Singing the Alleluia at the Ambo

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university. Father McNamara recently was appointed dean of theology at Regina Apostolorum.

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Q: Could you please explain why the cantor should not sing the Alleluia before the Gospel at the ambo? — L.C., Fortaleza, Brazil

A: The topic of the ambo and the Alleluia, which is an acclamation of praise to God coming from the Hebrew, is dealt with in several places. Most notably in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) and in the introduction to the lectionary:

The GIRM states:

«309. The dignity of the word of God requires that the church have a place that is suitable for the proclamation of the word and toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns during the Liturgy of the Word ….

«From the ambo only the readings, the responsorial Psalm, and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) are to be proclaimed; it may be used also for giving the homily and for announcing the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. The dignity of the ambo requires that only a minister of the word should go up to it ….

«62. After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant indicated by the rubrics is sung, as required by the liturgical season. An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the assembly of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to them in the Gospel and professes their faith by means of the chant. It is sung by all while standing and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated if this is appropriate. The verse, however, is sung either by the choir or by the cantor.

«a) The Alleluia is sung in every season other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.

«b) During Lent, in place of the Alleluia, the verse before the Gospel is sung, as indicated in the Lectionary. It is also permissible to sing another psalm or tract, as found in the Graduale.

«63. When there is only one reading before the Gospel:

«a) During a season when the Alleluia is to be said, either the Alleluia Psalm or the responsorial Psalm followed by the Alleluia with its verse may be used;

«b) During the season when the Alleluia is not to be said, either the psalm and the verse before the Gospel or the psalm alone may be used;

«c) The Alleluia or verse before the Gospel may be omitted if they are not sung.

«64. The Sequence, which is optional except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is sung before the Alleluia.»

From the introduction to the lectionary:

«56. The psalmist, or cantor of the psalm, is responsible for singing, responsorially or directly, the chants between the readings — the psalm or other biblical canticle, the gradual and Alleluia, or other chant. The psalmist may, as occasion requires, intone the Alleluia and verse."

From these documents we can take the following elements in order to answer our question.

There is no rule whatsoever that says that the Alleluia may not be sung from the ambo. It is true that it is not included among the situations mentioned in GIRM 309, but this could well be because the Alleluia can be sung from another place while the other readings must be proclaimed from the ambo.

The introduction to the lectionary implies this possibility by foreseeing that the psalmist may also intone the Alleluia and verse. In Masses with only one reading it would be absurd that the psalmist leave the ambo in order to intone the Alleluia.

It must also be remembered that the Alleluia text is included in the lectionary itself, and the liturgical books do not presume that everybody has a hand missal or a copy of the text at hand. Again, liturgical logic would be that the Alleluia may be sung from the ambo.

Therefore we can say that the liturgy, rather than prohibiting a use of the ambo, foresees several possible places and modes for singing the Alleluia, as seen above in No. 62. The psalmist or another cantor can intone the Alleluia and sing the verse from the ambo or some other suitable place.

Finally, although the Alleluia is rightly seen as pertaining to the whole assembly, I would be of the opinion that, on special occasions, it is still possible to use some of the Gregorian chant Alleluias for major feasts even though most of these require a trained choir for proper execution.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

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