Doctrine vs Lord of the Dance

SimpleGifts.pngOne of the more curious interpretations is how the USCCB Doctrine Committee handled the popular text, “Lord of the Dance.” Before I get to that, let me say that my first introduction to the tune in a liturgical setting was to the text of “Simple Gifts.” When I went to the Midwest for full-time ministry, I was surprised and a little dismayed to find Joseph Brackett’s Shaker lyrics replaced by what I thought was an inferior (and admittedly unfamiliar) set of words.

Here’s the relevant analysis from pages 10-11 of the Catholic Hymnody document:

I’ve never seen “holy people” capitalized. I think the poem has problems in a liturgical setting, but being anti-Jewish is hardly one of them. This is less sarcasm and more a critique Jesus offered to poke at the self-satisfied religious.

The Reproaches are on unsteady ground in comparison. This site does identify them as a testimony against the Chosen People. I’d agree that the bishops’ interpretation of the Improperia is more mainstream these days, but it could easily be argued it’s a point of confusion, especially with self-styled orthodox sites trumpeting otherwise.

If I were in some purple chair, I’d use the Shaker tune and text, and forget “Lord of the Dance.” I think there are better alternatives to the Reproaches. A new and clarified text there would be welcome.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in bishops, Liturgical Music. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Doctrine vs Lord of the Dance

  1. Liam says:

    Well, so far as I can tell and hear, “Lord of The Dance” was euthanized a long time ago in most places that once used it. #DeathByBecomingHackneyed. (It has company in former warhorses that preceded it.)

    “Simple Gifts” may fit as a devotional song in a specific spiritual development context, but it’s notably lacking in any divine referent, let alone a Christological one, so its aptness for use in ordinary liturgy is at least questionable.

  2. Liam says:

    Btw, apparently the USCCB committee is not alone in taking that broader possible view of “holy people” (with or without the ini caps). Ten years ago, this reflection from an author in a Quaker journal about years of back and forth on this [link to be provided in ensuing reply]

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