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CNP Feedback -
Those Offertory Antiphons

Q. Dear CNP:

Several questions:

  1. Our large Catholic parish has successfully implemented singing the Entrance and Communion Antiphons and verses in English. However, the Offertory Antiphons are too short for the collection and preparation of gifts so we aren't singing them. I've spoken with Music Directors of other large parishes in my area and they also aren't singing them for the same reason (too short). Some have suggested singing the Offertory Antiphon and verses and singing a hymn immediately after, but I question if this is appropriate.
  2. Some Catholic hymnals and missals omit the Offertory Antiphon altogether. Were the Offertory Antiphons translated from Latin into English at the same time as the Entrance and Communion Antiphons?
  3. Why is the Offertory Antiphon text often unrelated to the major "themes" of the Entrance and Communion Antiphons, and the Mass?
  4. Do you have any suggestions of how implement the Offertory Antiphons so we can use them in a large parish?

Watshalai Offir

A. Dear Watshalai:

These are pertinent questons, the answers to which can be contorted and confusing. Let me try to explain.

Answer #1

I'm not sure why you consider the Offertory Chant to be shorter than the others. Most Entrance Antiphons themselves are generally about twice as long as the Offertory or Communion Antiphons, but I assume that you're using some psalm verses when these are chanted in English. The psalm verses serve to extend the length of the chant. Most collections of Propers in English [see list below] include psalm verses for all three chants (Entrance, Offertory and Communion). If the Offertory music as printed is not sufficient to cover the time, one can always add verses, either from the same psalm or from a different (similarly themed) psalm.

Answer #2

Here's what I know about the Offertory Chant (or Offertory Antiphon).

There are three processional antiphons prescribed by the Church for use in the Novus Ordo Roman Rite liturgy:

  1. Entrance [Introitus]
  2. Offertory [Offertorio]
  3. Communion [Communio]

They can be found in these books in Latin:

They can be found at these sources (and others) in English:

  • Simple English Propers (Adam Bartlett) [2011]
  • The Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Solemnities (Samuel Weber OSB) [2014]
  • Mass Propers for the Liturgical Year (Gary Penkala) [2012-2015]
  • By Flowing Water (Paul Ford) [1999]
  • Simple Choral Gradual (Richard Rice) [2011]
  • Lumen Christi: Simple Gradual (Adam Bartlett) [2014]
  • Choral Communio (Richard Rice) [2012] Communion only
  • Saint Meinrad: Entrance and Communion Antiphons for the Church Year (Columba Kelly OSB) [2012] except the Offertory
  • Roman Missal — Third Edition [2011] except the Offertory

You'll note that all three processional chants are included in the official Latin "choir books" of the Roman Rite: the Graduale Romanum (for the complete liturgical year) and the Gregorian Missal (for Sundays, solemnities and feasts). The Graduale Simplex contains all three chants, but for a limited number of Masses throughout the year. The Offertory Chant is curiously missing from the Missale Romanum. Why is that?

In general, the Proper texts from the choir books, i.e. those with musical notation, are meant to be sung. Also, the texts from the Missale Romanum, and its English translation, the Roman Missal, (Entrance & Communion antiphons) are really meant to be recited at the appropriate moments, if the antiphon is not sung.

So if the Entrance and Communion antiphons/psalms are sung, obviously the texts in the Roman Missal are not recited. If the Offertory Chant is sung from one of the liturgical choral books, then again no recited text is necessary. If, however, there is no Offertory Chant sung, and no other Offertory music, then the GIRM instructs that priest's Offertory prayers ("Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation…"), which normally would be spoken quietly, are said aloud, with the congregation making the appropriate response ("Blessed be God for ever."). Thus in either of these cases, no Offertory text is necessary in the Missal, in order to be recited.

The use of recited texts from the Missal [Entrance Antiphon, Offertory prayers/responses, Communion Antiphon] are very rarely heard at Sunday Masses; they're intended for smaller (perhaps weekday Masses) where music is not used at these moments.

Answer #3

The Propers of the Mass run on an annual cycle, probably stemming from the Traditonal Latin Mass, where the Propers and even the readings repeat each year. The three-year Lectionary cycle comes from changes after Vatican II, but the Propers did not similarly change. Hence, there is no intention to correlate the Propers (Entrance, Offertory Communion) to the readings at Mass, since the readings are generally different in Year A, B and C. During the seasons and on solemnities and feasts (that don't change on the three-year cycle), the Propers will likely match the "theme" of the Mass.

The idea that every Mass, even those in Ordinary Time, must have a "theme" is really a product of the 1970s, that explosive decade when the unbridled freedom of the vernacular, coupled with the obvious literary relationship among the First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Gospel Verse, and Gospel, produced a "theme" for every Mass, around which relevant hymns were chosen [and always four of them!]. While that may produce a cohesive panoramic flow to the liturgy, it can be (and often has been) taken too far. Relax a little about "making everything fit."

Answer #4

If the text and music for the Offertory Chant in whatever resource is being used is insufficient in length to cover the time for the Procession and the Preparation/Incesning of the Altar, there are a few ways to lengthen this:

  1. As mentioned above, add psalm verses to the ones given. These can come from the same psalm, or from another psalm of similar mood. For psalm options during the liturgical seasons or on solemnities and feasts, look to other year's Responsorial Psalms or to Psalmody used in the Liturgy of the Hours for that celebration.
  2. Metrical chant hymns, like Vexilla Regis, or Attende Domine, or Creator alme siderum can be used, either in Latin or in English translation, as some of the verses between antiphon repeitions.
  3. One would assume that all Masses at a parish do not share the same musical personnel. That is, one Mass (or more) will have a choir. Offertory is an appropriate time for the choir to offer a motet — this could easily begin after a simple chanting of the Proper Offertory Antiphon.
  4. You might also have the organist play at Offertory time; again, after the chanting of the Antiphon (by the cantor, perhaps).
  5. If you really need to include a congregational hymn at Offertory time, I see no reason that it couldn't begin after the Antiphon is chanted. If this seems awkward, you could skip the Antiphon, but at least try to find a hymn that paraphrases the text of the Antiphon. Christoph Tietze has a book called Introit Hymns, which is a collection of metrical paraphrases of the Entrance Antiphon, meant to be sung to familiar hymn tunes. Many of the Offertory Antiphon text are similar, if not identical, to some Introit texts. See this book, then, for ideas.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications
Article written 06 November 2018

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