Music at Mass: July 17, 2011

At Parish C this week.

Gather Us In
Gather Us In – and get Kracken!

The opening hymn:

Gather Us In

Here in this place, new light is streaming
Now is the darkness vanished away
See in this space our fears and our dreamings
Brought here to you in the light of this day

Refrain
Gather us in the lost and forsaken
Gather us in the blind and the lame
Call to us now and we shall awaken
We shall arise at the sound of our name

Verse 2
We are the young our lives are a mystery
We are the old who yearn for you face
We have been sung throughout all of history
Called to be light to the whole human race

Refrain 2
Gather us in the rich and the haughty
Gather us in the proud and the strong
Give us a heart so meek and so lowly
Give us the courage to enter the song

Verse 3
Here we all take the wine and the water
Here we will take the bread of new birth
Here you shall call your sons and your daughters
Call us anew to be salt for the earth

Refrain 3
Give us to drink the wine of compassion
Give us to eat the bread that is you
Nourish us well, and teach us to fashion
Lives that are holy and hearts that are true

Verse 4
Not in the dark of buildings confining
Not in some heaven, light-years away
here in this place the new light is shining
Now is the Kingdom, now is the day

Refrain 4
Gather us in and hold us forever
Gather us in and make us your own
Gather us in all peoples together
Fire of love in our peoples together

Word Count Exercise:

Us, We, Our, Ours, People, Peoples: 30 instances

God, Jesus, Lord, (and related terms, such as Savior, King, etc): 0 instances.

There’s a ‘you’ and a ‘your’ used a few times, and, by default, we’d presumably think we’re addressing God (although the publishers. at least, avoided capitalizing the words to remove all doubt). But I don’t see that we have to – in this school of hymn writing, vagueness and the resulting dogmatic flexibility, as it were, are virtues. This could be all about us.

This place, presumably, is a church (or church building, or, better, gathering place – again, let’s not commit…). Now, Catholics differ from the bulk of our separated christian brethren in believing that the holiness of a church building is not merely a function of the people gathering there in God’s name. It is a result of the building being dedicated to God in the celebration of the Eucharist, and, most import, as the House of God in the Eucharist. So, a Catholic Church is not just a place or a space – it is holy ground. (On the Roman calendar, there are a series of feasts celebrating the dedications of churches, hardly something you’d have for mere gathering places.)

In verse 3, we have some Eucharistic images, including the line ‘the bread that is (small ‘y’) you’. OK, so, again, a generous, out of context reading of this line could be read to mean what Catholics mean by the Eucharist – but that’s a stretch in context.

Overall, this song goes out of its way not to mention God by any of his Names, but consists of endless references to us, and vague petitions, such as joining the song and awakening (in Church? Not with all this racket going on!)

So, why are we singing this song at Mass in a Catholic Church? It makes perfect sense for a fallen-away Lutheran, (to the Church of Christ) , which is what Haugen reportedly is. But it’s not all that subtly non-Catholic in its thrust. I guess you’d have to 1) know a little bit about Catholicism, and 2) read the hymn critically in order to figure this out.

So, can I sing this song? I’m still undecided: the degree of generosity needed to read it as Catholic borders on self-delusion.

Somehow, I’ve managed to miss Those Who See the Light these many years – lucky me.

1. Those who see light can walk in the dark.
Those who see love can see God.
Those who look up will discover God’s face,
those who look down will uncover God’s path,
those who perceive God is here with us now
will see God’s return.

2. Those who see light can walk in the dark.
Those who see love can see God.
Those who have witnessed the sunrise and set,
those who have studied a flower unfold,
those who have focused on land, sea, and sky
have seen Jesus Christ.

3. Those who see light can walk in the dark.
Those who see love can see God.
Those who see good in each person they meet,
those who look after their neighbors in need,
those who believe God’s now living in them
will see God’s return.

Cut to the chase: I guess I can sing this. Insipid, infantile music and lyrics that probably trigger LSD flashbacks in the target demographic. The words don’t even make sense – are you in the dark, still, once you see light? I thought ‘lamp unto my feet’ was what we are after, not ‘the miracle of the walking in the dark yet not barking our shins’. Horrible, wretched little piece – but not heretical.

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Author: Joseph Moore

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

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