Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Glory and Praise" In Perspective

Anthony Esolen, with bit HT to The Jester.

I've recently been strapping on the swamp boots to wade through something called Glory and Praise, perhaps the most commonly used Roman Catholic hymnal in the United States and Canada. Oh, it is sloppy and noisome work, logging the bathos, stupidity, banality, heresy, and textual vandalism. I've concluded, though, that there is one factor that touches every problem, something that helps explain these apparently disparate acts of mischief:

-- the neutering of old masculine language about mankind and even God

-- the heedless fouling up of the old poetry, to update a "thou" and a "thee"

-- the seizing of every chance to talk about dancing (not to be found in the New Testament, I suspect, unless it's Salome) and about the motherhood of God"

-- in general, the louche emphasis upon feelings, not repentance, but soft and syrupy feelings

-- the blithe arrogation of God's words to ourselves, speaking in the first person

-- the arrogation of God's grace and majesty to ourselves: "We are the Bread, we are the Body"-- the celebration of our own wonderfulness, and the decrying of sin-- that is, other people's sins

-- the abandonment of traditional liturgical forms, traditional poetry and song -- all relegated to the status of the "old fashioned," for trotting out, like Grandmama's silver, at certain feasts, and that's it

-- the passing along of counterfeit "folk" music, actually performance music, like "Do You Remember the Kind of September," only not nearly as good

-- the mincing baby-talk in the verses, along with a bogus primitivism, a la the Indians in Hollywood: "You are child of the universe."

It's narcissism, all of it. It's the pretty boy at the side of the pool, gazing upon his image in the water, ignoring his parents, the woman in love with him, the reality of the world around him. He wants to remain a pretty boy forever -- he wants a disembodied "union" with no ties to the past, no duties to his fellows, and no law to obey. It's music that encourages a choir full of American Idols, shimmying and shaking and calling attention to themselves, while envying one another (I'll bet some of our bloggers have stories about infighting among the twenty self-appointed soloists of a "Christian" choir).

What's missing from the hymnal? Oh, music, poetry -- and one thing above all: the Cross. The Cross sure does seem a fine cure for narcissism. In all our arguments about ordination and (in the Catholic church) lay "ministry," nobody ever says, "I want the right to be ordained a priest because I demand to be crucified!" Or, "I want to serve as a lector because I want to be crucified!" Hardly -- these things and many more are considered clerical plums that everybody ought to be able to pop in the mouth, if they choose. We are Church, don't you know, not to mention Bread and Body and God Almighty. If there is a single new "hymn" that is written in the shadow of the Cross, encouraging the taking up of what will leave your back stooped and your shoulders cut with splinters, I haven't seen it. Meanwhile, a part of my own crucifixion seems to be the necessity of listening to it all, and watching the performers. Silence would be infinitely better.

That sums it up well.


RAG said...

Mr. E. has too much free time on his hands. If he doesn't like Glory and Praise, that's his choice. And he's free to write his own hymnal.

I will agree, however, that many of the songs in Glory and Praise are a bit simplistic. There's often better contemporary works out there but not in one hymnal.

Brother James said...

We've got the St. Michael (OCP) hymnal, and while it does have a hefty helping of lefty yelping, our parish avoids most of it. We're treated to "One Bread, One Body" a couple times a year, with a dash of "Here I am, Lord". No eagles wings, thankfully.

Dad29 said...

You sure that's OCP?

I have a St. Mike's which is out of Indiana--at that time, (maybe 3 or 4 years ago) it was not an OCP product.

And it was pretty clean, too.

Brother James said...

Mayhaps not OCP, but if you look at the list of hymns, not only will you see O Salutaris Hostia, but you'll find On Eagles Wings as well. Thankfully, I can't remember singing it here. Amnesia can be a mercy.

RAG said...

(sigh) Maybe y'all should start a St. Judge Right-Wing Catholic Church of the Hopeless Good Old Plastic Jesus.

Dad29 said...

rag, it is perfectly legitimate for well-informed individuals to make "judgments" on music for the Church, just as it is perfectly legitimate to judge actions of (say) criminals.

I hope you are not disputing that contention, rag--or your time as an LEO was completely wasted.

xxxxxx said...

Why can't I prefer one sort of music over another? I grew up on Glory and Praise and I think it's time is over. It isn't contemporary, it's old-fashioned. I am sick of hearing it and would prefer silence or timeless music rather than "Hear I am Lord" or "Taste and See". Let the Church progress out of the 70's!

RAG said...

Diana, you sure have a good point. I agree that Glory and Praise could be getting long in the tooth. I, too, would like to see newer compositions.

Fortunately, my parish does not use Glory and Praise. We have licensing arrangements which allows us to have a broader range of music. We print up mass sheets each week which collect from several sources. To use just one hymnal is pretty boring.

Dad29 said...

" pretty boring..."

That says a mouthful, rag...