Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I've got a confession to make

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

I don't get it! I just don't! Don't get me wrong, great melody and all. But I just don't get this dancing business. Why is he dancing? Is this in scripture somewhere? What kind of dancing was this? Where is this dance he's going to lead us in?

Truth be told, I'm more of a

"O God our help in ages past" type or "Holy, Holy, Holy" or "It is well with my soul" or "I surrender all" (Andre Crouch's version on his Live in London 1976 recording is amazing).

Try as I might, I don't like Gather songs. I find them drab. Although I will say this, if you played them with a reggae beat, they would rock hands down. It would sound like a Catholic version of UB40 of Red Red Wine fame. Think about it:

"And I will raise you up on eagles wings" (steady chillin' reggae beat)

I stumbled on "I see the mighty power of God" yesterday and was like, "yeah, that rocks." Although, I do like, "Here I am Lord." Here again, this would work very well as a reggae hymn. Try it. Just sing it at the same pace but put in the reggae strum and it's quite nice actually. I have to confess that I think I like "Let there be peace on earth" although with all the grief it gets, it's hard to listen to it with a straight face. It's one of those things where you are getting into it (to live each moment . . .) and then you notice everyone looking at you like you are nuts.

A song I haven't heard in a while is "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross." Cool stuff. If you can stomach sending a donation to EWTN, request the CD with the Brothers singing Mary songs in chant, I think it is called Ecce Matter Dei. I swear, you'll love it. Very good. I actually made a large donation, by my standards, just to get a bunch of these CDs to give out. It is that good.

Another hymn I absolutely love, but is never sung in the Catholic Church is "Just as I am without one plea, thy precious blood, was shed for me, O thou that biddest come to thee, O Lamb of God I come, I come."

We don't have too many militant type "Onward Christian Soldiers" hymns in the Catholic church which is a shame. My problem with many of the Catholic hymns is that they lack the passion you find in the English 16th-19th century hymmns and they don't even come close to the German "Mein Gott" save-me-I-am-dying hymns. The problem I think, is that Catholic composers have to look over their shoulders to make sure their lyrics are theologically sound which is the best way to kill passion. Also the whole issue of liturgically appropriate checks passion too.

I was speaking with a Catholic liturgist a while back who attended a Black Catholic gathering and one of her first observations/criticisms was that the entrance hymn was based on the first person, "I". So singing something like the popular song, "Bless the Lord, O my soul" may not pass the test of appropriateness, liturgically speaking. If "Bless the Lord" can be conceived to not be appropriate in the highest form of prayer anywhere, anytime, on the face of this planet, one can only question what the heck is going on.

I am not often moved by much that happens during a Catholic Mass. Generally, I get into the readings and then, not much moves me beyond that. That's partly or mostly my doing. One reason is that from my taditional Protestant/Pentecostal background, music is essential in worship and not that Catholic music is bad, it's just different and it doesn't quite do it for me. One of the deepest experiences I had at Mass was once after the Eucharist, we sang the song (from the Lead Me Guide Me hymnal)

The Lord is my light and my salvation (x3)
whom shall I fear.

Whom shall I fear (x2)
The Lord is the strength of my life
Whom shall I fear.

We sang this over and over and I have never forgotten that moment. It got to the point I was about to stand up and lift my hands, but . . . I didn't. So there you have it. Dance.


Blogger Talmida said...

THis is very interesting stuff!! Check out Lord of the Dance information: I thought the words were traditional, but they're not!

I find the music at mass depends a lot on the type of service. I love piano and new tunes in my suburban church, but give me a big choir and the old traditional protestant German hymns in the stone cathedral. Even Kumbaya fits in at a summer mass in a clapboard church out at the lake. I've never heard a chanted Latin mass, but I've heard chanted (by male choir -- absolutely killer!) Ukrainian orthodox wedding mass.

It's fun to shop around! 3 tenors with acoustic guitars get the university chapel rocking like there's no tomorrow. I think one day, those kids just might get up and dance.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Steve Bogner said...

I really like the Gather hymnal, but admit I don't get into the 'dance' song at all. There's good new music and good old music. Some of the new music is bad, and so is some of the old stuff. A good musician, in my opinion, will have a sense of what is appropriate both for the mass and for the worship atmosphere.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

I'm really not a Gather basher, because I do respect that there are different tastes. I do notice that a lot of newer stuff is in 3/4 time, which sometimes comes off as sing songey.

I think for me, music at mass is often treat as a filler and not prayer or worship and so it is dispensed with quickly in order to get to the real stuff and so it is hard to invest in a song when it's going to be over pretty soon.

Also about newer Catholic hymns. American/English Catholic hymn writing is in its infancy stage being that singing of hymns by the congregation(?) was not part of the pre-vatican II liturgy. I think we have a lot of good stuff and it will get better. I also wish, we would be more willing to adopt more freely hymns from our Protestant brethren who have a lot more experience with hymn writing.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Jcecil3 said...


Speaking of the hardness of heart of the religious leaders of the day, the authors of Matthew and Luke put these words in Jesus' mouth:

"We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn."

(Matt 11:17 and Luke 7:32)

Most scholars would say that John the Baptist represents the playing of the dirge with his severe asceticism and doomsday message, while Christ represents the piper playing a celebratory dance.

Also, in the Old Testament, david danced naked before the Ark of the Covenant as it was brought into Jerusalem.

I believe the hymn is a shaker hymn, and the shakers were a charismatic community that believed the Spirit would give one a jolt and make one dance. We see remnants of their spirituality in the Church of God in Christ. People will say "The Spirit got me" after feeling a sudden irristable impulse to dance.

With a new emphasis on the sacramentality of bodily worship, Catholics have initiated liturgical dance in America. In Africa, there are Vatican approved rites that make use of liturgical movement throughout the Mass that we Americans would consider dance.

Personally, I like the song and would like to see more dance or liturgical movement at Mass.


1:37 PM  

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