I was taking part in a discussion on the aptness or otherwise of hymns being sung and mentioned that I had always thought that this was a very "spirit of Vatican 2" thing to do, and that along with the need to process (to receive Communion standing) and the notion of our "sharing" Communion, here were three things wrong with the way the distribution of the Eucharist at Mass was messing up things which had worked perfectly well unupmessed.
Looking at the GIRM, however, I find that the problem isn't due to a few unruly priests: this is the way Communion is supposed to happen!
"86. While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the ‘communitarian’ nature of the procession to receive Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful. If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner.
Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease.
87. In the dioceses of the (sic) England and Wales the options for the Communion chant are as follows: (1) the antiphon from the Graduale Romanum either with or without the psalm; (2) the antiphon with the psalm from the Graduale Simplex; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. It is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or cantor with the people.
If there is no singing, however, the Communion antiphon found in the Misdsal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector. Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful.
88. When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and the faithful spend some time praying quietly. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation."
This really feels wrong to me: there shouldn't be a procession to receive Communion, precisely because the reception of Communion shouldn't be communitarian. That, to me at least, gives off a strong whiff of the necessity of congregational participation in the action of the priest. Our attitude, going to Communion, shouldn't be (or, at least, shouldn't solely be) one of "joy of heart": why Our Lord allowed himself to be the ultimate sacrifice, and what our individual responsibility for this, and our unworthy gratitude are surely as relevant as we approach the altar. And silence, rather than some banal arrangement of the relevant proper (though "proper" scarcely seems the right word for something casually disposable) feels to me a more adequate approach by a fallen human to the Transcendent.
But this is what the GIRM says, and, just in case you hoped it was some E&W spirit of Vatican II thing, its foornote refers to an Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 1980. This is the way we should be doing things.
I'm not very happy about this, but I can't see any easy way round it. Help!
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