Music at Mass: Palm Sunday, 2011

Honest, I’m trying not to whine. The people in this parish are a really good group, the priests have, after all, given their lives to this work – good intentions and actual holiness abound.

The music, however, almost always sucks at Parish A. What is really needed is a young, orthodox priest who can, with heroic patience and good-will, simply lay down the law: we will not fall into these errors. We will consider whether, for example, the Eucharistic theology expressed in the text is something our Protestant and Evangelical brethren would agree with, and if so, NOT USE IT. We will consider whether individuals with broad and inclusive yet highly refined and experienced musical taste consider the musical content of the piece to be worthy of the standards and tradition of the last thousand or so years of Catholic liturgical music, not just the last 40.

And so on. We all know the drill.

Today, we sang musically execrable commons. The texts, although manhandled in the usual way to fit tunes with a certain forced symmetry not native to the English texts, were not heretical – hey, count your blessings. Aside from that, we sang a curious and interesting song for communion “Our Blessing Cup” by Bob Hurd. What makes this song interesting is that 1. it is very scriptural, yet 2. it manages to miss the uniquely Catholic character of the Eucharist. The text of the refrain is from 1 Cor. 10:16 – straight up St. Paul, how could you go wrong?

Our blessing cup is a communion with the blood of Christ
And the bread we break, it is sharing the body of the Lord.

How can we make a return for all the goodness God has shown?
We will take the cup of life, and call upon God’s name.

Precious indeed in Your sight, the life and death of those You love. We are Your
servants, for You have set us free.

and so on.

The communion hymn is one obvious and painless place to express the Catholic theology of the Eucharist. Yet, here, we use a scripture passage that can and has been understood by our separated brethren to express the decidedly non Catholic (anti-Catholic, really, if you read, for example, Hegel) belief that the Eucharist is not really the Body and Blood of Christ, but is, you know, a communion with Christ’s Body and Blood (whatever that means). So, this hymn’s impact could have been greatly enhanced by taking the verse text from John 6 – My Flesh is real food, my Blood real drink, unless you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood you shall not have life within you.

Instead, as is so often the case with liturgical music from the last 40 years, we express one thought somewhat ambiguously in the refrain, and then sort of leave it hanging as we take a tour of some other possibly related thoughts in the verses. The goal seems to be to achieve a miasma of warm feeling that won’t offend our Presbyterian or Church of Christ brethren – which shouldn’t  really be a prime goal in the sacred Liturgy of the Catholic Church.

Not to mention the soap-opera theme school of music style.

Real Music, With Real Theology! As Sally says: That’s my knew philosophy.

Author: Joseph Moore

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

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