While we’re on the subjection of the Responsorial Psalm: here at the Cathedral we take great pride in our faithfulness to using the prescribed Responsorial Psalms of the Lectionary, found in our Worship IV hymnal. The music for the psalms themselves are almost always those composed by a famous French Jesuit priest and musician, Joseph Gelineau (1920-2008). The free-flowing texts of the psalms, of course, aren’t always metrical, and while the original Hebrew texts sometimes contain rhymes and other characteristics (look up the words “alliteration” and “acrostic” one day and you’ll see what I mean!), this is generally pretty impossible to replicate in other languages.
Yet other languages have contributed greatly to enhancing the psalms. Gregorian chant, in particular, developed in order to give a unique expressiveness to singing the psalms in Latin. In English, we often sing the psalms using music that repeats line-by-line in each stanza – although this is sometimes challenging if the stanzas are of unequal length!
The most important thing about the Responsorial Psalm, however, is not the music. Since it is taken from the Bible, it is the Word of God Himself, written down by human authors whom He inspired. Just to sing these texts is a privileged moment of worship. The ideas mentioned in the psalms, too, are particularly appropriate for inspiring meditation on our part – and express the true feelings of the human heart which arise from this meditation!