Friday, October 7, 2011


Go ahead. Ask me how long our “Great Amen” lasts at Mass.

Thanks for asking. I’ll tell you. “For ever and ever. For ever. Alleluia. For ever and ever. Amen.”

If you happen to sing this particular Mass setting at your parish you understand what I meant by that.

It is interesting that everything old is new again. One of the things that Vatican II did was get rid of accretion into the Mass that evolved over the years. One of these accretions is the sequence. (There is controversy as to whether these were purposeful additions or something that just happened. I’m inclined to think the latter.) You may remember these from Easter and Pentecost when they are still required. (There are a couple more that are optional.) It seems odd to us that they are there (or at least to me.) After the Epistle everything comes to a screeching halt while we sing or recite this long poem before going into the Gospel verse.

There is not a lot of agreement on exactly how these song-poems made it into the Mass. There used to be quite a lot of them. My favorite theory goes like this: Especially in large churches where there was going to be a long Gospel procession there was need to lengthen the Alleluia. If it is to be a long procession you need a long Alleluia. So imagine writing notes for AaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaLeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeLuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. You would not be able to run over the copy machine to make copies of the music so that everybody could read it. (We may be talking as early as the ninth century.) One theory suggests that words of praise were added to the music in order to help the choir remember all the many notes. Thus the sequence was born and ends up as a slightly odd and seemingly clunky (IMHO) intruder to the Mass. That being said most of the have been done away with today. But as we are ever repeating ourselves for both good and bad, things continue to sneak back in such as “For ever and ever. For ever. Alleluia. For ever and ever. Amen.” When a simple Amen would do.

1 comment:

Matt W said...

That setting of the amen has never been great. I don't care what they call it.