I am also posting it in order to receive input from people about it, so that I can change anything that should/could be changed BEFORE it is published! :-P
For those who regularly attend the 10:30 am Mass, can you believe that it has been nearly two years since we started chanting the Introit? Doing that, combined with some of the other changes that have been made, such as "ad orientem" worship, have resulted in a beautiful, sacred, and solemn liturgy. Father Gerald and I have received many positive comments, including from people who admit that these elements are the main reason that they are parishioners at Old St. Patrick!
Several people have also requested that these changes be incorporated into the 8:00 am Mass, since they would prefer to attend that Mass. This seems to make a lot of sense, since many can attest that the 10:30 am Mass is regularly packed to overflowing! To begin this process, over the next couple of weeks we will be teaching the Introit at the 8:00 am Mass, to help familiarize the congregation.
However, many of you are probably wondering: What is the Introit, and why is it better than a hymn?
The "Introit," sometimes called the "Entrance Antiphon," is a text that is proper to each Sunday that has been given by the Church as the first (and therefore, preferred,) option for the "processional" at the beginning of Mass. It is found as Gregorian Chant in the Gradual Romanum (which is the book of Latin chants for the Mass,) but we will be singing a translation of it as a congregation in English to a psalm-tone, so even though the words change every week, the music will stay the same and involves many words on the same note.
People often ask me if I get to "choose the music" for Mass, and while I do, it can be a difficult task because I try to match the text of whatever hymn is chosen for the entrance, offertory and communion, to the text that is found in the Gradual Romanum. This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter or "Divine Mercy Sunday" is a perfect example of this. It is also occasionally called "Quasimodo Sunday," since (along with "Gaudete Sunday" and "Laetare Sunday") that is the first word of the Introit for that Mass.
The text of the Introit is always very rich, and even teaches and affirms theology. Compared to this, most hymns have a simple theme of "Praise the Lord," or even more shallow and having almost nothing to do with God and worship, a theme like "All are Welcome." In direct contrast to these relatively ambiguous hymns, an example of an Introit text from today (which begins in Latin with "Quasimodo,") is "As newborn babes, alleluia, desire pure spiritual milk. Alleluia. Rejoice in honor of God our helper, shout for joy to the God of Jacob." While it is short, one could literally spend hours studying and meditating on the theological references and implications of those sentences! In fact, it is taken straight out of the Bible, from 1 Peter 2:2. And I am certain that there are no hymns in our hymnal that have any reference to this text!
For the next few weeks, since we are in the particularly joyful season of Easter, many of the Introits do revolve around themes of "Praise the Lord," (like next Sunday, April 18,) but the Introits for Ordinary Time, which encompasses the majority of the year, are usually focused on themes of "Have mercy on me, O God, protect me..." And certainly all of Lent the Introits are based on this, for example as recently as the 5th Sunday of Lent, (March 21 this year,) the text was "Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly nation; from wicked and deceitful men deliver me, for you are my God and my strength." None of the hymns that we are familiar with even come close to expounding upon this particular image.
I hope that as we sing the Introits, you are able to meditate on the text as we prepare for Mass, and appreciate the richness and wisdom of our Church in giving us these beautiful, sacred, scriptural texts. For those who attend the 8:00 am Mass, it will take some time to get used to the tune that we are using for the Introit, but my hope is that as time goes on, you will become more comfortable with it and will be able to participate more fully in the worshipful tone that it sets for the liturgy.
As always, I greatly appreciate those of you who give me feedback on the music at Mass. It warms my heart when I know that the music is a blessing to others, and I am also thankful to those of you who may disagree with aspects of the music at Old St. Patrick but are willing to engage in dialogue with me, or those who just want to learn more and understand why we do certain things! I am privileged to work at such a beautiful parish with so many wonderful parishioners!