Does the text of a hymn/song cause it to be more/less suitable for use at Mass?

Does the text of a hymn/song cause it to be more/less suitable for Mass? If so, what do you base your decisions/opinions on?

Depends on who you ask. There are those on this forum who take musical lyrics literally and read them like a liturgical document…those that don’t past muster are “bad theology”.

Others may think that anything goes in the lyrics.

Others think that nothing but the Gregorian Chant is acceptable in mass.

:shrug:

Methinks there is a reasonable answer inbetween, but yes, lyrics affect the suitability of a mass hymn.

If lyrics are absolutely contradictory to Catholic doctrine, then I do not use it. I try to find lyrics that fit what I think the homily will be on for the entrance, offertory and recessional. I use lyrics focusing on the the Holy Eucharist for that time and something meditative that either focuses on the Eucharist, the homily or an appropriate prayer.

So for me, yes the lyrics are important.

Of course the lyics are important !!:eek:

Have you ever heard “Imagine” by John Lennon at a funeral… I have.:sad_yes:

"Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today "

My choices:
1)Text is taken from the propers (ie the offertory, introit, communio, etc)
2)Text is taken from the readings
3)Text is based on (1) or (2)
4)Text is otherwise Liturgical or Scriptural (eg. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence)
5)Sacred Text not from the Liturgy or Scripture (Most hymns)
6)Non-Sacred Texts (Do Not Use)
7)Heretical Texts (Do Not Use)

This has priority over issue of style/instrumentation.

This has priority over issue of style/instrumentation.

I agree wholeheartedly. I tried to separate the two because in the other threads when someone might mention the “music” itself as being objectionable, other persons would jump categories and defend it based on the text. Or vice versa. It was impossible to accomplish anything that way.

Personally, I think in some pieces both are objectionable. If the two categories are
separated it is easier to avoid generalities, and objections are more apt to be addressed
in a more specific manner.

The text is of utmost importance. But even if the text is okay, the musical setting can be
written in a style that is not acceptable for Mass. I think all are basically agreed on that
point, we just disagree about what those styles/settings are.

Would it be possible for you to supply us with some specific examples of what you were speaking of?

I think these threads have been very helpful (certainly more so than most music threads).

Examples of the different types of texts? That may take a bit (particularly the first one):o

Yes, I have. The family asked the priest for permission to play a CD at the meditation time after Communion. It was implied that the piece was “Let It Be,” when in fact, it was “Imagine.” Sung by the deceased. I’ve never heard anything more offensive. After Mass (I was the cantor), I called the priest’s attention to it, a little vigorously! He just looked at me quizzically and said, “Oh, really?” He’s a great priest, never does anything incorrect, but he’s pretty permissive with what families request for funerals. I guess he wants to be extra understanding when they’re so upset. :rolleyes:

Betsy

I just meant one or two. I don’t mean to make homework assignments, just encouraging
all of us to be a bit more specific than usual. It’s up to you.
Just a title would be helpful. Not necessary though.:slight_smile:

I’m only dealing with the texts here!

**1)Text is taken from the propers: ** Hard to find these in English, sorry! Ubi Caritas" is from the Holy Thursday offertory.

**2)Text is taken from the readings: ** Salvation Belongs to Our God (possible 1st reading for funerals during the Easter Season:eek:), I Am the Bread of Life (All Souls, 18th in Ordinary Time B)

3)Text is based on (1) or (2): Too numerous to list! Where Charity and Love Prevail (From Ubi Caritas)

4)Text is otherwise Liturgical or Scriptural Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (from the troparion from the Liturgy of St James), St Thomas’ Eucharistic Hymns (written for, and incorporated throughout, the liturgy on Corpus Christi aka Body & Blood), Dies Irae for funerals (from the EF, also used in the Office), Shepherd Me O God (loosely Ps 23)

1 through 3 overlap with 4 depending on whether the text is used on that particular day or season

5)Sacred Text not from the Liturgy or Scripture Prayer of St Francis, Canticle of the Sun, Immaculate Mary, O Mary We Crown Thee With Roses Today, Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, Abide With Me

6)Non-Sacred Texts (Do Not Use) Jerusalem, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Hallelujah (even if it is in reference to David, Sampson, et al.), Let It Be (That’s MaryJane), Let There Be Peace on Earth.

7)Heretical Texts (Do Not Use) Imagine (Nihilism) Ashes (Pelegianism), Sing a New Church (Where to begin?), Lord of the Dance

I don’t mind, honestly I can’t think of any more important topic than the liturgy, and participating in these discussions helps me flesh out ideas for the (God Willing!) time I may be in a position to argue for these changes.

That was a lot of work! MANY thanks. I love your hierarchical list of priorities. That really helps me , and I’m sure others too.

As a rule, that is true. I think this thread is so specific that it qualifies as an A+ idea. Thanks for your list, BTW.

There is no need to be insulting nor sarcastic, Newbie. We pray as we believe. If the lyrics are not up to the standards of what the Church holds to be true, then they are not suitable for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Perhaps those who criticize those of us who read the documents might try to actually read them themselves. They might prove to be most edifying.

Too numerous to list! Where Charity and Love Prevail (From Ubi Caritas)

4)Text is otherwise Liturgical or Scriptural Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (from the troparion from the Liturgy of St James), St Thomas’ Eucharistic Hymns (written for, and incorporated throughout, the liturgy on Corpus Christi aka Body & Blood), Dies Irae for funerals (from the EF, also used in the Office), Shepherd Me O God (loosely Ps 23)

1 through 3 overlap with 4 depending on whether the text is used on that particular day or season

5)Sacred Text not from the Liturgy or Scripture Prayer of St Francis, Canticle of the Sun, Immaculate Mary, O Mary We Crown Thee With Roses Today, Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, Abide With Me

6)Non-Sacred Texts (Do Not Use) Jerusalem, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Hallelujah (even if it is in reference to David, Sampson, et al.), Let It Be (That’s MaryJane), Let There Be Peace on Earth.

7)Heretical Texts (Do Not Use) Imagine (Nihilism) Ashes (Pelegianism), Sing a New Church (Where to begin?), Lord of the Dance

Great post!!!

Keep in mind that historically, “hymns” were not used at the Mass. The propers, that is the introit, gradual, alleluia verse, offertory, and communion antiphon were virtually all taken from scripture (verses from various books of the Bible and psalms). As such there could be no “bad” theology in them. They were usually selected for their appropriateness for the time of the year, the Mass readings, the saint or type of saint (BVM, apostle, martyr, etc). Everything was set up to fit together. Originally they were in Gregorian chant, but for a time sacred polyphony (and some of the Masses by the great composers) would be used as well. The official source for the propers in Gregorian chant (the proper music of the Church), is the Graduale Romanum, 1974 edition, for the Ordinary Form.

Hymns instead were used at the Divine Office. Hymns are different in that the texts are original compositions, not Biblical. They weren’t generally accepted at the Divine Office until about the 13th century for that very reason. Saint Ambrose was among the first to introduce hymns, which Saint Benedict rapidly adopted for the Monastic Office (and he called hymns “the ambrosian”). Initially the hymn was placed after the psalmody, first reading, and responsory. Eventually after Vatican II the hymn became a sort of “introit” to the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), and placed immediately after the opening verse.

The key point here is that the hymn’s purpose was to fight heresy and promote orthodox theological concepts. They weren’t insipid compositions. Take Vexilla Regis for example, chanted at Vespers of Holy Week:

  1. Abroad the Regal Banners fly,
    Now shines the Cross’s mystery;
    Upon it Life did death endure,
    And yet by death did life procure.

  2. Who, wounded with a direful spear,
    Did, purposely to wash us clear
    From stain of sin, pour out a flood
    Of precious Water mixed with Blood.

  3. That which the Prophet-King of old
    Hath in mysterious verse foretold,
    Is now accomplished, whilst we see
    God ruling nations from a Tree.

  4. O lovely and reflugent Tree,
    Adorned with purpled majesty;
    Culled from a worthy stock, to bear
    Those Limbs which sanctified were.

  5. Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore
    The wealth that did the world restore;
    The beam that did that Body weigh
    Which raised up hell’s expected prey.

  6. Hail, Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
    Now in this mournful Passion time,
    Improve religious souls in grace,
    The sins of criminals efface.

  7. Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring,
    May every soul Thy praises sing;
    To those Thou grantest conquest by
    The holy Cross, rewards apply. Amen.

The point I am trying to make is that for the Mass, and the Divine Office, the concept of “anything goes” is antithetical to the mysteries we are trying to celebrate.

If you open your missal, the entrance antiphon and communion antiphon, you’ll find are an English translation of the Latin propers, and the words will match the words that accompany the Gregorian score in the Graduale Romanum.

If we were to really follow in Church tradition, instead of insipid hymn texts, we would set these antiphons to music, preferably simple chant melodies that are adaptable to English (the more melismatic Gregorian melodies tend to not work very well in the vernacular); the Graduale Simplex could probably provide some inspiration as the melodies are much simpler.

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I meant hymn settings of the propers. There are motets and such that are almost entirely based on the propers but few English hymns w/o significant changes. Certainly the propers themselves are to be preferred, convincing a parish of that is, sadly, another issue.

I’m not being insulting nor am I being sarcastic. I am merely stating the variability in opinions regarding this topic that the OP is likely to receive. I’m truly sorry if you’re offended by my posts.

Are you including me in "those who criticize those of us who read the documents might try to actually read them themselves? :smiley: Methinks you are taking things way too personally. It’s perfectly acceptable in this forum to be critical of other viewpoints with which we disagree. Or do you disagree?

I totally agree with you in that “If the lyrics are not up to the standards of what the Church holds to be true,t hen they are not suitable for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” However, the point of contention frequently is what exactly constitutes “suitability”. Some lyrics we all can agree on, such as a previous poster’s disdain for John Lenon’s “Imagine” at a funeral…imagine there’s no religion… Other lyrics are not as clear, and you’ll have your opinion, I’ll have mine, and others will have others.

As far as reading and interpreting documents which pertain to this area, with all due respect may I say that you are not the ultimate authority on their interpretation and application as you seem to imply. Many here have read them, and disagree with your application(s) and/or interpretations. What you see as crystal clear doesn’t always square with what learned forumites see. :slight_smile:

Yes that is sadly true.

:):):):):):wink:

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