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Propriety of the Propers

Propriety of the Propers

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Rev. David M. Friel: "The Propriety of the Propers: Toward the Independence of Liturgical Chant and Popular Hymnody"

Rev. David M. Friel: "The Propriety of the Propers: Toward the Independence of Liturgical Chant and Popular Hymnody"

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Published by: Church Music Association of America on Jun 24, 2011
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 The Propriety of the Propers
Toward the Independence of Liturgical Chant and Popular Hymnody
Rev. David M. FrielMaster of Arts ThesisDr. Theodore Kiefer, Advisor 02 April 2011
Friel 1The Gregorian propers command a singular role as the primary liturgical chants of theRoman Rite. In recent times, and especially in the United States of America since the SecondVatican Council (1962-1965), their unique role has been challenged by the growing introductionof popular hymnody to supplant the proper chants. Both liturgical chant and popular hymnodyare good, even necessary, components of healthy Catholic culture, but the two genres arestrongest individually when they maintain independence from each other. After a brief introduction to the history of the
 Proprium Missae
, a presentation of the virtues of the propersand the authentic role of hymnody will help to develop a pastoral plan for building up bothdistinct genres.
I. Brief History of the
 Proprium Missae
 Historical Development of the
Proprium MissaeThe prayers, chants, and other components of the Mass as it is celebrated in the RomanRite have developed over the Christian centuries into an immense and precious heritage,including some texts still in use today that can be traced at least as early as the fourth century.As part of the process of development, the structure of the Mass was formed to includeunchanging elements as well as parts that vary by the day or season. Thus, what has come to becalled the
Ordinarium Missae
consists of those parts of the Mass which remain constantthroughout the liturgical year. These “ordinary” components are to be distinguished from the
 Proprium Missae
(the “propers”), which consists of the parts of the Mass that vary according tothe particular day, saint, or mystery being observed. The present study concerns the seven propers that have traditionally belonged to a minister other than the priest celebrant (i.e., chieflythe
 schola cantorum
, cantor, or lector) as part of the
(namely, the introit, gradual,
Friel 2alleluia, tract, sequence, offertory, and communion). There are also three proper prayers towhich the priest gives voice as ingredients of the
(namely, the Collect, Secret/Prayer over the Gifts, and Post-Communion), but attention here will be given to the seven “sub-genres”of propers generally executed by the choir.The first such category within the
 Proprium Missae
is the introit, which originally took the form of a festal, processional antiphon chanted together with psalm verses (or even a whole psalm, in the Old Roman form). In their modern Gregorian form, however, each introit includesonly one brief verse.
It is the first words, or incipits, of these introits that have given traditionalnames to the feasts of the liturgical year (e.g.,
Mass, etc.). The texts of the introits are, almost without exception, Scriptural,and roughly two in three are taken from the psalms. Melodically, each introit is very unique.Whereas the ancient chants for antiphons in the Divine Office often overlap with similarities (astheir vast number almost requires), the chants for these introits, which share the antiphonal form,appear to have been consciously crafted to be unique.
The collection of introits displays a wideselection of modes (all eight) and an aversion to cadential similarity, such that each introit isvery memorable and recognizable.
Yet, while the introits are melodically quite disparate, theyare at the same time very homogeneous in form, length, and style. Their common form is anantiphon with a single psalm verse, the
Gloria Patri
, and the repeated antiphon; their length is
1. Josef A. Jungmann,
The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development 
, vol. 1, trans., Francis A.Brunner (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1959), 324-325.2. James McKinnon,
The Advent Project: The Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper 
 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). This landmark work hypothesizes that the musical complexity andannual organization of the introits are evidence that their composition was the work of an elite
 schola cantorum
,likely during a time of peace and prosperity (namely, the seventh century).3. David Hiley,
Western Plainchant: A Handbook 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 109-116.

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