Why aren’t we singing at Mass?

Our recent return to public Mass, although strongly desired and greatly anticipated has left many of us strangely disappointed. Although we are completely grateful to receive Jesus in the Eucharist after an extended fast, the nature of the celebration is so very different and foreign.  Mass just does not feel the same. 

Although we can be present in the same space together, there remains so much separation between us.   

We are relegated to our own “private space of worship” 6 feet away from our neighbor, unable to lean in to another’s personal space to connect in even a genuine face-to-face unmasked greeting, a quick hug hello or even a handshake greeting of peace. We miss the shoulder-to-shoulder moments of worship with our parish family.  We are bound by barriers so antithetical to the expression of genuine Eucharistic Liturgy, the Body of Christ in our social distancing requires masks covering our expressions of joy, prayer, anxiety, gratitude and hope.  We pray together and for one another, yet we do not have the blessed luxury of seeing and being the full expression of who we are in the moment.  

And then there is the music, or lack thereof.  

Why aren’t we singing familiar favorites at public Mass?

Included in the guidelines from the Archdiocese of Detroit for the resumption of public Mass are many suggestions for social distancing and safety. Due to some preliminary studies indicating the increased volume of vapor droplets produced when singing, the AOD has asked for us to minimize singing at public Mass. This includes reciting rather than singing the Propers (Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Amen and Lamb of God) and having the music minister/cantor sing the Entrance and Communion Antiphon rather than familiar songs during this time.

What is an Antiphon?  

An antiphon is a verse based on a psalm or scripture that is selected for a specific Mass to go along with the scripture readings of that particular day. The Antiphon sets the tone and helps us to better understand the readings for that Mass.

Historically speaking, the antiphons were adopted from Hebrew worship and were introduced into Western civilization by St. Ambrose in the 4th Century. These antiphons  are some of the most ancient texts we have, yet their use during Mass remains prescriptive in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (G.I.R.M.). The Antiphons are instructed to be used at Introit (Entrance/ Gathering), Offertory and Communion times of the Mass. In other words, the first choice for music given in the instruction book for Mass The G.I.R.M.,  is not a hymn or a song, but an Antiphon to be used for these times.  

These Antiphons are known as essential prayers; “the very voice of God speaking to us in scripture”.  

All of the parishes for which I have been a music minster throughout my life, have incorporated the 4th and final G.I.R.M. preference of “another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, day or time of the year,” rather than the first the three preferences for the use of Antiphons and psalm texts….until now.  Current times have called us into harmony in more ways than one with our early church ancestors. 

Stay tuned for more information on these Antiphons and our unique journey through the celebration of Mass during these times when Mass seems so different,…yet the power of Word and Sacrament and Paschal Mystery remains. In whatever ways we are able, we sing with all the saints in glory, His resurrection song of love forever and unchanging.

Blessings in hope and health in Him,

Amy

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