Monday, March 19, 2012

Catholic case for catholic hymnody...

Nathaniel Peters has written well of the catholic hymnody and his fear of it being banished from the Roman Mass... he makes an eloquent case for it here and I have reprinted some of his words below.... good reading:

First, good hymns offer an excellent opportunity for catechesis, which is one of the purposes of liturgy. Like the proper chants, they can help us digest the truths of God we have just received in Scripture and offer an exegesis of particular feasts themselves. Consider the Lutheran Easter hymn, “Awake, My Heart, with Gladness”:

Now I will cling forever
To Christ, my Savior true;
My Lord will leave me never,
Whate’er He passeth through.
He rends Death’s iron chain,
He breaks through sin and pain,
He shatters hell’s dark thrall,
I follow Him through all. . . .

He brings me to the portal
That leads to bliss untold,
Whereon this rhyme immortal
Is found in script of gold:
“Who there My cross hath shared
Finds here a crown prepared;
Who there with Me hath died
Shall here be glorified.”

Notice the unexpected way Paul Gerhardt puts it: It is not that I will never leave Christ, whatever I pass through, but that he will never leave me. In a short turn of phrase, Gerhardt reminds us of the assurances that come through Christ’s resurrection: Whatever we suffer, we suffer with him at our side—and knowing the end of his story, we have hope for the end of our own. We follow Christ as he harrows Hell and routs the many places it has encamped in our own souls. We are promised the cross, yes, but also the crown. In these two verses, Gerhardt had left us a rich primer on the resurrection, a sixteen-line sermon on what the triumph of Christ means for the life of a Christian.

Because these hymns can be vehicles for handing on the Catholic faith, they remind us of the real meaning of Catholic. At its heart, to say that something is Catholic is not to say that it was written by a person in communion with the bishop of Rome but that it is in accord with the universal apostolic heritage. This means, of course, that not all hymns are suitable for Catholic liturgies. But it also means that if a hymn proclaims the Catholic faith, then—regardless of its origin—we should consider it a Catholic hymn.

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