Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Monday, 16 March 2009

Looking at a Question From Two Different Sides....

...and seeing the same thing.
One view is that of Anthony Esolen writing in a Catholic magazine on the unsuitability for Catholic worship of far too many of the texts of the songs the Liturgical-Industrial Complex foists on Catholic parishes. Among many other (valid) complaints, (which I might go into later,) he zeroes in on the congregation never manning up. Or womaning up. Or personning up. (English needs a word like mensch.)
Limp and Hallmark-like... [no] frank admission of responsibility... mincing baby-talk... The more accurate thing to say is that we are dust, and that, by the grace of Christ, this same dust may become sons and heirs, sitting in judgment upon angels...

Sometimes the congregation must woo a bisexual god, a Venus Hermaphroditus in Christian garb. This god does not by being the Father comprehend the human masculine and feminine. Instead it is ambiguous, ambivalent, still mired in the sexual cycle of birth and death. Such a god, because it is not transcendent, can help us to celebrate ourselves, ...

I am maker of mountains; I am God of the earth.
Like a mother in labor I bring all to birth . . .
With sun and moon we dance for joy!
We are your work of art, the glory of your hand, the children of your loving.
More of that baby twaddle, and more of that god who is mater et materia: "In the womb of my wisdom," she says, "I fashioned every star, I formed you in wonder, and loved you from afar!" Really? Was God then not only declaring us to be good, but gaping in wonder upon us?....

Narcissism, then, explains the beardless puerility of so many of the lyrics. Can anyone imagine a group of grown men who had any choice in the matter singing, or even making sense of, this coquettish address to almighty God?

Laughter, joy and presence:
The only gifts you are!
Have you time?
I'd like to be with you.
("All I Ask of You")
The other is blogging by a man named Andy, raised Lutheran, (I assume from his blog's sub-title,) and now worshiping in a non-liturgical church.

The thing that I came up with [in the not necessarily intentionally sacred songs that speak to him] is dissatisfaction. The [music in his church] is generally OK with the state of the world, usually even pretty happy about it.

The thing is, I think [the dissastifaction] is profoundly Biblical. The people in the Bible from Abraham to Moses to Jesus(!) in Gethsemane are constantly struggling with God. And if I'm reading it correctly, that's the way God likes it. God doesn't want to be surrounded by yes men.

Now I'm going to take this a step further and go from talking about Christian music to talking about specifically Christian worship. The traditional liturgy begins with "Lord, have mercy" and brings a broken world before God and only then receives it back transformed. Non-liturgical worship tends to begin with, "Let's all stand and sing praise to our mighty God" and stays there. It's got too much "Gloria in Excelsis" and not enough "Kyrie Eleison".
The former decries the narcissisistic expression of self-esteem in the music to which he is subjected, the latter the complacency and (self-?) satisfaction -- what's missing from praise music is the Kyrie.

We all need the same thing.

Or rather, the same One.

Or rather, the same One-in-Three.

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