Sunday, March 4, 2012

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound

Last evening I again attended the vigil Mass at the local Novus Ordo parish and made notes regarding the hymns.

The processional hymn was, as it was last week, the Anglican hymn Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days set to the tune St. Flavian.

At the offertory we sang Amazing Grace! by Anglican clergyman John Newton, set to the beloved tune New Britain. Some Catholics object to this hymn (for example, see this video by Michael Voris alleging that some words and phrases betray a Protestant understanding. Certainly, one can read the words of "Amazing Grace!" as teaching a Protestant -- specifically Calvinist -- doctrine of salvation, but then again, you can find plenty of individual words and phrases in St. Paul's and St. Augustine with which to condemn them as heretics if you start out looking for heresy. Equally, one can find in "Amazing Grace!" orthodox Catholic teaching regarding salvation. If you want to find hymns that are truly suspect as regards their theological assumption, you'll find a much richer target in some the "Catholic" hymns of the past forty years. Three weeks ago I wrote about the hymn "All My Days" by Dan Schutte which appears to reject a Christological reading of the Psalms going back to the earliest days of the Church in favor of a dubious individualistic reading.

The post-Communion hymn, "Gift of Finest Wheat" by Robert E. Kreutz was another example of unsingable "contemporary" Catholic hymnody. This train-wreck of a tune starts in 4/4 time, then after two measures switches to 3/4 time for a few measures, then back to 4/4 time for one measure, only to conclude in 3/4 times.

We concluded with the 18th century Catholic hymn "Grosser Gott" by Ignaz Franz in the 19th century Catholic translation Holy God We Praise Thy Name by C.A. Walworth. It is a paraphrase of the ancient Latin hymn Te Deum Laudamus.

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