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Monday, October 25, 2010

Questionable Theology: Do lyrics come into play when choosing songs for the Mass?

I don't want to sound bitter.  I'm not an old crumudgeon.  It's just that one can only take so much bad music.  With the Church's vast treasury of Sacred Music, I am perplexed as to why we seem to be stuck in what amounts to be a liturgical version of "Groundhog Day".  We seem to relive the old 70s-80s songs week in and week out.  

While there are some songs that are not that bad, there are not a few of them that, lamentably, have quite a bit of questionable theology (or, worse bad theology that is not reflective of the Catholic Faith) and have made their way into the Mass.

Among these is Gather Us In, a song that was written in the 1980s.  Along with the fact that this song could easily have been merged into Gordon Lightfoot's Wreck of the Emdond Fitzgerald, the lyrics do not jibe with Catholic liturgical and sacramental theology.  First of all, the emphasis is on the community. God is not even mentioned directly in the song. He seems to be an after-thought. Inasmuch as St. Paul says "when we eat this bread and drink this cup..", Haugen's song waters down what happens at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Inasmuch as we join our offerings to the priest, it is he who offers the Holy Sacrifice in our name (and his) to the Father.   One of the most offensive lines to me is "not in some heaven, light years away". What Haugen and his suppporters do not understand is that it is during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that heaven and earth unite. The Mass is supposed to help prepare us for that heavenly banquet.

Whatever happened to using beautiful hymns like All Creatures of Our God and King, Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Christ is Made the Sure Foundation, The Church's One Foundation, At the Lamb's High Feast We Sing and Shepherd of Souls?  Along with being sacred, these hymns are also rich in the Church's liturgical and sacramental theology.  Because hymns are also prayers that are prayed during the Mass, what we sing is just as important a component of the liturgy  because it needs to jibe with the rest of the Holy Sacrifice.

Gather Us In makes some plea about "giving us courage".  If anyone needs courage, it's the courage to finally put this bad song to rest once and for all.

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