Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Good Hymns and Bad Hymns

Todd M. Aglialoro of Inside Catholic writes on good hymns and bad hymns. He says that good hymns have good theology from scripture and tradition, and a strong transcendent message that pertains to God.

He is surely right about this, though if anyone programs "How Great Thou Art"--as he recommends--at a Mass I attend is going to hear about it.

And yet the article itself does not raise a more fundamental question about vernacular hymnody itself. The Roman Rite of Mass does not instruct anyone to sing a hymn (of the sort he refers to) at all. The hymns we sing week to week are not part of the structure of the Mass. Their very existence then becomes music to fight over. I like a good argument, but I've begun to realize that there is no real end to this argument. It will go on forever.

The one thing that is indisputably part of the Mass, which is nearly universally ignored, are the propers, for which the music already given to us in the Graduale. This answer strikes me as a "third way" that gets us away from the endless debate over hymns, which is so bound up with taste and preference.

As an aside, the author here is also struck by the incoherence on the new USCCB document on music. And yet: unlike its predecessor, at least this documents mentions the existence of music that is intrinsically part of Mass.

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