Priority of Singing the Mass

One of the common misconceptions about Sacred Music at Holy Mass is the priority in which the musical parts should be sung.  The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is very clear, according to High Mass, Low Mass, etc.  However the Ordinary Form should be clear as well, if we are aware of Church teachings.  The directives will likely shock the average priest and lay faithful, since we are unfortunately far from carrying it out.  Let us take this opportunity to joyfully proclaim and SING THE MASS!

Musicam Sacram

27. As far as possible, eucharistic celebrations with the people, especially on Sundays, should by preference take the form of a Mass with singing, even more than once in the same day.

28. The distinction between solemn, the high, and the low Mass, sanctioned by the 1958 Instruction (no. 3) remains in force, according to tradition and current law. But for pastoral reasons degrees of solemnity for the sung Mass are proposed here in order that it will become easier, in accord with each congregation’s capability, to make the celebration of Mass more solemn through the use of singing.

These degrees must be so employed, however, that the first may always be used without the others, but the second and third never without the first. Thus in all cases the faithful are to be brought to take part fully in the singing.

29. To the first degree belong:

a. in the entrance rites

the priest’s greeting and the congregation’s response;
-the opening prayer.

b. in the liturgy of the word

-the gospel acclamations.
[again, the Priest’s greeting and congregation’s response, not the Alleluia which is listed below]

c. in the liturgy of the eucharist

-the prayer over the gifts;
-the preface, with the opening dialogue and the Sanctus;
-the Lord’s Prayer, with the invitation and embolism;
-the greeting The peace of the Lord;
-the prayer after communion;
-the final dismissal.

30. To the second degree belong:

a. KyrieGloriaAgnus Dei;

b. profession of faith; [Credo]

c. general intercessions.

31. To the third degree belong:

a. chants for the entrance procession and for communion;

b. chants after a lesson or epistle; [gradual or responsorial Psalm]

c. Alleluia before the gospel;

d. chants for the presentation of the gifts;

e. the Scripture readings, except when it seems better not to have them sung.


It is easy to see that we are often singing those parts listed under the third degree while ignoring the rubric of sung “The Lord be with you…and with your spirit,” as well as the sung prayers of the Mass.

Certainly there are priests and deacons who are not physically able to sing, however, most are more capable than they let on!  Encourage your priests, and clergy, encourage your brethren to follow this call to sing the Mass!