Sunday, January 31, 2016

A blast from the past outdated hymnal

A what?  An outdated hymnal?  What would that be?  I know of hymnals no longer in current use but I would hardly call them outdated.  I have a shelf full of hymnals no longer in use in parishes, books that were published between 40 and 100 years ago, but I would never presume to call them outdated.  Outdated is what you use of those things where the information has changed or is no longer reliable.  It is not a term to be used of hymnals once held in the hands of the faithful, whose voices swelled the song, and whose words testify of the faith once delivered to the saints and now passed on one more time.  No, there is no such thing as an outdated hymnal.

This Christmas I received the gift of a hymnal more than 111 years old, imprinted with the name Lulu Schulz, and I marveled at a book that included all of Luther's Catechism with additional questions and answers, most of the liturgical rites common to the life of the church, the Augsburg Confession, all the Psalms, and the requisite hymns and liturgies.  Outdated?  Certainly not! 

A hymnal might be judged unfaithful if it does not faithfully confess the mystery of God and His work of redemption.  It might be deemed shallow if its songs speak too much of the heart of the people singing and too little of the Gospel which gives than cause to rejoice.  It might be deemed inferior if its words or music were faddish and more accurately reflected the moment than the legacy of the faith and the best of the present age.  But how can you call a hymnal outdated?

Sure, the world has discarded the ancient cadence and style of Elizabethan English and prefers modern syntax but that does not make the hymnal outdated.  Maybe the world has deemed the chant of ancient days passe or the great chorales too difficult but that does not make the hymnal outdated.  In fact, these judgments are themselves subject to trend, fad, and whim and may not be sustained by the ages that follow.  But the books remain and their testament to the Gospel in song stands as witness to the fact that we learned the faith from its instruction and still am in debt to its wisdom, faithfulness, and truth.

I could take any one of the many Lutheran hymnals on my shelf and have a perfectly usable book to inspire my tongue and teach my mind.  Sure, some might be better than others and others lesser but outdated?  No, not these books.  If I held in my hands the hymnal given to my grandfather at his confirmation I would have a book still thoroughly usable and faithful (even if many of its texts and tunes did not pass into the current book used in the LCMS).  If I opened the pages of the book that was new to my dad and ancient to me when I was confirmed, I would still have a wonderful treasure of words and music to teach and guide my heart and mind in the faith.  Hymnals that are inferior probably should be discarded but hymnals that are otherwise faithful even though no longer in regular service are good books and worthy of our attention still.

Outdated?  No way!


Anonymous said...

There are hymnals that are outdated, if we may use that word, because the words of the hymns have been compromised by inclusive language, and political correctness. Such were outdated and inappropriate for use the moment they were printed. This fits most of the modern attempts to produce a hymnal, in my estimation.


Janis Williams said...

The musical items truly outdated are compilations of praise songs and music. Many songs never make it to print form; they are only out on CD, or available on iTunes. They are outdated because of the reason Fr. D gives above (from heterodox to heretical). Also because they are culture-bound popular music. They are items to be consumed by the Christian (loosely used?) consumer in the current, relevant Church (also loosely used). Funny how our current batch of music warriors pick up the sword over particular styles, only to toss them aside for the next wave. It's like fighting a war over gumdrops. We are a generation of Cyranos...

John said...

I, as a layman would like to have back some of those old hymnals.

TLH had both The Proper Prefaces and Propers of the day. Lutheran Service Book has neither. I understand that including Propers of the Day for both one year and three year lectionaries would make LSB a tome, I see no reason for not printing Proper Prefaces. I purchased the Propers of the Day supplement,many our congregation provides the printed Propers each Sunday.

So much is available, either in supplement or on the LCMS website. Why not the Proper Prefaces?

John said...

",many our congregation", should be "and our congregation."

Kirk Skeptic said...

What, no Marty Haugen or Adre Crouch? Saints preserve us!

ABC said...

How can classical be outdated? These hymnal music writers line up with Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin,... Afterall, classic means standard, too.