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11 March 2005


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John Huntley

Rather than focus on the entire church, I'll comment on a few items for here in the United States. There are already wonderful hymns in Latin are appropriate to the the entire Church.

My concern is that the music is prayerful. Does it match the liturgy? Does the "instrumentation" match the season and the readings? I should also comment that I am not a "music minister" or "Choir director". However, I am called to sing.

There are times to the ligurgical seasons (the end of lent and the tridium in particular) where singing is unaccompanied. To my mind, this encourages those listening to focus more closely on the words.

For those of us who sing in a choir, we have to remember that "those who sing pray twice". We must always be prayerful in our singing - even if there are times when it must be LOUD. Even if we have heard and sung a song so many times over the years that it begins to feel like "turkey's wings".

As far as the preferred instrument - Organ, it can be wonderful and uplifting or it can (at it's worst) be played as a Calliope. But it is not the only instrument that can lend a circus flair to a liturgy. LOUD contemporary worship music n=can take away from the focus on the celebaration of the Eucharist. A "Windam Hill-esque" piano version of "Kumbia" (sp?) played as a communion mediation recently brought me to a "what? Why? Why that?" state of mind. Then again, this particular parish claps after the Communion mediation. (Performance).

I don't believe that there is a simple answer to the questions about "feel", "do", "think". Certain types of music and certain instruments are, to my opinion, much like praying the rosary. It is not appropriate DURING mass. The focus is on the Eucharist and not on individual devotions. Music is supportive of the liturgy but not the focus. I have been part of small groups singing at mass. When comments have been made about "sounded good", I have too often not remembered to point to the Crucifix and say "put the credit where it belongs".

You asked about music in comparison to stained glass windows. They both teach us. Since the windows are much more permanent, it is more likely that the "message" will be appropriate. However, I have been surprised by some stained glass windows. The first time I saw those at Guardian Angel Cathedral in Las Vegas, my reaction was "Wow, right out of a Marvel Comic book". I am in LV annually for a conference. Since that first time, my response has changed as I mediate on them and see the deeper message in the images on the glass.

What I was leading to is that portions of the music in the OCP hymnals have very suspect Theology.

When was the last time you heard a priest preach using the wonderful visuals of the stained glass windows? But we continually sing and hear songs that lead us in directions that are not part of the church teaching. The focus is on making us feel good rather than giving praise, honor, glory and thanksgiving to God. We do not hear of our sinfulness and our brokenness and the wonderful gift of the saving grace of God nearly as much as I believe we should.

My wife and I have somewhat of an argument over the song "Ashes". We both agree that it is an example of suspect theology. While she would "chuck the entire thing", I believe that simply removing the first verse is sufficient. It comes to mind as we have sung it again during this Lent.

"We rise again from Ashes, From the good we've failed to do" "We rise again from ashes to create ourselves anew"

I will argue with: "We" rise? We "create ourselves"?

Jesus rose. We are lifted up. We are Gods creation.

We are blessed to be allowed to participate in that creation - but not of creating ourselves. (reference to Theology of the body)

Words are important. Fidelity to early translations of the Bible is also important. Changing the words of a hymn may also change the theology of it. "It is only a minor change and unimportant" resonates very strongly in me as a parallel to "I'll still respect you".

We live in a time and society that does not encourage us to ponder and think things through. Maybe we have come to uncritically accept that "New and Improved" really is both.

I guess I just like the older hymns. I look forward to the next time EWTN carries a Mass from the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in DC. I'll hope that they play an old standard hymn like "For all the Saints". It is amazing how compelling the Organ and singing can sound even on computer speakers.

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