Communion (from Lat. communio)
- James W. McKinnon
(from Lat. communio)
The last of the Proper or variable chants of the Mass. The communion is described in the early 8th-century Ordo romanus I as an antiphon and psalm sung during the distribution of Communion. The psalm was sung to the same psalm tones as the introit (see Introit). By the 12th century most sources provide only the antiphon, indicating a curtailment of the earlier format that is most probably due to the decline of frequent Communion among the faithful.
The singing of a psalm during the distribution of Communion is attested by several 4th-century patristic authors. It could be said, then, that the communion chant is a particularly ancient item in the Mass Proper; but it might be more appropriate to think of it as a chant of the Mass Ordinary at this early period, because most sources specify the same psalm – Psalm xxxiii (Vulgate numbering). It appears to have been sung in its entirety by the lector or cantor with its appropriate verse 8, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’, serving as a congregational response. This proto-communion retained a central position in the medieval Byzantine liturgy, where it served as the regular ...