The majority of the western rites have traditionally accompanied the entrance procession with song. At Rome the members of the schola cantorum (trained body of singers) arranged themselves in two double rows at the entrance to the sanctuary. In antiphonal fashion these two choruses sang the entrance song Introit, i.e. a psalm which began and concluded with a short antiphon whose text was taken from the psalm itself, the epistle of the day, or even from a non-biblical source. During Carolingian times (eighth and ninth centuries) an attempt was made to have the whole assembly sing the concluding “Glory be to the Father.”
Eventually two major factors contributed to a curtailment of the number of verses sung: the rapid elaboration of melody and the abbreviation of the procession itself. As a result, the singing was reduced to the antiphon, one psalm verse, the doxology, and the repetition of the antiphon. The Introit became an independent chant frequently begun when the priest reached the altar. If not sung, it was recited by the priest at the foot of the altar. Maybe you remember this from the Latin Mass.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal (The Church’s Textbookk)
25. After the people have assembled, the entrance song begins, and the priest and ministers come in. The purpose of this song is to open the celebration, deepen the unity of the people, introduce them to the mystey of the season or feast, and accompany the procession.
Music in Catholic Worship
61: The entrance song should create an atmosphere of celebration. It serves the function of putting the assembly in the proper frame of mind for listening to the Word of God. It helps people to become conscious of themselves as a worshipping community. The choice of texts for the entrance song should not conflict with these purposes. In general, during the most important seasons of the Church year, Easter, Lent, Christmas and Advent, it is preferable that most songs used at the entrance be seasonal in nature.
The purpose of the entrance song is “to open the celebration, deepen the unity of the people, introduce them to the mystey of the season or feast, and accompany the procession” (GI no. 25). Its focus is upon the whole assembly: its role is to integrate the people, the ministers, and the mystery of the celebration.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Can instrumental music or silence be effective during the procession?
2. What holds me back from singing?
3. What encourages me to sing?
Scripture: “With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God.” (Col. 3: 16b)