Wednesday, April 1, 2015


On Palm Sunday and Good Friday there are several ways that the Passion Gospel may be executed. The first is simply for the deacon or priest to read it. The second is to have three deacons and/or priests reading it in parts. The third is to have it read in parts to include the congregation having their won parts. Normally the priest would be Christ, the deacon the narrator, a lector the speaker and the congregation the chorus.

In addition to having three deacons and/or priest read the passion, it may be chanted. In this case if no ordained person is able to chant this long Gospel, it can be delegated to three cantors.

In my parish, at three of our Palm Sunday Masses, the Gospel was read in parts with the congregation joining in the "chorus" parts. This fashion of the Gospel is in our missalettes. The congregation seems to enjoy doing their parts, especially the "crucify Him, crucify Him" parts which is odd of course.

At our two principal Masses three professional cantors chanted the Gospel.

At all our Masses the congregation remains standing, except our newly ordained parochial vicar asked the Saturday vigil crowd to sit. I suggested to him that standing is more reverent for the Passion and it is the passion we are reading and so we need to identify with the Lord in agony.

Which way do you prefer the Gospel Passion to be executed and how did you experience it in your own parish? Did you chant, read or sit?


Anonymous said...

I prefer the multi part version, standing. I remember years ago a "progressive" sort of priest told us that the congregation should emulate Christ, so he took the part of the crowd and the congregation read the part of Jesus. That was strange!

Gerry Davila said...

Deacon, Priest, and layman as Chronista, Christus, and Synagoga respectively, read it, with the congregation joining in as Turba. We were asked to sit, but I got up and stood by the wall (out of sight) because we are supposed to stand.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, liturgists would decry that the priest or deacon would take the parts of Christ in the read version of the Passion. Yet, the reason why only an ordained person, deacon or priest is allowed to read the Gospel (under normal circumstances) is because the priest or deacon to a certain extent acts "in persona Christi" when proclaiming the Gospel when it comes to the actual words of Jesus.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I'm not sure which I prefer the best, the chanted version or the version spoken in parts with congregational participation. I've only experienced the Passion chanted for the past three or four years now. My main experience is when it being done in parts from the Missalette. I find the Passion to be very long and I get a bit impatient with its length either chanted or spoken and I suspect many others do too if I do.

John Nolan said...

Preference should not come into it; the Passion should be done as solemnly as resources permit. At the London Oratory it is sung in Latin with the Byrd turba choruses. The final part is sung in the more elaborate Gospel tone (which is very ancient, probably having its origins in Jewish Temple chant).

The use of this tone was dropped in Bugnini's lamentable 1955 Ordo but has been reinstated by the Oratory in the last twenty years.

The congregation should stand, follow the text reverently and be moved accordingly. Yes, it's long for those accustomed to modern sound-bite 'liturgies' and hearing it recited in pedestrian English is the least-best option, even with the trendy 'audience participation'.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I prefer when the priest and a deacon read it. I really don't like the performance type of reading where parts are assigned and the congregation has to say, "Crucify him." I get that I am guilty of the crucifixion as well, since my sins contributed to the reason for His death. However, I am "converted" and if Our Lady was in the crowd (and don't you think she was; watching with horror?) and/or one or more of the disciples were standing in the crowd, I doubt if any of them joined the shouting. So. I don't say the lines.
Just this year I experienced the chanting version by three deacons (in Latin, no less), and I liked it very much, but still prefer reading by priest and deacon in English.