Continuing with our look at the Communion Rite, after all say together, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” the Priest receives Communion first. “While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being 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. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.” (GIRM #86). It’s the song during reception of Holy Communion that I wish to comment on today.
In some parishes, you will notice a long silence while the Priest receives Communion, but as you can read in the instruction above, the song should begin immediately as the Priest is receiving. There are a number of options for selecting music for the reception of Communion, including singing one of several assigned antiphon chants, but almost always at most Catholic parishes, including St Raphael, we sing what the instruction calls a “suitable liturgical chant”.
While it is commendable that the assembly sing for the duration of the Communion Procession, the reality is, this is a really long time to have to sing without break. At some of our larger Masses, it’s close to 10 minutes of continuous music. The other reality is that most folks are not going to carry their hymnal in the procession. So, my intention in selecting music for the reception of Communion is to give the assembly a familiar refrain to sing, with a cantor or the choir predominantly leading the verses. The idea is, one can remember the words to the refrain without needing the hymnal, so the singing by all can continue as one walks in procession to receive the Eucharist. So, you’ll notice, for this reason, I don’t program hymns (songs with a bunch of different verses, no refrain, like Amazing Grace) during Communion that would require having a hymnal the entire time.