How liturgically correct is this?


#1

Hi all,
I've got a question regarding prelude music before Masses!

My parish is preparing Christmas music and our choir usually does a half hour of sung and instrumental prelude music before the evening Mass begins. The ensemble I'm a member of is a high-school ensemble and is quite good.

One of the songs we're considering doing for a prelude (not during the Mass or even right before) is Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant. Lyrics after the jump: metrolyrics.com/breath-of-heaven-lyrics-amy-grant.html

My question is, do these lyrics stray too far from what is theologically appropriate to the celebration, even if not performed during the liturgy itself? Musically, the arrangement we have is lovely (3 voices) and the three vocalists are excellent. Our parish tends to like this style of music, which is actually one reason I'd avoid it-- we lean a little toward the vanilla end of the music spectrum. :)

I want to make sure we perform music that is fitting to the theology and importance of the Christmas feast-- "how we pray is how we believe" and all that. I'd appreciate feedback from fellow Catholics on this! Thanks.


#2

What do you mean by "stray too far from what is theologically appropriate to the celebration"? The lyrics are what the artist thinks is going through Mary's mind during the time she was pregnant with Jesus. Seems appropriate for the season to me. Hence my question.


#3

Do you wonder as you watch my face

If a wiser one should have had my place?

Doesn't seem to agree with the Magnificat. :shrug:

I would prefer something like this,

youtube.com/watch?v=U5GUdUYUF8A

Words and music - christmas-carol-music.org/Lyrics/AngelGabriel.html

another version, youtube.com/watch?v=57NXP9VMSy0&feature=related


#4

Good point ! Why would Mary have doubts after saying “be it done to me according to Thy Word” ?


#5

No one experiences faith and doubt at the same time? They may sound like opposites but they can be intertwined. Remember that Mary "pondered all she saw in her life", she did not have the full understanding of everything.

Are you part of the choir or church staff?

If this is a serious concern of yours, a question should be posed to the choir director.

However, in your post you say the parish likes this type music and this one of the resaon I'd avoid it. Well, you made yourself certainly clear on that one!

Is this a theological issue or a style issue?


#6

Here's a little background material about the song written by Chris Eaton and performed/recorded by Amy Grant :
Song Facts; Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) by Amy Grant ; Songfacts

I think it is notable that Amy Grant was "very pregnant " when she recorded the song and also changed a lyric in the song - with Chris Eaton's permission, because she wanted to "write" it "from a woman's perspective".

The chorus of this song is beautiful in its simplicity: It's a prayer to the Holy Spirit and it can just as easily apply to each one of us in all times and circumstances :

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven

God the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.

Although the lyrics

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place?

. . . when taken alone, might not appear to agree with the Magnificat, I would interpret their sense as being expressed in retrospect - prior to the Magnificat , thus much more applicable to the Annunciation * and to our Blessed Mother's *Fiat (even though, for the sake of perhaps artistic expression some of the chronologicality appears confused).

We carry all the events of Our Blessed Lord's Incarnation and Nativity in our own minds at one time , but our Blessed Mother lived them as a sequence of events. The song doesn't strictly follow the same timeline.

As bzkoss236 says

[quote="bzkoss236, post:2, topic:306614"]
. . . The lyrics are what the artist thinks is going through Mary's mind during the time she was pregnant with Jesus. Seems appropriate for the season to me. . .

[/quote]

And insights can open up when we realize that the lyrics address both God and the listener in any given song verse.

Have a look at the first verse :

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I've done
Holy Father, You have come
And chosen me now to carry Your Son

The first two lines aren't really addressed to God, they're addressed to the listener. God already knows how many nights, whether moon, how cold , how weary . . . knows about the "babe inside" , since He himself is that Babe. But the last two lines of the first verse do definitely address God.

If we proceed to the third and final verse, we find a similar structure :

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of Your plan
Help me be strong, help me be, help me.

In the the first two lines of the verse , it can't really be God who is "wondering" - that would mean He'd be second guessing His own choice. So those particular words would more likely be for us - the listeners. Quite frankly, if there had been any woman wiser than our Blessed Mother, she remains hidden in history.

Keeping in mind that the song is supposed to be coming from our Blessed Mother's perspective, how else could it be worded ? If She were to call herself the wisest of women, it would definitely clash with her profound humility - wouldn't it ? And trying to substitute another word for wise - such as worthy , will render just about the same result.

Where I see the proof of our Blessed Mother's true wisdom , is in the words addressed to God that directly follow in the same verse:

But I offer all I am
For the mercy of Your plan

The Mother of our great "High Priest" Whom she carries in her womb and Who ultimately offers himself for our salvation , already offers herself totally to God for this same purpose.

As a song for reflection or preparation prior to celebration , I personally believe Breath of Heaven can be a powerful tool , even a prayer , but I also think it would be a weak candidate for consideration of liturgical use , only because of the unintentional confusion it might cause.

:)


#7

Well, to be honest, they sang this last year as a prelude to our Midnight Mass. (They sang it terribly, but that's another story.. :D) So I guess our parish Priest didn't have any trouble with it.

That being said, there are a few trouble spots in the lyrics (again, take this with as much salt as you want; I'm just a layman and an armchair theologian..):

  1. "I wonder what I've done" - what exactly is Our Blessed Mother supposed to be wondering about? What has she "done"?

  2. "Must I walk this path alone?" - and what is St. Joseph, then? Chopped liver? :confused:

  3. "lighten my darkness" - this is a Protestant view of Mary, not a Catholic one. The Immaculate Conception and "darkness" do not match.

  4. "If a wiser one should have taken my place" - Fulton Sheen would turn in his grave at this one. After reading his wonderful exposition of Proverbs 8:22 passim and its application to Mary, this really sounds awkward.

It's not terrible, but I prefer the Magnificat :). Or "O Holy Night".


#8

:thumbsup: i think you’ve hit the nail on the head and i would address my concerns to the appropriate person on behalf of the entire parish.


#9

In songs which aren’t liturgical, it isn’t uncommon that one part of the song - more than another, stays with us after hearing it - the part of the song that strikes us most clearly ; the first part we remember when that song comes to mind.

Particularly in our present world, where we seem to always be in a constant rush to get things done, we often end up retaining only snippets of some things where it concerns songs, and chronology doesn’t usually take prority in contemporary pop, as long as some kind of message is conveyed.

Liturgy, on the other hand, is not geared specifically to the individual, but rather to the individual that prays together within a defined group of individuals ; our Catholicism being what defines us in this case. So liturgy can’t afford to confuse chronology since precision is required to recount the truth in its entirety.

If we were to examine the first verse again, we can find at least one example of where the chronology becomes somewhat confused. Here is the first verse again with the middle line , “And I wonder what I’ve done” , removed :

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside.
(. . . )
Holy Father, You have come
And chosen me now to carry Your Son

The way that is written, it can be interpreted as if a woman who has beeen carrying a child for a considerable time, despite being "cold and weary " has suddenly been chosen by God, while she is already pregnant, to bear His Son. This is principally due to how the word “now” has been used in the final line of the verse.

This confusion/conclusion isn’t what is intended, but it is what can happen when chronology is cast aside in the name of artistic license , license which in turn can be conducive (albeit unintentionally) to transmission of innacuracies.


#10

Thanks so much everybody :) This has been really helpful. In response to one question, I am a leader and member of the choir and do have some input as to what is performed.

I'd been struggling a bit with the verse content that several have pointed out here; but wasn't sure exactly how to elucidate my concerns. I'm concluding that the song is okay for, say, a Christmas concert where a bit more artistic license can be taken-- but in/before a Mass celebration I'm going to suggest something a little more traditional that avoids confusion about Mary's role, the chronology, and our Marian traditions.

Thank you! It may seem like a trivial question to some, I know... but I'd rather not mess around with Christmas or the Blessed Mother :)


#11

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