hidden meaning.

It seems fairly obvious that the paragraph quoted refers to whatever music is selected by the priest or his designated music minister for the Communion, not just a certain chant, unless, of course, the paragraph has been taken out of context, and the surrounding context makes it clear that the certain chant is to be used. I hope that others will post the rest of the context or a link to the context if this is the case.

But regardless, I think we are safe to assume that since the GIRM speaks highly of the music at Communion, that we should consider this music as "important" according to Holy Mother Church, and that we shouldn't just brush it off, or worse, consider it an annoying distraction to our own much more important personal prayers.


#11

I'm not sure how the hermeneutic of continuity applies to this.

GIRM and the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy use terms that imply certain actions are on the level of the sacraments. GIRM emphasizes the presence of Christ in the assembly in the same paragraph as His Presence in the Eucharist, hearing the Word of God is described as "nourishing" (like food), etc. This more than anything is a poor choice of words than truth; it makes for an easy conspiracy if you're into those things. A lot of it is bad theology. Just accept it as is and pray it changes.


#12

I had omitted this paragraph which came before what I posted previously:

"The ongoing proclamation of Jesus' Bread of Life discourse is a fitting time to begin a reflection on the purpose of the Communion song. According to General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 86 (GIRM), the Communion song has three purposes: 1) to express the communicants' unity by means of the unity of their voices; 2) to give evidence of a joyful heart; 3) to highlight more the common action of Communion procession. This week we reflect on the first purpose. GIRM indicates...." (see post #1 for the rest of that text).

That is the entirety of what was posted on the back of our worship aide.

Ours is an extremely large parish. The Director of Music is also the Director of Liturgy. It is rare that we sing a song that was written before 1980.

We are instructed to stand as soon as the priest has received Holy Communion. Then we usually sing almost an entire song while all the Eucharistic Ministers receive Communion and go to their stations. Then another entire song is sung while the congregation receives Communion. We are told to remain standing and to sing until after everyone in the congregation has received Communion. Then we are given a verbal command to "Please sit", which is followed by approximately 20 to 30 seconds of silence. Then we are told to stand for the Song of Praise.

[quote="Cat, post:10, topic:289311"]
American English is like that.

And I think we have to be careful not to do literary gymnastics to interpret the passage in the OP. The obvious meaning of the paragraph quoted should be used rather than searching for a hidden meaning.

It seems fairly obvious that the paragraph quoted refers to whatever music is selected by the priest or his designated music minister for the Communion, not just a certain chant, unless, of course, the paragraph has been taken out of context, and the surrounding context makes it clear that the certain chant is to be used. I hope that others will post the rest of the context or a link to the context if this is the case.

But regardless, I think we are safe to assume that since the GIRM speaks highly of the music at Communion, that we should consider this music as "important" according to Holy Mother Church, and that we shouldn't just brush it off, or worse, consider it an annoying distraction to our own much more important personal prayers.

[/quote]


#13

[quote="Mintaka, post:8, topic:289311"]
Most parishes will probably have hymns this weekend dealing with greatness in general, but most will replace the psalm with a general seasonal psalm like "The Lord is kind and merciful" instead of "I will praise You, Lord, for You have rescued me."

[/quote]

Really? I have always used the plain text for the day. I have never heard a seasonal Psalm. Funny how such things vary from different parts of the country.

Speaking of which, Scripture, including the Psalms, are a sacramental. If a song is based on scripture, or to the extent that it is based in scripture, I can see where if can be said to be a sacramental. I think it important to remember that a sacramental is an instrument that *can *convey grace. As opposed to a Sacrament that does convey grace. As God's mercy is rather boundless, I think it is always best to be open to His grace in all we do, especially at Mass. For those that can not sing, it is still possible to join in the song with prayer.


#14

[quote="ojmom, post:1, topic:289311"]
It is never to be lightly omitted, either by the liturgy planners or by an individual member of the assembly who chooses not to sing...."

[/quote]

Communion reception the time when, assuming we received in the state of sanctifying grace, have the most grace in us. As our priest explained to us on Corpus Christi, it is the time for us to ask God for the graces for what we need most. For this reason, I do not remain standing and singing the Communion Song (which tends to not even be theologically correct) after I receive communion. I kneel down in adoration and silent prayer until the blessed sacrament is returned to the Tabernacle. I have ran this by with a priest offering Mass in the OF, and he was more than happy with my decision to do so.:thumbsup:
[edited]


closed #15

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