Quinn_Problems of Hymnody in Catholic Worship

Quinn_Problems of Hymnody in Catholic Worship - Liturgical...

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Chapter 19 Liturgical Music as Corporate Song 2: Problems of Hymnody in Catholic Worship Frank C. Quinn, o.p There is some ambivalence concerning the use of hymns in Roman Catholic liturgy, especially in the Mass. On the one hand there is the publication of Catholic "hymnals" like Worship, subtitled "A Hymnal and Service Book for Roman Catholics."! Containing well over four hundred hymns, one would suppose that this is the standard form music takes in Catholic worship. And yet in Liturgical Music Today, a document issued by the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, there is at best grudging acceptance of hymns in the Mass: While the responsorial form of singing is especially suitable for pro- cessions, the metrical hymn can also fulfil! the function of the en- trance song. If, however, a metrical hymn with several verses is selected, its form should be respected. The progression of text and music must be allowed to play out its course and achieve its pur- pose musically and poetically. In other words, the hymn should not be ended indiscriminately at the end of the procession. For this same reason, metrical hymns may not be the most suitable choices to accompany the preparation of the gifts and altar at the Eucha- rist, since the music should not extend past the time necessary for the ritual [italics addedj.2 Ten years later another document simply denied the value of hymns at processional moments in Catholic worship: 308 Liturgical Music Corporate Song 2 309 This kind of music [hymns] can be well suited to those moments when singing is all we do (for example, a song of praise after com- munion) but seldom lends itself to accompany actions (for example, a communion procession).3 How different the approach to hymns in Protestant worship: ... in Protestantworship, hymns oftenare the proclamation,and they "carry" the liturgy ... [Hymns are,] as John Wesleyreminds us in the eighteenth century, "a little body of . . . practical divin- ity." That is, hymns help form and express the truths of Christian faith in our lives, and, for good or for ill, constitute a tacit reper- toire of proclamation. 4 This attitude towards hymnody is even more pronounced in the Lutheran churches: . . . it is a commonplace to observe that a great contribution of the Lutheran Reformation was the restoration of congregational singing. But what is usually less noted is that Luther's desire for the active participation of the congregation through hymnody was a re- sult of his concern that the people participate actively in the singing of the liturgy. For much of Protestantism today hymns may best be described as general Christian songs loosely attached to worship, but for Luther the congregational hymn was a vehicle for involving the faithful in the singing of the liturgy. 5 The Hymn In this paper the word "hymn" is used to designate a musical form "consisting of a number of stanzas sung to the same melodic line."6 The stanzas themselves are usually rhymed and the individual stro- phes are usually four or more lines in length. The word "hymn,"
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Quinn_Problems of Hymnody in Catholic Worship - Liturgical...

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