Worship, Third, Points of View II

worship thirdI noticed CMAA is onto this series, at least the first post. Their opinions in a growing thread there:

This is a strange conversation.

Yea, even bizarre!

Largely agreed.

And then there’s:

Troll by proxy

Indeed. They sure spent more than a collective fifteen minutes writing and discussing. Seems I’m not dead yet. I’m rather surprised chant folks would even be interested in W3. There are a lot of contemporary texts represented in this tome. At any rate, GIA still offers the third edition of Worship on its website. Why look at it? It’s history. A snapshot of the post-conciliar Church in the US in the 80’s.

The past few days I’ve been looking at a section under the heading of Praise, and it’s interesting. If you’re following in your book at home, these are numbers 527 through 551–another 25 selections.

Here’s what I found:

  • Nine pieces cited Scripture explicitly. Most of those were psalms. Total so far: forty-ish percent. A nice setting of Psalm 98 I’ve always loved: Timothy Dudley Smith’s “Sing A New Song to the Lord” set by David Wilson. It’s a great jazzy tune and GIA was wise to include it in Gather To Remember, its contemporary effort from the early 80’s. An overlooked gem. A non-explicit example: “Praise To The Lord” owes much to Psalm 103, though the editors don’t acknowledge that.
  • Just like last week’s 25 selections, twenty-one were clearly hymns with stanzas. Three had refrains/choruses/antiphons–however you want to call it. One more was Taize. So far, more than 80% stanza hymnody.

How do “praise” hymns address God? Eighteen refer to God as “Him,” like he’s eavesdropping on our sung conversations. Three go with “You.” One of those is Michael Perry’s fine text “O God Beyond All Praising.” Maybe this is my prejudice, but I wonder about a clear two-third’s majority of hymns not bothering to address God directly. Isn’t that worship? Maybe you have other ideas.

Six of these texts speak of Christians as “you.” Ten have the “we” perspective. Some mix it up.

To be clear, I’m not offering a traditional review, at least not in a way I’ve ever read. And just because a particular hymn is a certain way–I’m not necessarily critical of that. This survey really looks at the big picture of this hymnal. So far, I’d say my beef is with the indirect reference to God. And I notice a lot of 20th century texts do this. Is this a flaw like that pop song “From A Distance”? Are we so unsure of our place in the family of God that we keep a distance? No wonder Catholics sit in the back pew. Or stay away. Or maybe you have another observation.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Worship, Third, Points of View II

  1. Todd, how would you translate (Aramaic) “alleluia?”

  2. Liam says:

    It should be noted that the second person/third person toggle is a feature of the Book of Psalms, so the practice flows into our hymn lyrics.

  3. Thank ye both. I didn’t recognize a disconnect regarding that with hymnody/songs.

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