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MUSIC FOR LENT

LITURGICAL MUSIC FOR THE SEASON OF LENT


Randy F. Bayaua

The renewed vision of Lent that emphasizes both Baptism and Penitence
serves as a reliable guide to musical strategy. This vision is a conveniently summed
up in the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter
Feasts. Paschalis Solemnitatis.
The letter suggests the use of the Litany of the Saints to accompany the
entrance procession on the First Sunday of Lent.
Emphasize in our liturgical catechesis that we are entering our Lenten
celebration with all the members of the Church, including the glorious dead (Church
Triumphant.) Litanies have also been said to make the church building itself seem to
breathe: the respiration-like alteration of petition and response can actually seem
that way. The singing of the litany can have a calming, centering, respiratory effect
on the assembled body, rather like that of the Jesus Prayer on the individual body.
Do anything you can to make the singing seem organic and inevitable no
awkward, unexpected pauses or attempts at dramatic effects.

The Vatican Circular Letter includes a healthy reminder that a reason we sing
is to facilitate the participation of the faithful, and therefore the opportunities for
singing should not be taken away by those in leadership. The same principle rules
this statement: In larger churches where the resources permit, a more ample use
should be made of the churchs musical heritage, both ancient and modern, old and
contemporary always ensuring that this does not impede the active participation of
the faithful. If the first statement maybe a useful reminder to priests not to exclude
singing on a whim, then the latter should restrain It would seem important that we
regard all these principles (not just our favorite ones) with respect and sensitivity,
with adaptations both embodying the principles and being mindful of local
conditions. Our liturgies partial musical fast can be one more fruitful element in
preparing us for a more abundant Easter feast.
Gospel Acclamation

Characteristics of this season is the change in the text for the Gospel
Acclamation. The Alleluia is not used from the beginning of Lent until the Easter
Vigil. (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar # 28) Alleluia is
omitted in the Liturgy of the Hours and in the Mass wherever it is found both verbal
and visual. In the spirit of penitence, the liturgy abstains from the Alleluia. This is
true at celebrations of the funerals, weddings, baptisms and confirmations as well.
During Lent a brief verse of acclamatory character replaces the Alleluia and is
sung in the same way (2002 GIRM no. 62b) or else we observe silence. If the Gospel
Acclamation is not sung, it may be omitted.

4 Models
a. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory!

b. Praise and honor to You, Lord Jesus Christ!

c. Glory and praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!

d. Glory to You, Word of God, Lord Jesus Christ!

(Lectionary, Introduction #9 [old edition])

The texts that replace the Alleluia in this season keep us mindful of the
purpose of the Gospel acclamation. We sing to honor Jesus Christ, whether in the
festive Alleluia or in other, more subdued expressions of praise. The Gospel
Acclamation, along with the ceremonial that takes place at the proclamation of the
Gospel, enshrines the event with great dignity. It elevates this reading above all
others, just as the appropriate use of the Book of the Gospels calls attention to this
reading above all others.
Because Alleluia means Praise God, the substitute acclamation is a kind of
English translation of the Hebrew, which seems strange. Lucein Deiss, CSsP used to
ponder puckishly if God does not understand Hebrew during Lent. Still, this
alteration of the usual pattern in greeting the gospel remarkably creates a sense of
the season, because the Alleluia remains buried even on Sundays and solemnities
until Easter.
The substitution of a non-Alleluia acclamatory text during Lent reflects an
ancient tradition of fasting from the Alleluia during the penitential forty days.
Some theorists, however have questioned its appropriateness since every
Eucharistic Celebration (even during Lent) bears the marks of paschal joy. In the
spirit of penitence, the liturgy abstains from the Alleluia. This substitution does
not signify a diminution of praise. Both texts mean the same thing. It is simply a
little rubrical playing about to mark the penitential time of Lent. It presumes that
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, is less joyful than the acclamation Alleluia. But
this is not the place to debate such liturgical curiosities.

Use a single setting of the Gospel Acclamation throughout the forty days.
Gloria

The Te Deum and the Gloria are not said except on solemnities and feasts.
The Glory to God is omitted on Sundays of Lent. By suppressing the joyful song of
the Gloria, the liturgy places greater emphasis on the Act of Penitence. This gives
the whole liturgy a more somber air, suitable for a season of preparation and
penance.
From Ash Wednesday until the singing of the Gloria at the Easter Vigil and the
celebrations for the dead, the organ and other instruments should be played only to
sustain the singing. An exception is made for Laetare Sunday (The Fourth Sunday of
Lent) and for solemnities and festive days. From the end of the Gloria in the Mass of
the Lords Supper on Holy Thursday until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil, the organ
and other musical instruments should be played only to sustain the singing or
allowed only to support the singing. (Ceremonial of Bishops # 252, Congregation for
Divine Worship, 14 September 1984)

Communion Song

As a unique feature of the Lenten Season, most of the Sunday Communion


Antiphons are taken directly from the Gospel Reading of the day. This includes not
only the pivotal Gospels in Year A, but also year C Gospels for the Fourth and Fifth
Sundays of Lent, concerning the prodigal son and the woman caught in adultery. If
possible, have the choir or cantor chant this antiphon as an introduction to the
Communion song. Then as the participants come forward to receive the Bread of
Life they hear again the proclamation of the Word of Life.

Recessional Hymn

For Lent, you could end the Mass in silence for a feeling of austerity and to
mark the special character of the season. This is a matter of local custom. The
Recessional Hymn is not a part of the official liturgy, which ends with the dismissal.
When choosing other music, refer to the scripture readings, but let the
Entrance Antiphon also provide direction. On the first Sunday of Lent, Psalm 90 is
used showing Jesus trust and confidence in God who saves Him in temptation. The
antiphons for the Second and Third Sundays of Lent concentrate on Gods merciful
forgiveness. The opening word of the antiphon on the Fourth Sunday of Lent gives
this day its special name: Laetare Rejoice, Jerusalem! Let there be some
instrumental music on this day, anticipating the joy of Easter. The antiphon for the
Fifth Sunday of Lent introduces the element of the trials and suffering of Christ: O
God, defend my cause against the wicked!

Lesser Musical Instruments

The current edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal gives more
prominence to the limitations placed on musical instruments during this season.
They should be used only to support singing (GIRM no.313). This fasting from
instrumental music also implies the suitability of unaccompanied singing during
Lent. Try singing the Eucharistic Acclamations without accompaniment using a
simple set that is simple enough to stand on its own.
Musical instruments may be played only to give necessary support to the
singing. Lent bans on any instrumental music not used to accompany singing. The
ban has nothing to do with gloominess; the silence makes it easier to think straight.
It is advisable for those preparing liturgical celebrations to attend to the purpose
rather than to the strict letter of this law and determine whether certain
instrumental pieces may in the local situation indeed foster the spirit of the Lenten
season.
Let there be some abstinence from musical instruments and their sensual
delights in your Lent. The details will vary place to place, but dont let it be
business as usual. Youll be glad you cut back when Easter comes and the effects
are terrific because of the fallow period.