6/3/11 – The Doxology and the Great Amen: Who Says What?

During the course of this year, we will gradually begin to use the texts of the revised translation of the Roman Missal.  This is not just a time when we need to learn new words, but will hopefully be an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the Mass.

As we look more closely at how we celebrate Mass, there are some ways in which we celebrate Mass that need to be reviewed.

During the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray together, as one body in Christ, to God.  We are led in this prayer by the priest.  We engage through our own listening and reverent, prayerful silence, and respond vocally through the three acclamations, the Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts…”), the Memorial Acclamation (which we most commonly recall as “Christ has died, Christ is risen…”) and the Great Amen. The Eucharistic Prayer is so important, and our participation in the acclamations is so important, that they are sung whenever possible.

The doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, however, is a part that belongs to the priest to lead.  While we may have been invited to join in with “Through him, with him, in him…”, our part is to clearly give our assent and agreement to the entire Eucharistic Prayer by singing or saying the “Amen”.

So from now on, we ask that you do not say the “Through him, with him, in him…” part, but leave this to the priest.  Let us all ensure instead that we join in – fully, consciously and actively – in what is and should be the Great Amen.

Fr Paul Sireh OCarm, Parish Priest
Robert Barden, Liturgy Coordinator

Singing Acclamations

Pipe Organ and Choir, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CaliforniaI recently wrote about our learning of the World Youth Day Mass setting, Missa Benedictus qui venit, in preparation for next month’s massive event.  Why is it, however, that the preparation and learning of a Mass setting has taken priority over other songs and hymns?

The reason for this is because the singing of the acclamations of the Mass should always take priority over the other songs and hymns of the liturgy.  The United States’ Bishops last year released a document on liturgical music entitled Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, which says the following about acclamations:

The acclamations of the Eucharistic Liturgy and other rites arise from the whole gathered assembly as assents to God’s Word and action. The Eucharistic acclamations include the Gospel Acclamation, the Sanctus, the Memorial Acclamation, and the Great Amen. They are appropriately sung at any Mass, including daily Mass and any Mass with a smaller congregation. Ideally, the people should know the acclamations by heart and should be able to sing them readily, even without accompaniment. (no. 115)

The reason for singing the Gospel Acclamation, Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy Lord…), Memorial Acclamation (Christ has died…, and others) and the Great Amen is simple.  These texts are integral parts of the Mass where the entire gathered assembly gives its firm acknowledgment of Christ’s presence and action within the Mass; where he truly makes himself present to us.  Other parts of the Mass, while they can be sung and it is good to sing them, do not form the liturgical texts of the Mass itself that must otherwise be said.  As such, if a community had to choose only a very limited amount of the Mass to sing, its first priority should be singing these acclamations.

Singing these acclamations encourages our full, conscious and active participation in the celebration.  It allows us to make full use of the gifts that God has given us.  It adds a richness and fullness to our worship.  We unite ourselves with our ancestors of both Christian and Jewish faiths, whose use of song and music to praise God is recorded in the Bible itself.  It enriches our prayer.

Photo: Pipes and Choir by Just A Slice