LITURGY Q & A: Singing or Reciting the Alleluia

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    Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

    Q: As lectors during weekday Masses, should we not all follow the same order? One sings the Alleluia, the other recites the Alleluia. Is not the Alleluia sung even during weekday Masses? — R.L., East Hartford, Connecticut

    A: According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

    “62. After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant indicated by the rubrics is sung, as required by the liturgical season. An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the assembly of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to them in the Gospel and professes their faith by means of the chant. It is sung by all while standing and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated if this is appropriate. The verse, however, is sung either by the choir or by the cantor.

    “a. The Alleluia is sung in every season other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.

    “b. During Lent, in place of the Alleluia, the verse before the Gospel is sung, as indicated in the Lectionary. It is also permissible to sing another psalm or tract, as found in the Graduale.

    “63. When there is only one reading before the Gospel,

    “a. During a season when the Alleluia is to be said, either the Alleluia Psalm or the responsorial Psalm followed by the Alleluia with its verse may be used;

    “b. During the season when the Alleluia is not to be said, either the psalm and the verse before the Gospel or the psalm alone may be used;

    “c. The Alleluia or verse before the Gospel may be omitted if they are not sung.”

    No. 62 clearly recommends and promotes the singing of both Alleluia and verse and offers several solutions in order to achieve the singing of both Alleluia and its corresponding verse.

    Since the missal desires that Acclamation and verse both be sung at each and every Mass, Sundays and weekdays, then any order that favors this objective may be employed.

    If the reader is incapable of singing the Alleluia verse, he or she may be replaced by a choir or cantor who can sing the verse without having to come to the ambo.

    Although not the ideal, and as a last resort, at daily Mass the Alleluia may be sung by the assembly and the verse recited by the reader.

    Otherwise, if all else fails, it may be either omitted or recited by assembly and reader.

    I believe that this possibility is implied in No. 63.c when it says that the Alleluia may be omitted if not sung. This “may” implies a possibility but not an obligation.

    * * *

    Follow-up: “Healing Masses”

    With respect to our December 11 follow-up on offering the sacrament of the anointing of the sick during so-called Healing Masses, a reader, who is also a judicial vicar in his diocese, made the following observations.

    “With regard to the celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick during Mass, I understand that people are not to be anointed unless they meet the ‘normal conditions’ for receiving the sacrament. However, it seems that we have to leave it up to the individual person to make that determination. While we can explain to people who ‘qualifies for the reception of the sacrament,’ it seems to be impossible to question a person at Mass as to their ‘qualifications.’

    “Also, as to not repeating the sacrament for a month, except for a grave illness, the problem arises in which a person is anointed today and then is near death tomorrow. We are then asked to administer the ‘Last Rites,’ as if it is somehow different from the sacrament which was celebrated yesterday. Pastorally speaking, it does not appear advisable to start a discussion about sacramental theology with a distraught person or his or her family. While I am all in accord with the guidelines, there are exceptions, which I trust the Lord understands.”

    I am substantially in agreement with these observations. But the original context of my reply was the practice of offering the sacrament at Mass on a monthly basis in a parish setting and probably along with other prayers for healing. It was this situation which could give rise to an indiscriminate administration of the sacrament.

    I also agree that we should not make indiscrete inquiries to people who approach the sacrament during Mass. But we must be careful in our explanations and preparations so that it is received by those who can actually benefit from it.

    Since the possibility of celebrating this sacrament during Mass is now well established, pastors have mostly learned how to best organize it from a pastoral perspective so that those who need it can receive it and those who are blessed with good health can be united in prayer for and with those who are afflicted.

    * * *

    Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city, and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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