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Sing the ‘Amen’ with gusto!

We continue from last week, noting that every piece of liturgical music has a function for the worshipping community and assumes a certain form in which it is executed. The varying rites of the celebration all have different functions.

Holy, Holy

Function:  The dialogue before the Preface signals the beginning of the Eucharistic or Priestly Prayer. This calls for music; the priest should sing the Preface.

Form: The Holy Holy is the proclamation of the transcendent holiness of God.  The texts recall both Isaiah’s experience of God’s holiness (Isa 6:3) and Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Ps 119[118]:26; Matt 21:9; Mk 11:10; Lk 19:38). These texts should be sung—and by everybody! Be aware that some musical settings of the Holy Holy carry an ‘Alleluia’ which cannot be used in Lent!

Eucharistic Acclamation: The Mystery of Faith

Function: The Mystery of Faith—we proclaim Christ’s saving death and we profess His Resurrection until He comes again. Any musical version of the three Acclamations should contain these elements. It is not fitting, for example, to sing “O come, let us adore him” to the tune of the Christmas Carol. This is a fixed text and only the three in the Missal can be used. The congregation must join in; (form) therefore the kind of music chosen must allow for this.

Great Amen

Function: Note that the Amen is our assent to the priestly or Eucharistic Prayer which ends by offering the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father. It is the priest, then, who offers, saying: “through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever”.

The response of the Congregation is a lusty ‘Amen’ which means ‘Yes!’; ‘I agree!’; ‘I believe!’; ‘Let it be so!’; ‘I associate myself with that!’. To encourage the congregation to say with the priest “through him, with him etc” is a perpetuation of a misunderstanding. Such is not the role of the congregation.

Form: Musical versions of the Amen may be single, twofold or threefold; but the congregation should be able to sing it with gusto!

It is inaccurate and redundant to sing: “Amen to the Father! Amen to the Son! Amen to the Spirit!” The priest has just finished offering the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

Our Father

The prayer that Jesus taught us. Our Father can be said or sung. If it is to be sung, polyphony can be used and the congregation must be able to sing the melody line at least, and so participate.

Sign of Peace

In the Gospel of Matthew 5:23–24, Jesus urges this reconciliation before approaching the altar. This corresponds with a human-felt need. Watch out, though, that the music and singing for the Sign of Peace is not overdone, since there has already been a moment of reconciliation in the Penitential Rite and another to come in the Lamb of God. Sensitivity to culture, custom, human need and to each celebrating Assembly will be a helpful guide.

Lamb of God

This is really a doublet of the Penitential Rite. But what is it? (Function) It is a song to accompany the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread, which suggests that if there is no breaking, as at a Eucharistic Service, it should be omitted. Repeat as often as necessary especially where unleavened bread is being broken, and then end with “grant us peace”.

Communion Song

The Communion Song begins when the celebrant receives communion and continues while communion is being distributed. It is an expression of the unity and joy of the community as it shares the Body and Blood of Christ.

There are two movements here:

  1. A processional movement up to the altar during the distribution of Communion, requiring a song with an easy refrain/chorus so that no books or leaflets need be used in order to sing.
  2. A more contemplative or meditative moment after Communion. Music for this moment can be either a solo voice or choir (with very clear words), or soft instrumental music or silence. Even after a meditation song, the celebrant should prolong the pause or positively invite the assembly to a listening silence to the Lord of love now come to us. No hurry here.

Recessional Song

This is comparable to the Entrance Song, but pointed outward to living the Jesus-life in our day-to-day context (function). Again, this is a processional song—just like the Entrance Song. The form will be similar. Here, discretion is needed as to the length of the song; keep a feel on the pulse of the congregation as well as an eye on the procession of ministers back to the sacristy. —Music Team, Liturgical Commission