ROME, 18 MAY 2010 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ
Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina
Q: I wonder why in the United States the rule is to keep
kneeling for the final Amen of the doxology, while in other
countries the rule is to stand. In some places, people even
elevate the hands, as in the Old Testament, while acclaiming the
Amen. That Amen is accompanied by a sign of elevation-offering,
which implies a movement of the whole community toward God.
Kneeling at that moment seems to contradict the original meaning
of the great Amen. What is important is not the rule in itself,
but the meaning of the liturgical gesture in the whole context
of the celebration.
J.D., Poteet, Texas
A: The U.S. version of the General Instruction of the Roman
Missal (GIRM) says in No. 43: "In the dioceses of the United
States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing
or recitation of the Sanctus
until after the Amen
of the Eucharistic Prayer [...]." In the original Latin and
other languages, the norm states that the people kneel during
the consecration from the epiclesis to the "Mysterium fidei." It
adds, however, that the custom of remaining kneeling for the
entire Eucharistic Prayer may be praiseworthily maintained in
places where it is prevalent.
Therefore, the two alternatives are a question of local
tradition and custom. The Holy See approved the U.S. bishops'
adaptation of the general rule because it was already a
well-established practice in the country.
Although our reader makes an interesting point regarding the
sign of elevating-offering, I believe that asking the people to
rise up before the Amen would actually interrupt the prayer's
natural flow. While gestures are important, the faithful's
essential participation at this moment is in joining in the
great Amen that concludes the canon. With this Amen the people
in a way make all of the prayers and intercessions proclaimed by
the priest their own and, through the priest, unite themselves
to Christ's eternal sacrifice.
For this reason, the priest and deacon should hold the paten and
chalice aloft until the Amen is fully concluded. As is mentioned
in GIRM, No. 180: "At the final doxology of the Eucharistic
Prayer, the deacon stands next to the priest, holding the
chalice elevated while the priest elevates the paten with the
host, until the people have responded with the acclamation,
Related to this is a recent 2009 official response to a doubt
published in Notitiae, the organ of the Congregation for Divine
Worship and the Sacraments. The doubt asked if it was licit at a
concelebration for several priests to raise sundry chalices
during the doxology.
The Vatican congregation responded negatively and specifically
reprobated the practice. The congregation stressed that only one
paten and chalice should be raised at this moment. The
congregation explained that it was not so much a gesture carried
out to show the host and chalice to the people but rather to
ritually express the words said by the priest in the final
* * *
Follow-up: Kneeling Through the Doxology [6-1-2010]
Related to the reply on the doxology (see May 18), a reader from
Singapore had asked: "In the Order of the Mass, the response to
the doxology, 'Through him, with him, in him ...' is 'Amen.'
However, a popular musical setting commonly sung by choirs in
many parishes has the response, 'Amen, Alleluia, forever and
ever, Amen.' Is it proper for the response to be modified in
this way? After all, it is mentioned in canon law No. 846 that
'The liturgical books, approved by the competent authority, are
to be faithfully followed in the celebration of the sacraments.
Accordingly, no one may on a personal initiative add to or omit
or alter anything in those books.'"
I believe that, as well as the aforementioned canon, the
principles involved in responding to this query are elucidated
in the following documents.
The Holy See's 2001 instruction on liturgical translation, "Liturgiam
Authenticam," says the following regarding setting liturgical
texts to music:
"60. A great part of the liturgical texts are composed with the
intention of their being sung by the priest celebrant, the
deacon, the cantor, the people, or the choir. For this reason,
the texts should be translated in a manner that is suitable for
being set to music. Still, in preparing the musical
accompaniment, full account must be taken of the authority of
the text itself. Whether it be a question of the texts of Sacred
Scripture or of those taken from the Liturgy and already duly
confirmed, paraphrases are not to be substituted with the
intention of making them more easily set to music, nor may hymns
considered generically equivalent be employed in their place."
More than two decades earlier, in 1973 the U.S. bishops' liturgy
committee had replied to a similar query regarding a changed
version of the Our Father:
"In determining the suitability of sung settings of liturgical
texts, a threefold judgement must be made: musical, liturgical
and pastoral (see Music in Catholic Worship, number 25).
While the musical and pastoral appropriateness of this
particular piece of music is debatable, strictly liturgical
considerations are very clear. "Regulation of the liturgy and
approval of liturgical texts is clearly described by the
Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council
(see Sacrosanctum Concilium, paragraph 22). All liturgical texts
used in the dioceses of the United States of America must be
approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and
subsequently confirmed by the Holy See. "In keeping with these
norms, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the
current text for the Order of Mass in 1973, a decision which was
confirmed by the Holy See the following year. These texts,
including the text of the Lord's Prayer, may not be changed by
anyone except the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and
then only with confirmation by the Holy See ...."
In the same spirit, the 2007 guidelines issued by the U.S.
bishops' "Sing to the Lord" address this question in No. 109:
"Composers who set liturgical texts to musical settings must
respect the integrity of the approved text. Only with the
approval of the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship may minor
adaptations be made to approved liturgical texts."
Although our reader writes from Singapore, the text referred to
was originally published in the United States and before the
present norms came into force.
Although I am unaware if this modification has received any form
of official approval, I do not believe that it is just a minor
adaptation that can be approved by the U.S. bishops' Secretariat
for Divine Worship but rather a change that would require
eventual approval from the Holy See. A minor change could be the
triple repetition of this Amen, which is quite common even at
the Vatican, or a small variation in the order of words that
does not impinge on meaning. Adding words not in the original
text would not usually be considered minor.
In the case of the doxology, I would say that the previously
mentioned addition probably weakens the simple and direct force
of the faithful's concluding "Amen" ("so be it") to the whole