Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Dylan Mass: Why Not?

Really, why not?

Seriously, is there any norm or legislation, regularly enforced, that would keep us from following the musical direction of this Episcopal service?



Is there anything, really, that would keep us from singing The Times They Are A-Changin' as the Communion hymn next Sunday? Are there any guidelines in place that absolutely forbid the singing of Knock Knock Knockin' on Heaven's Door to accompany the Entrance Procession?

Is there anything about these words or music that has been carefully defined as inappropriate?

Perhaps an enterprising liturgical music corporation could take up this idea and publish a series of octavo editions: The Johnny Cash Mass, The U2 Mass, The Bruce Springsteen Mass.

Why not?

Once I attended a Spanish Mass on the Vigil of Pentecost, and the Entrance Hymn was Morning Has Broken. In English. Is that ok? And if not, why not? Where is it written, where is the common understanding that makes it clear that certain things are not only inappropriate but ridiculous?

Those of us who survived the 70s and 80s realize that there has been a general elevation of sensibilities. Yet the standard remains abysmally low. How can it be that two generations have sung, at Mass, "Not in the dark of buildings confining/ not in some heaven light years away/ but here in this place, a new light is shining;/ now is the kingdom; now is the day." How is it that the latest generation of Roman Catholic Hymnals contain the clearly egregious hymn Sing a New Church into Being?

In a perfect world, of course, none of this would have to be asked in this way. Instead of asking where the bright line is between inappropriate and appropriate, we would be asking how to make the good better and better. But frankly as a Church we are not ready for these higher-order questions.

It would be nice just to see a bright line.