Monday, December 10, 2007

Introit at Christmas

I've decided this year to have the choir sing (at the midnight Mass, and the Mass during the day,) Richard Proulx's "Born Today" with bells for the Introit.

The Introit at Midnight is "The Lord said to me: You are my Son, today I have begotten you," and during the day it is "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Dominion is on his shoulder and his name shall be called the Angel of Great Counsel."

For those not familiar with the piece, the words are something like, "Alleluia, Christ is born to us today, today the Savior has appeared. Angels on earth do sing, and archangels rejoice, the righteous cry out: Glory be to God in the highest. Alleluia."

My actual reasons for wanting to incorporate it are, a) it's just plain cool, b) yes, I am trying to get the congregation away thinking they have to sing a four-hymn sandwich, and c) the words (while not exactly either of the propers,) are kind closer than any Christmas carols I can think of. (They are more theological.)

My problem comes in that the boss tells me I have to write a bulletin article beforehand explaining why the congregation won't be singing an "opening hymn." (and I have to do this by Wednesday cuz this weekend is our last bulletin before Christmas!) I don't really want to say any of the three reasons I listed above in the bulletin, so the reasons I could mention would be how we will be singing lots of Christmas carols before all the Christmas Masses, and then (the whole discussion at CMAA this past summer) about how the congregation can watch the procession, how the procession itself is a part of the liturgy, and we don't notice it if our noses are in a hymnal!

ok, so I need help. Those aren't good enough reasons if I need to write this in the bulletin. (perhaps my first line of action will be to go to the boss and question if we really need to write something; I mean, who is gonna complain that they don't "get to" sing an opening hymn if they just sang five carols immediately prior?) But then if that doesn't work, I will need more evidence and arguments. Does anyone know of any church documents that talk about this? (in particular the significance of the procession,) or am I even missing any obvious arguments about moving in the direction of just having the choir sing the propers? Oh, I guess I could talk about how the thing the choir will be singing is more theological than any carols...but I'm not sure I could make that into a good case.


Mr S said...

Not easy when the "boss" is more of a micro-manager than is really necessary.

Gee whiz, he trusts you so much, who cares if a few liberal, happy-clappy, horizontal types don't get to hold hands and go carolling before Mass.

As far as I am concerned it is not my birthday..... so all the presents should be replaced with only the Presence.

Mr S said...

and another thought... I know you will never consider the "music" mentioned here:

Gavin said...

mr s, anyone would naturally object to not singing an entrance hymn at Christmas Mass. It's a long-established practice and for many their favorite part of the Mass. It doesn't make anyone a "happy-clappy liberal".

Mara, my argument would be along the lines of not so much extolling the practice as extolling the Introit. The Introits at Christmas are wonderful and intensely deep. See Laszlo Dzobzay's book The Bugnini-Liturgy's chapter on the "Alius Cantus Aptus". There's a wonderful exposition of the Christmas chants that would be perfect for your bulletin. The book is available in PDF at

totustuusmaria said...

I, of course, don't know the exact situation at your Church, and I haven't heard the exact piece, but here's my general thoughts:

Your idea of tying it with the Christmas carols sung before Mass is good. Perhaps you could tie this together with the procession thing and the like by saying something like how it's an ancient tradition to enrich the opening procession (which is close enough to the truth) with some high and exulted music, and that this is especially appropriate on a high solemnity. Perhaps say that this way the extra-beauty and glory of the music can instill awe in hearts and prepare them to approach the sacrifice with dignity and reverence. You could also mention how meditating on a beautiful theologically accurate text which is well sung can be a tremendous spiritual experience. I think that, whatever you do, you should be sure to note that it has nothing to do with cutting down on external participation, and everything to do with doing something special (and even out of the ordinary) to honor Christ on his birthday.'ll do better than I could at explaining it anyway, but I really appreciate the effort you're putting into this, and I'm praying for your success.

Mr S said...

I was trying to make the point about the lib/hap/clap because there are some/many who are still present in said Parish.

IMHO, the pastor still considers their "feelings" when discussion comes to the liturgy, music, etc.

Thankfully he released the non-Catholic, all-inclusive, former music director/guy. Big, big improvement.


When I said he should trust MaraJoy more, I meant it. That trust should and could include not having to explain so much to so many for everything right (and I do mean RIGHT) that happens in the parish.

Anonymous said...


I too feel the frustration of having to explain everything. I say that they don't need to have it all spelled out; if they want to know, they can ask you. When you explain everything to them, it is almost like you are tacitly asking their permission or something...I know this is not the case, but there is something about it that is uncomfortable.

Mara Joy said...

(Mara would like to take this opportunity to remind the viewers that not all opinions expressed in the comment boxes on her website are necessarily hers, and that she does NOT think that her boss needs to trust her more-she generally seeks his opinion out.)