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Eucharistic Catechesis

Following last weekend’s catechesis on the Communion Procession, let’s unpack the importance of the Communion Hymn (or Chant). The action by Christ’s body, the Church assembled for the Eucharist, is “manifested and supported by the Communion Chant, a hymn in praise of Christ sung by the united voices of those who believe in him and share his life” (USCCB). The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) takes this hymn very seriously, mandating that it should begin at the Communion of the priest and extend until the last person has received Communion. Therefore, we should all be singing—and out of respect for one another, our common posture is to remain standing (for those who are able) until the last person has received Communion. While honoring this directive, a certain practicality presents itself, in that those who participate in music ministry, helping to lead and foster our participation, need to receive Communion as well. We as a parish have determined that the Director of Music, observing when the last person in the body of the assembly has received, will bring the hymn to its close. Once that occurs, the faithful are invited to be seated and then begin their own personal prayer, piety, reflection, and thanksgiving for the gift just received. A motion or directive from the celebrant should not need to be offered. The faithful, remaining attentive, should confidently be seated when the hymn ends. Once remaining music ministers have received Communion, a gentle reprise of the hymn will accompany the action of the purification of vessels by the priest, deacon, or an instituted acolyte.

For some, the singing of the hymn is perceived as an intrusion to their own prayer, their private thanksgiving after Communion. In fact, however, this hymn is prayer, the corporate thanksgiving prayer of the members of Christ’s Body united with one another. Over and over again the prayers of the liturgy and the norms of the GIRM emphasize this fundamental concept of the unity of the baptized, stressing that when we come together to participate in the Eucharistic celebration, we come not as individuals, but as united members of Christ’s Body. The purpose of the Communion Chant is to “express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the communitarian character of the procession to receive the Eucharist” (GIRM 86). As the vessels are being purified and during the moment of sacred silence which follows, it is at this time that private thanksgiving is rightfully offered to the Trinitarian God.

Fr. Terry


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