If you have been watching Mass from the Cathedral online, or have returned to Mass in person, you may have noticed a difference in what happens after the First Reading. Given the restrictions on congregational singing, and rising from a desire to help expose the parish to an ancient practice, we have often been using what is called the “Gradual” after the First Reading. Similar to the Responsorial Psalm, it is a verse of Sacred Scripture which “responds” in some way to the First Reading, either by summarizing some principal element of the reading, or by giving a verse which prayerfully responds to it. It takes its name from the Latin word gradus, which means “step,” for the Gradual used to be sung by the lector on the step of the high altar.
Like the rest of the Propers (Introit, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons), it is particular, or proper, to a specific day or Mass, and so helps to emphasize particular liturgical themes of the celebration or saint.
Universally, and for most of the Church’s history, the Gradual has had this place in the liturgy. Even today this is so, though the Responsorial Psalm has taken its place in most places. You may have even noticed this option in the Vatican II Hymnal which we usually use.
While this will not be a permanent replacement for the Responsorial Psalm (though currently it is helpful given the lack of hymnals in the pews), it will be harmoniously incorporated into our Sunday Masses, just like other liturgical elements we have incorporated in our effort to employ all the legitimate elements of Catholic worship, such as Mass ad orientem and the use of Latin.
Gradual for the XIII Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ps. 33:12, 6):
Latin: Venite filii, audite me: timorem Domini docebo vos. Accedite ad eum, et illuminamini: et facies vestrae non confundentur.
English: Come, children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Go forth unto him and receive enlightenment, and your faces will not be put to shame.