E UNDERSTAND liturgical concepts best when we’ve personally witnessed them or grown up with them. Reading about them in a book isn’t the same. That is why it’s difficult for Catholics in 2021 to comprehend how brief the Communion Rite used to be. Enemies of the Extraordinary Form often refer to the “25-minute Low Mass” in the “bad old days” of Catholicism. They fail to realize that Holy Mass is much shorter when the people don’t receive Holy Communion. 1 We spoke about vernacular hymns at the Extraordinary Form High Mass already. (Be sure not to skip the comment by Father Fortescue in 1917, where he said that—technically speaking—nothing prevents the distribution of Holy Communion at any Mass.)
When Surprises Occur :
We have six Masses each Sunday, and one of our priests had to be out of town last Sunday. That left only one priest to distribute Holy Communion (since one of our Masses is in Ventura). Holy Communion took about 30 minutes! We were scrambling to find hymns. For at least two of the Masses, we must have sung about 50 verses from seven different hymns—at least it felt that way! I can’t wait until we can have rehearsals again, so we can learn more Latin motets.
In the past, we have used this very common version of an Easter hymn. You probably know that one. That one takes the text of “Regina Caeli” (which was originally a Christmas song, believe it or not) and matches it to “Regina Caeli Jubila.” But yesterday, we did the other version found in the Brébeuf hymnal—which is a direct translation of the original Latin. Do you know it?
We also sang #39 from the Brébeuf hymnal, a superb translation of “Ad Cœnam Agni Providi” by Robert Campbell of Skerrington. Mr. Campbell was an Anglican who later converted to the True Faith. I think he’d be pleased with this setting:
* Mp3 Download • HARMONIZED PLAINSONG
—Ad Cenam Agni Providi sung to ORIENTIS PARTIBUS.
You will notice that setting is basically harmonized plainsong, which I hope to discuss more in a future post. In the past, we have touched upon that subject a little bit.
The choir was sight-reading in that recording, and (needless to say) there are things that could be improved—but that’s okay! When we are allowed to have rehearsals again, we’ll have items we can work on! The important thing is that we are teaching and training singers who will eventually “take the reins” and continue the tradition. All for the glory of God!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 I experienced such Masses—where the priest alone receives Holy Communion—when the Archbishop of Los Angeles prohibited lay people from receiving Holy Communion last year, due to Covid-19. If you doubt what I am saying about Catholics receiving Holy Communion outside of Mass, click here and scroll down.