Songs at Mass Review (10/31/10)

Oh, boy. At the early Mass today at Parish A, got both a winner of a song and shanghaied into singing it.

The long term choir director, who is a very nice guy and a good musician, in whose choirs I and my kids used to sing years ago, saw me in the pews and collared me to help him lead the singing – he had issues with his voice (cold?) and had only one other person in his choir show up, and I’m loud and can read music, So –

I’m standing at his side at a lectern very purposely set so that one’s back is directly to the tabernacle, singing  this beauty:

What Is This Place

  1. What is this place where we are meeting? Only a house, the earth its floor.
    Walls and a roof sheltering people, windows for light, an open door.
    Yet it becomes a body that lives when we are gathered here, and know our God is near.
  2. Words from afar, stars that are falling, sparks that are sown in us like seed:
    names for our God, dreams, signs and wonders sent from the past are all we need.
    We in this place remember and speak again what we have heard:
    God’s free redeeming word.
  3. And we accept bread at this table, broken and shared, a living sign.
    Here in this world, dying and living, we are each other’s bread and wine.
    This is the place where we can receive what we need to increase:
    our justice and God’s peace.

By some act of divine mercy, I have for nigh these many years been spared this, this *thing*. Let’s dig in:

Verse 1 is a clear Protestant counter-argument to what the Church has asserted for 1500+ years – that the ‘house’ where the people gather to celebrate the Eucharist is, by that fact AND by it being dedicated and consecrated to that purpose by the local bishop, a holy place, sacred, held in esteem and reverence by the People of God. It is part of our reverence due to God to reverence the places where He is made manifest and gives Himself to us for our salvation. This is one of those things that is so self-evident to both the mind and the heart that it takes a special effort, a discreet act of will, to deny it. Such an effort is, in many ways, the heart and soul of the Protestant Revolution.

Furthermore, the Body of Christ is usually present there in the tabernacle – He is not waiting for us to show up in order for His House to become holy. God Himself has made it holy by His Presence. But even if He is not present in the Eucharist at the moment, His House remains holy, because He has made it holy.

So, no – as a Catholic standing in a Catholic church celebrating the Eucharist – I cannot sing these words. But I did, because I had 2 minutes to look over the music before hand, and was sight-singing the tune in my head to make sure I had it right – so the first time I actually read the words was when I was singing them. Out loud. In front of a couple hundred innocent people.

May God have mercy on my soul.

I was concentrating on getting it right, so the full horror of the text didn’t get through until later. But I still feel like I hit somebody’s cat with the car – whether or not it’s my fault, I just wish I hadn’t.

The second verse is largely incoherent. I suspect this is not just a sign of a poor text incompetently translated, but rather a characteristic of this sort of music – the sort of rigorous logical superstructure that supports even the often over-the-top emotionalism of songs like Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All and many Latin hymns is anathema to Protestants, for the same reasons they have rejected Thomism – they don’t like where it leads. But do note the thrust: All we need is God’s redeeming Word.

Last I checked, Sola scriptura wasn’t Catholic doctrine.

Verse 3 is the one that gets Today’s Hip Catholic all a-thither – here, we deny the True Presence, and substitute Wonderful, Perfect Us in its place. Hey, *we’re* the ones in this world, dying and living, and what we need to get the job done is *our* justice. And God’s peace – which, in this context, probably means not having to listen to whiny guys like me who, you know, actually try to understand what is being said. Read it again with the above comments in mind –

And we accept bread at this table, broken and shared, a living sign.
Here in this world, dying and living, we are each other’s bread and wine.
This is the place where we can receive what we need to increase:
our justice and God’s peace.

So, bad on so many levels. The tune, a 17th century Dutch ditty, is solid and unremarkable.

Just in case you think I’m reading too much into this, we  closed with an execrable modern hymn – God Has Chosen Me. Rather than paste in the lyrics, such as they are, I’ll simple mention that, over the course of 3 verses, we are reminded about a dozen times that God has chosen *ME*! and, rather than reacting with fear and trembling, as, for example, Moses, Jonah or Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when it became clear that God wanted them to do HIS will, even unto death, we sort of prance around and pat ourselves on the back for doing God’s work, sort of congratulating God for having the wisdom to choose Wonderful, Right-Thinking ME! to do His will.

To recap:

Moses: You mean, ME? You gotta be kidding! I freeze up in front of crowds, the royal family is not going to be happy to see me back, and – can’t you get somebody else?

Jonah: You mean, ME? Whoa. Those creeps in Nineveh will have my behind on a platter faster than you can say sackcloth and ashes! I’m outta here…

Jesus: Humiliation, torture, crucifixion, death? Father, please, no!

Us: Woo Hoo! God has chosen ME! Rock on! Just leave it to me, God – I’ll see that your justice gets done! Check back in a few, and I’ll tell you how it’s working out.

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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