Music and Singing at the Consecration

Date: January 29, 2023
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.


Question: Is it right to play instruments or sing during the consecration of the bread and wine at Mass? -- V.S., Tamil Nadu state, India


Answer: The answer depends on who is doing the singing.


With respect to whether the organ and/or a choir can sing during the consecration, the answer is definitively no. This norm was first specified in the 1967 instruction “Musicam Sacram” which states:


“No. 64. The use of musical instruments to accompany the singing can act as a support to the voices, render participation easier, and achieve a deeper union in the assembly. However, their sound should not so overwhelm the voices that it is difficult to make out the text; and when some part is proclaimed aloud by the priest or a minister by virtue of his role, they should be silent.”


This norm was later incorporated into the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:


“No. 32. Thus, while the priest is speaking these texts [the presidential prayers], there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent.”


Also, within the specific context of the Eucharistic Prayer:


“No. 53. While the Priest proclaims the Eucharistic Prayer 'there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent' except for the people's acclamations that have been duly approved .…”


However, while the faithful, the choir or the organ should be silent during the parts recited by the priest during the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest himself, along with any concelebrants, may sing the consecration and some other parts of the prayer. Thus, GIRM 218:


“The parts pronounced by all the concelebrants together and especially the words of Consecration, which all are obliged to say, are to be recited in such a manner that the concelebrants speak them in a low voice and that the principal celebrant’s voice is heard clearly. In this way the words can be more easily understood by the people. It is a praiseworthy practice for the parts that are to be said by all the concelebrants together and for which musical notation is provided in the Missal to be sung.”


Finally, the choir and organ may intervene in accompanying the faithful in singing those parts of the Eucharistic ritual where their participation is usually foreseen, above all, for the Sanctus, the memorial acclamation after the consecration, and the great Amen after the doxology.


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