Tuesday, July 30, 2019


As I get older and less patient, although in some ways I have truly mellowed, I find the Responsorial Psalm at Mass grates against me because of all the silly useless repetition of the refrain.

A case in point is today's Psalm for the memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus:

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

1. R.    (12) Lord, teach me your statutes.
2.        All: Lord, teach me your statutes.
How shall a young man be faultless in his way?
By keeping to your words.
3. R.    Lord, teach me your statutes.
With all my heart I seek you;
let me not stray from your commands.
4. R.    Lord, teach me your statutes.
Within my heart I treasure your promise,
that I may not sin against you.
5. R.    Lord, teach me your statutes.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes.
6. R.    Lord, teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
7. R.    Lord, teach me your statutes.
In the way of your decrees I rejoice,
as much as in all riches.
8. R.    Lord, teach me your statutes.

Now, count that: eight times the refrain is said, 8 cotton picking times!!!!!!

Is it permissible to simply say or chant the refrain at the beginning and then at the end, maybe concluding with the Glory be prior to the concluding refrain?

I know the Gradual is an option, but I know of no one who does it in the Ordinary Form except the Ordinariate crowd.

And now for the clericalism of the Ordinary Form at Communion time:

In the EF Mass, the same formula for receicing Holy Communion is recited by the priest for his Holy Communion which concludes the Sacrifice and for the laity who receive.

It is: May the Body of Christ keep your soul safe unto life everlasting.

While the same words are used for the priest when he receives his Holy Communion, for the laity it is truncated to:

Body of Christ, with the response, Amen.

How crass is that and clerical too!


Anonymous said...

The recitation of one or two verses between the seven/eight refrains is rare.

For the next two days, for example, it is four refrains. On August 2, it is only 3.

If repetition is not your thing, be grateful you are not subjected to the Gospodi Pomiliu...

Woody said...

Hospodi for Ukrainians.

Anonymous said...

Our pastor sometimes preaches on the Responsorial Psalm at Mass. The Psalms are poetic. The repetition of the refrain is meant to help a person commit to memory a point of theology or spirituality. It is like the refrain of a song. The plea, "Lord teach me your statutes," is a beautiful request and prayer to the Lord.

Fr. David Evans said...

YES: it does grate intensely. Father, you are so right. How often is the 'response' so unmemorable or so long, that it is forgotten before it is repeated.

As a side issue, whilst I know the 'responsorial Psalm' is supposed to be sung or chanted: how often does that really happen? Frankly, it has become a 'second reading' with dramatic proclamation to make it more important than it ought to be.

Anonymous said...

Too long to remember?

The first week of August has responses that are 10, 7, 9, 12, 7, 12, 9 words long. The first 12 word response is "If today you hear his voice..." I bet you can, in your sleep, finish that one from memory.

Unmemorable? "Sing with joy to God our help." How is this unmemorable?

If one, priest or lay person, listens to the response, it is very, very easy to remember.

Victor said...

Anonymous @10:59.
When I pray to God, I pray in silence because I found it the most perfect way for seeking a union with God. Asking the Lord to teach me His statues once is sufficient in prayer. The Novus Ordo assumes that the people are too stupid to do this of themselves, and so has them constantly repeating and uttering out loud words no matter the quality of the voice. As such it is a distraction away from union with God. Compare this to the EF, where the gradual is sacredly and beautifully sung to create an atmosphere of silent meditation that allows each individual to contemplate the divine realm, to foster a union with God in wordless contemplation. The Novus Ordo by nature is too noisy for an intimate union with God.

TJM said...

Anonymous K,

You are cherry picking again. There are many responses which are long and if set to music with no text in front of you, one can easily not remember the words with the music until the 3rd or 4th try. More "noble simplicity" at work

Anonymous said...

"When I pray to God, I pray in silence because I found it the most perfect way for seeking a union with God."

Good. BUT, when you come to church on a Sunday morning and expect that there will be silence so YOU can pray in YOUR preferred style, YOU are arriving with unreal expectations. (The unreal expectation is that the church exists to give you what you want.) The organ plays a prelude, the choir sings an antiphon, the congregation sings a hymn, . . .

If you want YOUR preferred style, build YOUR own private oratory, enter, close and lock the door. Then, all will be to YOUR liking.

TJM - I didn't cherry pick a thing. I simply looked at the responsorial psalms for the coming week. Let's try again. Sunday Aug 25th: 9 words in the refrain, two, two-line verses. 26th: 7 words. 27th: 9 words. 28th: 13 words. 30th: 7 words.

For the vast majority of people with normally functioning brains and many with missals in their hands, repeating a refrain with 7 or 9 or, Heaven Forbid! 13 words, takes no effort whatsoever.

AND, if you read the readings for Mass as a prayerful preparation for the celebration, you will be doubly ready to undertake the monumental effort of remembering a 7 or 10 or 13 words response.

And you who routinely boast of your ability to commit to memory Mass settings in your childhood and ALL the responses in Latin are the last person who can, with any credibility, claim that a 7 or 10 or 13 words response is too long to remember.

Victor said...

Anonymous @ 1:21

"... when you come to church on a Sunday morning and expect that there will be silence so YOU can pray in YOUR preferred style, YOU are arriving with unreal expectations."

Not at all. First of all, there is the low Mass which is devoid of music. Secondly there is much silence before and after sung Mass unlike the Novus Ordo which is a place for idle chatter.

But you fail to understand that Silence is not just a lack of sound as Cardinal Sarah pointed out in his book on silence. Silence is primarily an attitude of the heart to listen to the wordless voice of God. Liturgical music is not contrary to Silence when it is founded on the beautiful silence of heaven. The fabricators of the Novus Ordo did not understand Beauty nor its relation to Silence, as apparently you do not either.

rcg said...

It reminds me of a political convention.




James Ignatius McAuley said...

Anonymous at 4:58. Very insulting and liturgically ignorant that you would compare the response to the Great Litany to the responsorial psalm.

Nor, is it a useless repetition, but a series of beautiful petitions that I listen and respond to every Sunday.

Anonymous said...

JIMcA - The Responsorial Psalm is also a beautiful series.

And I did not say the Responsorial was useless. Fr. McDonald did: "As I get older and less patient, although in some ways I have truly mellowed, I find the Responsorial Psalm at Mass grates against me because of all the silly useless repetition of the refrain."

TJM said...

Anonymous K,

I have over 50 years experience with Catholic Church Music, so please spare me your snark. I am an accomplished pianist, I play the pipe organ, and have been a soloist at the Basilica at the University of Notre Dame. Ergo, I am not like the yokels you are accustomed to fooling with your "vast knowledge of Church music. I doubt you know a scandicus from a climacus, although like MT, you can probably look it up and cut and paste it.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A @ 5:02, the refrain repeat numerous times is useless repetition, not the psalm itself.

Anonymous said...

TJM - So, with your grand capacity for music, how is it that a 7 or 10 or 13 words refrain in the psalm response is so unimaginably hard to remember?

You say, " can easily not remember the words with the music until the 3rd or 4th try." I have less experience that you, but I have no trouble remembering the phrase and the music after one hearing.

You see, you contradict yourself. But that not surprising.

TJM said...

Anonymous K,

LOL - you are clericalism on steroids. You are so substantive, so profound (as a glass tabletop)

Anonymous said...

You've claimed numerous times to have the prodigious memory, TJM.

Now you want us to believe that you can't recall a 7 or 10 or 13 words Responsorial Psalm.

Oh well...

James Ignatius McAuley said...

Anonymous at 4:58. I grew up Roman Catholic. The responsorial psalm is choppy and disjunctive and pointlessly repetitive. The Great Litany is not and is related to the kyrie in the EF.

Rhe gradual makes more sense and is related to the antiphons we say before the "Only Begotten."

Православный физик said...

Yes, it is permitted, I forget where the permission is in the GIRM, but it is permissible to sing the Responsorial psalm in the manner that you have described. (To be fair the only times I've seen it done is at private Masses that I've helped cantor)...back when I used to be western, I'd have the quote memorised, but now, I don't.

James Ignatius McAuley, Yes, I agree totally, the responsorial psalm is quite choppy, and disjointed with respect to the whole Liturgy, the gradual would be better and have much more in common with the east. The responsorial psalm is not quite similar to the prokimenon, granted it might help if they went back to one reading rather than two.

John Nolan said...

The 'responsorial psalm' in its modern incarnation was devised by Fr Joseph Gelineau in 1953. It was marketed as 'a new way of singing the psalms'. Gregorian psalmody is also responsorial in that the antiphons, sung by all, frame the psalm verses, usually sung antiphonally. However, the antiphons are musically more complex than the verses, which are sung to psalm tones. Neither antiphons nor verses are suitable for congregational singing, and require both practice and familiarity.

Gelineau's solution was to make the responses short and musically simple, so that congregations can join in, and leave the verses to a cantor or cantors. But the repeated refrain only makes sense if the psalm is sung; if it is merely said it is better if the congregation recite the whole psalm, omitting the refrains. This prevents it from sounding like another reading.

When the Novus Ordo is sung in Latin and there is a competent schola (which is usually the case), then the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia/Tract, and Communio are taken as a rule from the 1974 Graduale Romanum, although the readings, usually in the vernacular, are those in the 1970 Lectionary. This can even apply when the celebrant sings his parts of the Ordinary in the vernacular. If there are three readings, there is the option of repeating the Gradual after the verse. These interlectionary chants are essentially meditative - they have been described as 'homilies in music'.

In the first part of the (Novus Ordo) Easter Vigil we have, repeated seven times, the ancient formula of reading-chant-prayer. The chants - three Canticles and four Tracts - are sung without refrain and represent the oldest layer of the chants of the Mass, before the introduction of the responsorial style. They are all in mode 8 and have a similar melodic structure. However, as with the Lenten Tracts, they are not in the Lectionary - you have to go to the 1974 GR to find them (they can also be found in the Solesmes Gregorian Missal of 1990, now reissued with the new translation, and which no-one who attends a sung Mass in the OF should be without).

The Lectionary 'chants' for the Vigil comprise - wait for it - eight or nine responsorial psalms with no musical settings. Good luck with that one!