Liturgical Song?

A liturgical song is a song that is integral to the liturgy.

Browse liturgical song titles in the alphabetical index and genres in the genre index. Find songs for particular days by clicking the liturgical index, or browse the navigation bar above.

Three principles help us to choose music for liturgical songs - liturgical holiness, musical beauty and pastoral universality.

Holy?

What is Holy?
Sacred music is considered "the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action" (Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, 112). It must be able "to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church's faith" (John Paul II).

Music, including sacred music, is not liturgically holy if it is incompatible with the liturgical action or Church teaching.

Beautiful?

What is Beautiful?
"The criterion that must inspire every composition and performance ... is the beauty that invites prayer." (John Paul II).

Requires sound form, true art, full adherence to the text it presents, synchronization with the time and movement in the Liturgy for which it is intended, appropriately reflecting the gestures proposed by the rite.
(John Paul II).

Universal?

What is Universal?
Three requirements:
1. "must comply with the legitimate demands of adaptation and inculturation"
2.
"must respect specific criteria such as the search for musical expressions which respond to the necessary involvement of the entire assembly in the celebration.
3.
"nobody of any nation may receive an impression other than good on hearing them."
(John Paul II).

How Much Singing?

How Much Singing?
(General Instruction, 40):
The amount of singing should correspond to the degree of solemnity of the occasion, with due consideration for culture and ability of the assembly; "preference should be given to those (parts) of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together." More detail

Liturgical Song

The universal beauty that invites the involvement of the entire assembly in prayer ...

  1. is intimately linked with liturgical action
  2. expresses Church faith and teaching
  3. is sound in form
  4. is true art
  5. fully adheres to the text it presents
  6. synchronises with the intended time and movement in the liturgy
  7. reflects the gestures of the rite
  8. is adapted and inculturated
  9. involves the entire assembly
  10. offends no one, and is deserving of universal esteem

Priority for SingingAlleluia

A Hebrew acclamation, Alleluia means "Praise God!" It occurs in twenty psalms in the Old Testament. The early Christians sang Alleluia as a response to the psalms. The earliest record of its use is found in The Apostolic Tradition by Hippolytus (c.170 - c.236).

The creation of the Roman Proper of the Mass in the late seventh century established the Alleluia chant as an independent rite, acclaiming the arrival of the Gospel and accompanying the procession of the minister and book of Gospels.

Today, the Alleluia, or an alternate acclamation during Lent, is the primary Gospel acclamation of the assembly in the Liturgy of the Word. By its very nature It is a song, and should be sung by all while standing and awaiting the Gospel.

Proper of the Mass: Those prescribed texts which are specific to the particular Mass. The chants of the Proper include the Entrance (Introit), the Responsorial Psalm (Gradual), the Alleluia, the Lenten verse before the Gospel (Tract), the Offertory and the Communion.

Led by a cantor or the choir, the Alleluia should begin after a brief period of silence following the reading or psalm before the Gospel. The aclamation should be repeated if appropriate. The cantor or choir sing a verse after the initial round of acclamation. The acclamation is then sung again by all. The rite should last until the minister who is to proclaim the Gospel is ready to greet the people. The choice of musical setting should take into account the time needed for the accompanying procession.

What the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) Says
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The Different Elements of Mass

37. Finally, concerning the other formulas:

a. Some constitute an independent rite or act, such as the Gloria, the responsorial Psalm, the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel, the Sanctus, the Memorial Acclamation, and the song after communion;

b. Others accompany another rite, such as the chants at the Entrance, at the Offertory, at the
fraction (Agnus Dei), and at Communion.

Movements and Posture

43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance chant, or while the priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful; from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren); before the Prayer over the Offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below.

They should, however, sit while the readings before the Gospel and the responsorial Psalm are proclaimed and for the Homily and while the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory is taking place; and, as circumstances allow, they may sit while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.

But they should kneel at the consecration, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration.

Nevertheless, it is up to the Conference of Bishops to adapt the gestures and postures described in the Order of Mass to the culture and reasonable traditions of the people. The Conference, however, must make sure that such adaptations correspond to the meaning and character of each part of the celebration. Where it is the practice for the people to remain kneeling after the Sanctus until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the priest says: Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the Lamb of God), this practice is laudably retained.

With a view to a uniformity in gestures and postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the directions which the deacon, lay minister, or priest gives according to whatever is indicated in the Missal.

In Australia apart from what is said above, the people are to sit from the Preparation of the Gifts until the completion of the priest’s invitation Orate fratres, and then stand from the beginning of the people’s response: “May the Lord accept…” to the end of the Sanctus. They then kneel from the completion of the Sanctus until after the Great Amen, and then stand from the beginning of the invitation to the Lord’s Prayer until the completion of the Agnus Dei, when they are to kneel again until the distribution of Holy Communion. During the sacred silence after the distribution of Holy Communion, they may either sit or kneel.

The Individual Parts of the Mass

62. After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant indicated by the rubrics is sung, as required by the liturgical season. An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the assembly of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to it in the Gospel and professes its faith by means of the chant. It is sung by all while standing and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated if this is appropriate. The verse, however, is sung either by the choir or by the cantor.
a. The Alleluia is sung in every season other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.
b. During Lent, in place of the Alleluia, the verse before the Gospel is sung, as indicated in the Lectionary. It is also permissible to sing another Psalm or tract, as found in the Graduale.

63. When there is only one reading before the Gospel:
a. during a season when the Alleluia is to be said, either the Alleluia Psalm or the responsorial Psalm followed by the Alleluia with its verse may be used;
b. during the season when the Alleluia is not to be said, either the Psalm and the verse before the Gospel or the Psalm alone may be used;
c. the Alleluia or verse before the Gospel may be omitted if they are not sung.

64. The Sequence, which is optional except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is sung before the Alleluia.

Note that this ordering of the Sequence and Alleluia is different to the traditional placement prior to Vatican II and to the order specified in the current editions of the Graduale Romanum and the Ordo Cantus Missae, which specify the Alleluia being sung before the Sequence.

Mass Without A Deacon

131. After a few moments of silence following the second reading, or the psalm if there is no second reading, "all rise, and the Alleluia or other chant is sung as required by the liturgical season (cf. nos. 62-64).

132. During the singing of the Alleluia or other chant, if incense is used, the priest puts some into the thurible and blesses it. Then, with hands joined, he bows profoundly before the altar and quietly says: Munda cor meum (Almighty God, cleanse my heart).

133. If the Book of the Gospels is on the altar, the priest then takes it and goes to the ambo, carrying the Book of the Gospels slightly elevated and preceded by the lay ministers, who may carry the thurible and the candles. Those present turn towards the ambo as a sign of special reverence for the Gospel of Christ.

Mass with a Deacon

175. If incense is used, the deacon assists the priest when he puts incense in the thurible during the singing of the Alleluia or other chant. Then he makes a profound bow before the priest and asks for the blessing, saying in a low voice: Iube, domine, benedicere (Father, give me your blessing). The priest blesses him, saying: Dominus sit in corde tuo (The Lord be in your heart). The deacon signs himself with the Sign of the Cross and responds: Amen. Having bowed to the altar, he then takes up the Book of the Gospels which was placed upon it. He proceeds to the ambo, carrying the book slightly elevated. He is preceded by a thurifer, carrying a thurible with smoking incense, and by servers with lighted candles. There the deacon, with hands joined, greets the people, saying: Dominus vobiscum (The Lord be with you). Then, at the words: Lectio sancti Evangelii (A reading from the holy Gospel), he signs the book with his thumb and, afterwards, himself on his forehead, mouth, and breast. He incenses the book and proclaims the Gospel reading. When the reading is concluded, he says the acclamation: Verbum Domini (The Gospel of the Lord), and all respond: Laus tibi, Christe (Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ). He then venerates the book with a kiss, saying quietly: Per evangelica dicta (May the words of the Gospel), and returns to the priest’s side.

When the deacon is assisting the Bishop, he carries the book to him to be kissed, or else kisses it himself, saying quietly: Per evangelica dicta (May the words of the Gospel). In more solemn celebrations, as the occasion suggests, a Bishop may impart a blessing to the people with the Book of the Gospels.

Lastly, the deacon may carry the Book of the Gospels to the credence table or to another appropriate and dignified place.

Concelebrated Mass

212. During the Liturgy of the Word, the concelebrants remain at their places, sitting or standing whenever the principal celebrant does.

When the Alleluia is begun, all rise, except for a Bishop, who puts incense into the thurible without saying anything and blesses the deacon or, if there is no deacon, the concelebrant who is to proclaim the Gospel. In a concelebration where a priest presides, however, the concelebrant who in the absence of a deacon proclaims the Gospel neither requests nor receives the blessing of the principal celebrant.

Mass at Which Only One Minister Participates

261. After the Collect, the minister reads the First Reading and Psalm, the Second Reading, when it is to be said, and the verse for the Alleluia or other chant.

 

What the Lectionary for Mass Introduction (LMI) Says
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Acclamation before the Reading of the Gospel

23. The Alleluia or, as the liturgical season requires, the verse before the gospel, is also a ‘rite or act standing by itself.’ It serves as the assembled faithful’s greeting of welcome to the Lord who is about to speak to them and as an expression of their faith through song.

The Alleluia or the verse before the gospel must be sung and during it all stand. It is not to be sung only by the cantor who intones it or by the choir, but by the whole congregation together.

Ministries in the Liturgy of the Word

56. The psalmist, that is the cantor of the psalm, is responsible for singing, responsorially or directly, the chants between the readings - the psalm or other biblical canticle, the gradual and Alleluia, or other chant. The psalmist may, as occasion requires, intone the Alleluia and verse.

For carrying out the function of psalmist it is advantageous to have in each ecclesial community laypersons with a talent for singing and correct diction. The points made about the formation of readers apply to cantors as well.

 

What the Directory for Masses with Children (DMC) Says
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Reading and Explanation of the Word of God

46. Verses of psalms, carefully selected in accord with the understanding of children, or a song in the form of psalmody or the Alleluia with a simple verse should be sung between the readings. The children should always have a part in this singing, but sometimes a reflective silence may be substituted for the singing.

If only a single reading is chosen, the singing may follow the homily.

 

What the Instruction for Music in the Liturgy, Musicam Sacram (MS) Says
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Singing During Mass

Note that Musicam Sacram placed the Alleluia chant of the Proper of the Mass in the 3rd degree of importance, while the acclamations at the Gospel itself ("Glory to you, O Lord" and "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ") were ranked in the 1st degree. In practice, the Alleluia acclamation, sung by all, has become the principal sung acclamation at the Gospel.

27. For the celebration of the Eucharist with the people, especially on Sundays and feast days, a form of sung Mass (Missa in cantu) is to be preferred as much as possible, even several times on the same day.

28. The distinction between solemn, sung and read Mass, sanctioned by the Instruction of 1958 (n. 3), is retained, according to the traditional liturgical laws at present in force. However, for the sung Mass (Missa cantata), different degrees of participation are put forward here for reasons of pastoral usefulness, so that it may become easier to make the celebration of Mass more beautiful by singing, according to the capabilities of each congregation.

These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led towards an ever greater participation in the singing.

29. The following belong to the first degree:

(a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.

(b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.

(c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

30. The following belong to the second degree:

(a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;

(b) the Creed;

(c) the prayer of the faithful.

31. The following belong to the third degree:

(a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;

(b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;

(c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;

(d) the song at the Offertory;

(e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.

32. The custom legitimately in use in certain places and widely confirmed by indults, of substituting other songs for the songs given in the Graduale for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion, can be retained according to the judgment of the competent territorial authority, as long as songs of this sort are in keeping with the parts of the Mass, with the feast or with the liturgical season. It is for the same territorial authority to approve the texts of these songs.

33. It is desirable that the assembly of the faithful should participate in the songs of the Proper as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.

The song after the lessons, be it in the form of gradual or responsorial psalm, has a special importance among the songs of the Proper. By its very nature, it forms part of the Liturgy, of the Word. It should be performed with all seated and listening to it—and, what is more, participating in it as far as possible.

34. The songs which are called the "Ordinary of the Mass," if they are sung by musical settings written for several voices may be performed by the choir according to the customary norms, either a capella, or with instrumental accompaniment, as long as the people are not completely excluded from taking part in the singing.

In other cases, the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass can be divided between the choir and the people or even between two sections of the people themselves: one can alternate by verses, or one can follow other suitable divisions which divide the text into larger sections. In these cases, the following points are to be noted: it is preferable that the Creed, since it is a formula of profession of faith, should be sung by all, or in such a way as to permit a fitting participation by the faithful; it is preferable that the Sanctus, as the concluding acclamation of the Preface, should normally be sung by the whole congregation together with the priest; the Agnus Dei may be repeated as often as necessary, especially in concelebrations, where it accompanies the Fraction; it is desirable that the people should participate in this song, as least by the final invocation.

35. The Lord's Prayer is best performed by the people together with the priest.

If it is sung in Latin, the melodies already legitimately existing should be used; if, however, it is sung in the vernacular, the settings are to be approved by the competent territorial authority.

36. There is no reason why some of the Proper or Ordinary should not be sung in said Masses. Moreover, some other song can also, on occasions, be sung at the beginning, at the Offertory, at the Communion and at the end of Mass. It is not sufficient, however, that these songs be merely "Eucharistic"—they must be in keeping with the parts of the Mass, with the feast, or with the liturgical season.