Saturday, July 01, 2006

Singing the words of the Consecration - Archbishop Moras Explains

Most Rev. Bernard Moras, the Archbishop of Bangalore has been serially explaining various aspects of the liturgy in his monthly circulars. This month he continues with an explanation on the uniqueness of each Eucharistic prayer and gives some guidelines and suggestions in choosing the Eucharistic prayer appropriate for the occasion. Given below is an extract on "Singing the words of the consecration".

Singing the words of Consecration

Can the celebrant sing the words of consecration during the Eucharistic prayer? Until the Second Vatican Council, the Latin Rite was practically the only one that did not sing the words of the consecration. Among the changes brought about by the Council's liturgical reform was to open up the possibility of singing the consecration, indeed the singing of the entire Eucharistic Prayer, in the Latin rite.

The General Instruction to Roman Missal in number nineteen says “Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly.” (GIRM 19) Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation. The GIRM also says: “In texts that are to be delivered in a clear, loud voice, whether by the priest or by the ministers or by all, the tone of voice should correspond to the genre of the text, that is, accordingly as it is a reading, a prayer, an instruction, an acclamation, or a song; the tone should also be suited to the form of celebration and to the solemnity of the gathering. Other criteria are the idiom of different languages and the genius of peoples. In the rubrics and in the norms that follow, the words "say" ("dicere") or "proclaim" ("proferre") are to be understood of both singing and speaking, and in accordance with the principles just stated.” (GIRM 18)

Apart from these general indications, the new Latin Missal, as well as several officially approved vernacular translations, also provide music for singing the Eucharistic Prayers or at least the consecration. It is important to remember, however, that all musical settings for the ordinary of the Mass must be approved for liturgical use by the Bishop or, in some cases, by the Bishops' Conference. Hence I would like to point out the following regarding the question of singing the words of consecration in the Holy Mass:

It is permissible to sing the words of Consecration with the following considerations:

  • The tune should be appropriate, expressing the sense of sacred according to our culture.

  • The tune should be sung well by the celebrant without making glaring mistakes.

  • The tune should be known to the concelebrants as far as possible who can join the celebrant while singing the words of Consecration. But care should be taken that there is unity of voice especially in concelebrations. Each one should not be singing in a different note.

  • While singing, the words of Consecration should not be altered or changed according to ones own whims and fancies. It should be loud and clear without overlapping or making pauses at inappropriate places.

  • Above all, the tunes should be approved by the Bishop before start using in the liturgy.
While singing the entire Eucharistic Prayer is quite uncommon, and usually requires a musically capable priest, singing the Consecration can contribute to forming a sense of the sacred.

It is interesting to note that at this year's (2006) Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI sang the entire Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I), including the Consecration in which he was joined by hundreds of concelebrating Bishops and Priests. As far as I know, this is the first time that a Pontiff has sung the entire Canon since the liturgical reforms, although it is possible that it was more common during the first Christian millennium.

Taken from the Archbishop's circular dated July 1, 2006.
Also See:
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  • BANGALORE: ICPA Symposium on Da Vinci Code
  • BANGALORE: Archdiocesan Education Policy Must Be Follwed, says Archbishop
  • BANGALORE: Archbishop's Circular on Da Vinci Code
  • BANGALORE: Archbishop Calls DVC the Devil's Code
  • Karnataka Regional Catholic Bishops Conference (KRCBC)
  • Bangalore Archdiocese to host CBCI-GBM
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