The myth of the Meditation Hymn


#1

In every parish I have visited in my years as a Post-Vatican II Catholic, the choir always had the concept of the "post-Communion meditation hymn". This was sometimes music in a different style, and usually a piece that was well-rehearsed beforehand by the choir or cantor only, and no materials given to the assembly to join in song. It is sometimes called an "Anthem" but the intent is the same. When I consulted the GIRM in this matter, imagine my surprise, or lack thereof, when I found the GIRM gives no support to this concept at all. In fact the reverse is true: the post-Communion chant is to be sung by all the assembly together with the choir, while the Communion chant preceding it may be sung without the people.

So why does everyone have this reversed? How could such a misunderstanding become entrenched in parishes if it is not part of any Church document? Is it an idea proposed by some large music publishing house? Is it merely oral tradition among choir directors? When did it start? The same time as everything else?


#2

I think part of the problem is that it is awkward for the people to sing a song after Communion. I generally want to be left alone after that.


#3

I have only heard on episcopal instruction on this and it was only a "should" not a must. Yet I still abide by this rule to the best of my ability. Namely, that we should never sing all the way through the cleansing and removal of the vessels, but leave sometime of silence. The suggestion was to sing one verse and stop, but this was only applicable in my diocese.

Then I kneel until the tabernacle is secure. I probably do 95% songs with the Congragation with something from the choir once or twice a year, usually when introducing a new song. I did this last month with "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" which was new for our parish.


#4

I’m with YTC on this.

I sometimes get swept up with emotion if the hymn is O Salutaris or Ave Verum Corpus or something like that and I will sing. During hymns like this I am likely to be one of few singing. Most of the time however, I am kneeling in prayer and don’t want to hear that tabernacle door close and the rustle of people as they get ready to leave.

One of our priests occasionally sits in the presider’s chair for a minute or two in silence. I love it.

-Tim-


#5

That is a good instruction, pnewton. Sacred silence is so important. Its need is on a par with that of good liturgical music. With the dearth of sotto voce prayers in the OF, sacred silence is something that needs to be consciously recovered by the action of priests who pause for it at appropriate points in the liturgy. I also feel that silence should be observed in sacred spaces such as the sacristy. In my parish, we used to have a sign on the door that said it should not be used as a meeting place, but since RICA held regular meetings here, rather than move them, we just removed the sign; and mundane conversations are often initiated by clergy here, so what else am I to do but go along with the flow?


#6

Where could I find this in the GIRM, I looked but was unable to find it.


#7

GIRM Chapter II: The Structure Of The Mass, Its Elements, And Its Parts

  1. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for singing at Communion: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex of the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) some other suitable liturgical chant (cf. no. 86) approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or a cantor with the people.

However, if there is no singing, the antiphon given in the Missal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful.

  1. When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the Priest and faithful pray quietly for some time. If desired, a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the whole congregation.

#8

The problem with the GIRM is that it contains both rigid instructions and “shoulds”. Now I do not know enough Latin to know if this means the same in English, but things we should do need to be taken seriously and only veered from for a sound reason. Yet it is good when we read it to note the difference between the things that are always to take place ant the things that are to be the norm. We need a balance between retaining the sacred without being too regimented. The language of the GIRM allows this.


#9

[quote="pnewton, post:8, topic:343665"]
The problem with the GIRM is that it contains both rigid instructions and "shoulds". Now I do not know enough Latin to know if this means the same in English, but things we should do need to be taken seriously and only veered from for a sound reason. Yet it is good when we read it to note the difference between the things that are always to take place ant the things that are to be the norm. We need a balance between retaining the sacred without being too regimented. The language of the GIRM allows this.

[/quote]

What do you mean, in the context of this thread? I see no mode of interpretation which would allow a post-Communion "meditation". GIRM#88 means, "you can sing a Psalm or hymn if you want. If you do, everyone must sing it."


#10

Exactly, the choices are clear: silent prayer or a hymn/canticle/psalm sung by everyone.


#11

My method, right or wrong (and I believe it is right), is that while I take special care to make sure the assembly knows the processional, offertory, and recessional hymns, I sometimes take liberties with the Communion hymn - I might add something new or unfamiliar here - with the idea that people are not necessarily singing at that time. Then I often segue gently into a song that everyone knows, bringing people back together - if they so desire - not everyone wants to join in, but it's nice when they do.


#12

I visited a parish once where the Choir actually does their own song, on their own as the “first order of business” during the announcements. So when normally the Priest would start the announcements, the Choir sings first, everyone claps, and then the Priest does the announcements.

Then, I’ve been to others where the Choir does their own song after the mass has officially ended. This is where it should be.

But some really like to do it post-Communion, as the first business of announcements.

Any Choir members/directors care to chime in?


#13

[quote="Elizium23, post:1, topic:343665"]
..........the post-Communion chant is to be sung by all the assembly together with the choir, while the Communion chant preceding it may be sung without the people.

So why does everyone have this reversed? How could such a misunderstanding become entrenched in parishes if it is not part of any Church document? Is it an idea proposed by some large music publishing house? Is it merely oral tradition among choir directors? When did it start? The same time as everything else?

[/quote]

[quote="Elizium23, post:7, topic:343665"]
GIRM Chapter II: The Structure Of The Mass, Its Elements, And Its Parts 87. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for singing at Communion: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex of the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) some other suitable liturgical chant (cf. no. 86) approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or a cantor with the people.

However, if there is no singing, the antiphon given in the Missal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful.

  1. When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the Priest and faithful pray quietly for some time. If desired, a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the whole congregation

[/quote]

This is just my take. I am in no way an expert in the GIRM but from the way I take it, the words either and may (underlining above mine) doesn't say we have to sing at that time. It seems to me it is your wording that says we are to sing at that time. (again underlining again mine.) That doesn't always work if you don't know the words to the chant and are walking down the isle to communion or you have certain prayers you always say after communion. Also, if it is a song you have difficulty singing (those of us who struggle with singing and cause people to turn around and look at you. :) )

Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying but it seems like it is giving options of what could be done. :shrug:


#14

The GIRM is explicitly clear in many other situations, why would it be vague about the post-Communion chant? Yes, in isolation of all the other context, you could read #88 as “a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may be sung by all or by the choir or by the cantor alone” but why wouldn’t they just write it that way, much like they wrote #87? Instead they specified, “sung by the whole congregation”. The permission given by “may be sung” is applied to whether or not the chant is sung at all, not by whom it is sung. I just don’t see room for another interpretation here.

For comparison, here is the IGMR Latin text for #88:

  1. Distributione Communionis expleta, pro opportunitate sacerdos et fideles per aliquod temporis spatium secreto orant. Si placet, etiam psalmus vel aliud laudis canticum vel hymnus a tota congregatione persolvi potest.

#15

[quote="Diana_Catherine, post:13, topic:343665"]
This is just my take. I am in no way an expert in the GIRM but from the way I take it, the words either and may (underlining above mine) doesn't say we have to sing at that time. It seems to me it is your wording that says we are to sing at that time. (again underlining again mine.) That doesn't always work if you don't know the words to the chant and are walking down the isle to communion or you have certain prayers you always say after communion. Also, if it is a song you have difficulty singing (those of us who struggle with singing and cause people to turn around and look at you. :) )

Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying but it seems like it is giving options of what could be done. :shrug:

[/quote]

The Communion Chant (usually a hymn in most parishes) can be sung by the choir alone. It should last until everyone has received and, if there is to be no other hymn until the recessional, can appropriately continue until the priest has purified the vessels and goes to sit down.

But at that point the options become
[LIST=1]
*]immediately say the Prayer After Communion,
*]have a period of silent prayer before the Prayer After Communion, or,
*]have a congregational hymn/psalm/canticle before the Prayer After Communion.
[/LIST]
There is no option for a choir alone hymn at that time.


#16

Okay, so I don’t think I have ever experienced a choir alone hymn after communion is over and the priest has sat down. Maybe some have.?


#17

Amen.


#18

Actually, in GIRM 86, it states

The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful. However, if there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion Chant should be ended in a timely manner.

Here, it implies that there can be a meditation hymn.

Furthermore, in Inaestimable Donum 17, it states

  1. The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make a proper thanksgiving after Communion. They may do this during the celebration with a period of silence, with a hymn, psalm or other song of praise,[26] or also after the celebration, if possible by staying behind to pray for a suitable time.

Now, if GIRM 86 says that “the singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful”, and Inaestimable Donum 17 states that a hymn can be used “to make a proper thanksgiving after Communion”, then it could be concluded that there can be a mediation hymn, and there is no myth of the meditation hymn. (Besides, if there was a widespread problem of Meditation hymns, shouldn’t the Bishops have stepped in by now?)


#19

The myth is that it’s a ‘meditation hymn’ sung by the choir alone.

The GIRM is clear that if there is a hymn/psalm/canticle after Communion it is to be sung by the congregation. In fact, it’s the only hymn that says that. The Entrance, the Offertory & the Communion hymns all have the option of being sung by the choir alone. Only the Hymn after communion is explicitly directed to be a congregational hymn.


#20

[quote="YoungTradCath, post:2, topic:343665"]
I think part of the problem is that it is awkward for the people to sing a song after Communion. I generally want to be left alone after that.

[/quote]

:thumbsup:

Also the period of silence after Communion is hardly ever practiced. In my experience, the choir or cantor usually launches into song as soon as the last person has communicated -- if not before.


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