What's a hymn for?

“if the Mass is meant to take us to the threshold of heaven; if it is meant to be a glimpse of glory and a participation in the worship of the spheres of heaven itself, why then the sentimental, sweet and comforting songs just won’t do. They won’t do not because they are bad or untrue, but because they are not good and true enough. Worship that takes us to the threshold of glory needs to be, well…glorious.”


Needless to say, I agree. :slight_smile:

So do I - to a point.

So much of the stuff out there is trite ****. The tricky part is defining “beauty”, which can be a subjective definition. Redemptoris Sacramentum and other church documents try to shed some light on it, but in the end, it is still somewhat subjective - or perhaps more than “somewhat”.

Quite right. The trick (but not really) is to think with the mind of the Church, the sensus Ecclesiae. To think and act with the whole tradition and history and theology of the Church. Pope John Paul II said this quite explicitly in his Chirograph on the Centenary of Piux X’s motu proprio on sacred music. He said that an artist (musician, composer) must be “profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae”. This is a responsibility that every person who works in Catholic sacred music has a duty to live up to.

I agree with that. The good news seems to be that we do have composers today who are stepping up to the plate. One example of a new composition coming out of tradition that I can think of is Steven Janco’s “Draw Near”, which takes the old hymn text “Draw near and take the body of your Lord” and sets it to new music, with a very memorable and singable refrain for the people while the cantor sings the hymn text in the verses. You can also see examples in some chant melodies used in new compositions.

A writer doing a bad imitation of Screwtape once wrote that some modern people want to sing, “Let us build the city of God”, and old traditionalists want to sing, “Mother Dear, O Pray for me”–and both are forgetting that what Mother Dear is praying for is PRECISELY to build the City of God.

The article is just one man’s opinion. It is not any kind of official dogma of the Church.

It is a legitimate opinion and I respect it, but I disagree.

I don’t have time to delve into the answer to the question right now, but I will say this: there is more to hymnody than taking us to the threshhold of heaven and letting us participate in the worship of heaven itself. There are hymns that teach, hymns that comfort, hymns that energize.

Above all else, hymns are communal. I can go home and sing a hymn, but the purpose of a hymn is corporate worship–worship that I do with other people. I think that we cannot leave out this corporate aspect of making music in the Mass. The Mass IS a gathering of God’s people around the Table of Sacrifice. It is not a private devotion time.

Frankly, I think we are full of ego if we think ANY of our silly human hymns, including Gregorian chant, come anywhere near to the music of heaven.

But that’s OK. To God, a mom singing a lullaby about Jesus to her child is worshipping Him, and the worship is no less than a choir singing a magnificent oratorio.

The blog entry addressed that - some hymns are better for devotional purposes, some are better for mass. Not all music is good at all times and in all places.

How is this a disagreement with the blog entry posted by the OP? He didn’t advocate that people give up singing hymns. People can sing God-centric hymns communally. A hymn doesn’t have to be about the community for the community to sing it. The blong entry even advocated that we not rely on hymns written for choirs and soloists, but instead sing ones written for congregational singing.

Huh? I hope you’re not a bare-minimum “I only care about Church dogma, and nothing else” Catholics.

It is a legitimate opinion and I respect it, but I disagree.

You write as though there are only two categories. Dogma, and everybody’s equally valid opinion. Did you detect no restatement of any Church teaching regarding sacred music and the liturgy in the blog entry?

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