Last month’s celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross brought a story about the proper entrance antiphons to mind.
One summer I was a second-tier speaker/presenter at a smaller-scale liturgy and music conference. That meant I got to attend the major talks for free, which appeals both to my inner liturgy geek AND cheapskate. I was particularly intrigued to see that one of the main speakers was going to offer a talk on the proper entrance antiphons.
He began his talk with a recollection of the previous year, when the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was on a Sunday and so had replaced a Sunday of Ordinary Time. He’d been the “supply” presider at an early Sunday morning Mass. That morning it was raining, and so the organist (who was not the full-time parish music director) changed the entrance hymn to “Morning Has Broken” (presumably for the line “sweet the rain’s new fall”).
His thesis: if it had been the practice of the parish always to use the proper entrance antiphon (that day it was “We should glory in the cross” Galatians 6:14), this disaster could have been averted. Having experienced this speaker on other occasions, I knew that no time for questions would be allowed for, but I had some nonetheless:
1. What was the hymn or song that the music director had chosen? If it had been, for example, “Lift High the Cross” then pretty much the same purpose would have been served. (Though the proper entrance antiphon could have encouraged a musical connection to Holy Thursday.)
2. If it had been the practice of the parish never to replace anything the music director selected, wouldn’t the disaster also have been averted?
A main point of his talk was that the use of the proper entrance antiphon would always unify and connect with the rest of the liturgy. When I got home, I checked with the Sacramentary and Lectionary to see what would happen the following Sunday. There really wasn’t, as I recall, all that much of a connection. So this year I did the same experiment for 2017, and checked the Missal and Lectionary for the Sunday after September 14 (Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A).
The proper entrance antiphon (both Missal and Graduale Romanum):
Give peace, O Lord, to those who wait for you, that your prophets be found true. Hear the prayers of your servant, and of your people Israel. (Cf. Sirach 36:18);
its psalm verse: (Graduale Romanum): I was glad when they said to me: let us go to the house of the Lord. (Psalm 122:1).
The readings and responsorial psalm for the day:
Sirach 27 (Wrath and anger are hateful, yet sinners hold them tight.)
Psalm 103 (Refrain: The Lord is kind and merciful.)
Romans 14 (None of us lives for oneself.)
Matthew 18 (How often must I forgive?)
In 2017, as was the case years ago, I didn’t find a very strong connection or relationship between the antiphon, psalm verse, and Lectionary readings, aside from the antiphon and first reading both being from Sirach (the antiphon indirectly). Since the entrance antiphon remains the same for all three years of the Lectionary’s Sunday cycle, a correlation or relationship between it and all twelve Lectionary readings/psalms would be quite unlikely. (Historians who study the post-conciliar era know that the inadequate work in correlating the Lectionary and Graduals is the main culprit here.)
In particular, I didn’t find the sort of left-brain type of connection or “theme” between the antiphon/verse and the Lectionary readings and psalm that has mostly ruled the day for the past generation. I found myself thinking that a well-selected hymn about forgiveness (“Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” or “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”) would have done the job better. The Roman rite hasn’t ever been a sola scriptura tradition. We have remained open to the Spirit’s movement and voice in other ways and other places, as I pointed out in my Pray Tell post on hymnody.
That being said, we always overlook scripture at our own peril. Perhaps it would be to our benefit to be informed by the texts of the entrance antiphons and their psalms as well as those of the Lectionary when doing our music planning, and realize we don’t always have to be driven only by the Lectionary texts (and within them, not only by the Gospel—we’re not a evangelium solus/gospel alone tradition either; it’s another unnecessary impoverishment to overlook the prophetic writings and apostolic letters). When we always cover over the proper texts we may be shutting the lid on the treasures of the scriptures (see CSL #51). I, for one, would happily advocate for the more-frequent congregational singing of Psalm 122:1 (“I rejoiced when they said to me…”) during the Entrance Rite.
This model of being informed by the antiphons and their psalm verses for music selection could, I believe, also allow us to inhabit a freer (more left-brained, if you will) place of allowing the liturgy and its texts to work on us over time, and perhaps give the Spirit a bit more space to fly freely.
Next up—unnecessary impoverishments: The Psalter/Part 3; Communion antiphons.
(Part 1—with an explanation of the term “unnecessary impoverishment” as I learned it from Fr. Lucien Deiss—which focused on the responsorial psalm, may be found here.)