Friday, November 03, 2006

The Hymnody of "Now"

Thomas Howard (Chance or the Dance?) questions the 'current' inanity:

I hear from my young friends that there is a song abroad now, apparently widely sung, in which God is hailed as being “awesome.” Which of course He is.

...St. Joseph the Hymnographer (ninth century), Venantius Fortunatus (sixth century), Bernard of Cluny (twelfth century), and Peter Abelard (twelfth century), for example, all wrote hymns for their contemporaries. So did Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and William Cowper—all Protestants whose hymns are finally trickling into Catholic use. But the language of these hymns was never drawn from slang; and the sentiments adduced tended to draw us all away from the precincts of chit-chat into the courts where the seraphim sing.

Put it another way: There is something at work in worthy hymnody, if we consult the first 19 centuries, that arises neither from my current feelings about God nor from my daily chat.

This is a most difficult point to urge in our own time, when the breathless notion of “Now!” rules everyone's sensibilities. If the touchstone of praise is to be how my generation feels, where does this locate us all in those courts? Is there nothing to be gained by my setting on one side my own language, priorities, agenda, fancies, and impulses, and approaching the courts of the Most High seeking all the assistance I can get from the venerable throng of the faithful who have offered worship to Him for eons? Have I nothing to learn? Is there nothing which might be ganz andere (wholly other) from my imagination, fed as it has been by very loud, ebullient, and contemporary music and texts?

We might, for a start, join the second-century Christians in singing, “Father, we thank thee who hast planted / Thy holy word within our hearts.”

Wherein Mr. Howard suggests that one might glance at the shoulders one stands upon--it's a perspective on reality which discourages the deification of the created.

HT: Blosser, (of course)

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