Friday, October 5, 2012

Interreligious Hymnody

A few years ago I attended a lecture that I disagreed with almost entirely. The speaker's thesis was this: this particular Hindu hymn to one of the Hindu goddesses is almost exactly like this particular Marian hymn.

I agreed with the lecture only to the extent that yes, some of the images were similar, and some of the praises.

What was strikingly different, as I pointed out in the Q and A (ever the shrinking violet) was the tone of petition in the Christian hymn. It was clear that the Marian hymn not only praised the Blessed Mother, but expressed a dependence upon her for help, and specifically help for salvation.

In Archbishop DiNoia's excellent book The Diversity of Religions: A Christian Perspective, he asks some very important questions about non-Christian religions. Do this other religion's adherents aim at salvation? What is that salvation?

For Catholics, salvation means attaining God by participation, as strange as that may seem. It is Catholic doctrine that this salvation, even in its first stirrings, is beyond one's own strength. So the dependence is real.

One of the many benefits of the new translation of the Missal is a much clearer emphasis on dependency. We now pray much less that we may help the world, and much more that we may be redeemed. First things first.