That Old Time Religion

One of the many wonderful things about this weekend’s Solemnity is that every parish can make some movement towards truly liturgical music. Hopefully some parishes who sing hymns, for example, will slip in a proper or two, or chant some of the presidential prayers, or at the very least sing a Psalm at the beginning of Communion.

For those parishes so far away from solemnity that propers are completely out of the question, Trinity Sunday still affords an opportunity to sing texts that are really worth singing, and which very, very few congregations would find objectionable: two of the most excellent hymns in common usage. Holy God, We Praise Thy Name is a remarkable hymn and very apt for this feast. Msgr. Ratzinger, the Holy Father’s brother, sat down at the piano to play it as soon as he returned from World War II, and the whole family sang it together. It is a paraphrase of the Church’s hymn of thanksgiving, the Te Deum, and long associated among US Catholics with Benediction, which is a liturgical action. And as an added bonus, people love it! A music ministry moving towards solemnity will make friends, not enemies, by singing this hymn, and goodwill in situations like this is priceless. The same goes for O God, Almighty Father, which is not an excellent hymn but is certainly acceptable and which people enjoy singing.

Most importantly, this Sunday everyone would be happy to sing Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. The tune is called Nicaea for a good reason, as the hymn expresses the Trinitarian faith of the Church from this early Christological Council. And again, no one will object. It may not be as beloved as Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, but it is a great hymn.

If you are looking for a way to begin moving a parish away from an All Are Welcome/ Be Not Afraid/ One Bread, One Body/ Sing a New Church into Being rut, the hymnody appropriate to this Sunday’s festival is a great place to begin. And these hymns sound just fine on a guitar.