Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Something We've Been Trying to Say for Decades... reiterated in this excellent article by Roseanne Sullivan.  I will let you read for yourself what she has to say, but I'll enter some snarky-ish thoughts of my own.

This "four hymn sandwich" (or as the kids say these days, the "four hymn sammich") is often not just any old "four hymn sandwich", but one of very particular ingredients.  It has, however, evolved a bit in the past few decades.

In the late 1950's/early 1960's, some hymnals were producing a new category (I have a New Saint Basil Hymnal kicking around to prove it), called "Hymns for Low Mass".  In the 1960's/1970's, there were still categories "Entrance Hymns", "Offertory Hymns", "Communion Hymns", and "Recessional Hymns".  And the hymns were more or less "functional".  They didn't do much in praising God.  Well, some.  But they seemed to sing more about what the priest is doing, or what the people in the pews are doing at that given moment. 

Let me give you an example of what I mean here...

Entrance hymns:
* Enter, O People of God (People's Mass Book)
* With Joyful Hearts We Enter (Celebrating the Eucharist)
* We Gather Together (the Omer Westendorf text in particular; People's Mass Book)
* God's Holy Mountain We Ascend (People's Mass Book)
- - The last two also appear in Seasonal Missalette, formerly Monthly Missalette.

Offertory hymns:
* All That I Am (People's Mass Book)
* Lord, Accept the Gifts We Offer (Celebrating the Eucharist)
* What You Gave Us for Our Taking (Monthly/Seasonal Missalette)
* All that We Have (Glory and Praise)

Communion hymns:
Just about anything with a Eucharistic theme (some with decent music, some with less-than-decent music).  That took on an evolution of its own, which I'll describe shortly.
Recessional hymns:
* Go Forth among the People (Monthly/Seasonal Missalette)
* God's Blessing Sends Us Forth (People's Mass Book)
* Go, Make of All Disciples (Worship II and III)
* Go (Lead Me, Guide Me)
* Sent Forth by God's Blessing (People's Mass Book)

You get the picture.  Oftentimes, hymns of actual praise (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, Now Thank We All Our God, Holy God, we Praise Thy Name, et al.) got placed in the Entrance and Recessional hymns category.  And at times, Eucharistic hymns got placed at the Offertory (especially if the choir sang a motet or anthem at Communion).

Now you hardly ever hear the words "Entrance hymn" anymore.  They liturgical liberals (the loony left) use a "Gathering song".  And that's what it seems to talk about - gathering!  Not to mention the music is of a much lesser quality than the four "Entrance hymns" I mentioned above.  Prime examples of the so-called "Gathering song" are...
* Gather Us In (which has not one mention or invoking of God or Jesus in it)
* All Are Welcome
* Here I Am to Worship
* Table of Plenty (also used at Communion, but often as a "gathering" - Come to the feast of heaven and earth! Come to the table of plenty! - Blech!)
* What Is this Place (The tune is actually decent, but the text is downright hideous!)

In mainstream parishes, it seems that the offertory hymn (now misnamed the "presentation song" or "preparation of the gifts song") has to be something "mellow".  I call BS!

Same with Communion.  In fact, mainstream Communion "hymns" (mere "songs" is more like it for these ditties) have really taken a turn for the worse.  Not only must they be "mellow" in mainstream liturgy (that is, liturgy endorsed by mainstream publishers, the NPM - alias NaPalM, and the "Church of Nice" - credit for that moniker goes to Michael Voris of Church Militant), but it has to talk about going to Communion and being one with each other.  Never mind the sacredness of WHO we are to receive!  Just the fact that we are sharing a meal and being one with each other (sometimes with Christ).  The music for this mainstream notion must be contemporary, and possibly mellow.  This is where the musician hops off the organ bench and onto the piano bench, and the accompaniment is reminiscent of what I hear on soft rock radio stations and soap operas (and I don't mean the old soaps of the 50's and 60's which had organ music in the background).  Examples include...
* the aforementioned All Are Welcome
* the aforementioned Table of Plenty
* much of the "Communion" section (not so much the "Eucharistic Hymns" section) of any hymnal or "missal" by OCP and similar ilk.

You might find a few scriptural texts within these dreadful melodies, but they're hidden behind the "we are this, we are that, while we are one" mentality.

So, what about Propers?

Well, the Propers are given to us by the Church.  While the loony left is using the "all about us" music, the Church gives us the Propers which already set the tone of the Mass for us.  Remember, we should be singing the Mass, not just singing at Mass.  Though there is nothing wrong with adding a hymn to the Proper.  I've heard it done, and done effectively.  And the hymns that get added in this case are usually actual hymns and not "gathering ditties".  If you want a good example of how this is done, at least as an entrance processional, check out the YouTube channel of St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, NSW, Austraila.  In this case, they sing the hymn, then the Introit (the procession is often long, so it works nicely).  Other churches sing the Introit, then the hymn.  For example, St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, MA (which has an excellent choir school) has the Introit chanted from the back, followed the hymn-accompanied procession.

An extraordinary story of the Ordinary

At one time, a visiting priest informed me that he had to leave quick to fill in at another church, so he asked me, "Would you rather sing the Gloria or sing the hymn after Communion?"  I said to him, "let's sing the Gloria, as I'd much rather sing the Mass than sing at Mass."  So, we sang the Gloria, and dropped the hymn after Communion, and the visiting priest got to his next Mass on time.

I'll say it again: SING THE MASS, not just sing at Mass!

Save the liturgy, save the world!

Quod scripsi, scripsi!

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