Renewal: Part I

Renewal.  We all want it, but what does it mean?

There were many movements, especially in the 1980s and 90s, infatuated with this concept of “making all things new.”  Magically, felt banners proclaiming: “RENEW” and so-forth somehow were supposed to enrich and enliven.

Now, 30+ years later, we ask, were these “ministries” an embodiment of true liturgical renewal, or simply a fuzzy fad?

Certainly God makes all things new.  Although God is often purposefully mislabeled, with references to Jesus as “I” and “you”.  Instead “We” became important, as so many disposable subscription pew books and hymnals continue to propose:

We Are Called
We Are God’s People  
We Are Known and Not Unnumbered
We Are Many Parts / Muchos Miembros Hay
We Are Marching / Siyahamba
We Cannot Own the Sunlit Sky  
We Come to You for Healing, Lord
We Glory in the Cross
We Have Been Told
We hold the death of the Lord
We Praise You, Lord, for Jesus Christ 
We praise you, we praise your holy 
We Remember
We should glory in the cross 
We Sing Your Praise, O Christ 
We Three Kings of Orient Are 
We Walk by Faith
We Walk His Way / Ewe, Thina
We Will Walk with God / Sizohamba  

Departing from the failed attempt of an egocentric view, one is instead reminded of Pope St. Pius X’s motto on the same, but Christo-centric holy theme:

Instaurare Omnia in Christo (To Restore all things in Christ!)

This is true RENEWAL!  Christ centered. Christ needs to return to the center of our renewal.  With this in mind, we can turn toward a true understanding of the term, by analyzing the definition and practice…

Do you still see felt banners, figuratively and/or literally?  

22 Replies to “Renewal: Part I”

  1. I'm not going to argue against the need to Christ-centric in liturgy, but it is going over the top to be offended by every "we"! What about "The Lord is MY shepherd", "Holy God, WE praise thy name", "forgive US OUR sins as WE forgive"? Doesn't 'WE Are God's People" in the list come from Psalm I00? Appropriateness of use depends on context. Current hymnals are not perfect, but I believe they are a lot better than many Catholic pre-Vatican II vernacular hymnals which in the last century were filled with sentimental clap-trap and appalling translations of classic Latin hymns.

  2. 'At the beginning of the Holy Thursday liturgy, we pray:

    "We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection,
    through whom we are saved and delivered."
    (cf. Gal 6:14; Entrance Antiphon, Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper)"

  3. I'm going to wade in here – perhaps against my better judgment. I don't think there is anything wrong with the use of "we," nor do I think it is improper for any assembled group of worshippers in the liturgy to take on the Lord's words in the first-person. After all, doesn't a chant schola singing from the Graduale do this frequently?! What is more Christo-centric than taking the Gospel directly upon our lips?

    Now of course, if that isn't the understanding reinforced to the congregation, it could be a problem. I will agree that when purposely misplaced, misinformed, or misconstrued, these things can be a problem for a congregation. I will here re-echo something said on the MusicaSacra forum about poor quality hymns – it's not that they're inherently bad or heretical, but that in certain contexts they can be used to promote less-than-worthy, perhaps even heretical ideas.

    I don't think it's helpful, however, to classify the words of Christ in the first-person, or for that matter any other words from Scripture which happen to be in the first-person-plural, when sung by a congregation, as being an inherently bad thing.

  4. ' … We praise you,
    we bless you,
    we adore you,
    we glorify you,
    we give you thanks for your great glory, …'

    — Roman Missal ICEL

  5. Indeed. The Cross. Certainly you do not propose that Holy Thursday is about ourselves!?

    "Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory." Ps 115

  6. Indeed. Biblical and Liturgical references. Yet are 'we' the focus?
    Well said.

    Gregorian chant contains a deep pathos and mystery, which is only of the many reasons it reigns supreme as primary sung text. When we sing "Gaudeamus" or any "-mus", certainly we are not thinking horizontally and celebrating our neighbor.

    When we mention ourselves, we fall short of the purpose of Sacred music.

    Certainly there is room for hymnody, but there is little reason for promoting ourselves over God.

  7. John, you seem to be trying to make a point with which Nathan agrees. Certainly all use of the word 'we' is not wrong. You referenced several different Scriptural quotations which refer to this. But in all the verses you provide God is at the center. Nathan is referencing hymns, it seems, that are about what we do. Certainly WE come before the cross, but, it is before the CROSS. There are hymns or songs that simply state what WE do as in a series of declarative statements. "WE are called to act with justice. WE are called to walk tenderly. WE are called to serve one-another, etc… So what? Why do we have to sing that to ourselves? That's not why I go to Mass. If I wanted a merely horizontal experience in which I declare something to my neighbor, I might as well go tailgating at a football game. At least there I won't be asked to make any sacrifices…

  8. A few additional thoughts, John. In looking through a very often-used missalette, I found the song 'In These Days of Lenten Journey'. Here is the text of the refrain, followed by verse 1 and then verse 3: "In these days of Lenten journey we have seen and we have heard the call to sow justice in the lives of those we serve. We reach out to hose who are homeless, to those who live without warmth, In the coolness of evening we'll shelter their dreams; we will clothe them in mercy and peace. We open our ears to the weary and hear the cry of the poor. To the voices that echo the song of despair, we will show our compassion and care."

    Nowhere, in this entire text is a prayer of adoration, petition, contrition, or thanksgiving offered. It is merely a horizontal conversation between ourselves which begs the question, why are we telling each other what we're going to do when the whole goal of our worship should be greater union with God through Jesus Christ.

  9. I agree that the song has no place in liturgy. However, what would be wrong with using it as a recessional after Mass as a response? After all, isn't social concern an important focus of our lives outside of liturgy? What would be wrong with using the song in one of the Lenten programs run in many parishes outside of the Mass? None of the traditional Catholic hymnals I've seen on the Internet were published purely for use in liturgy, and I don't see anything wrong with that. It seems to me that judgment has always been need in selecting music appropriate to the circumstances.

    Just to show that I'm not an OCP apologist having defended the song, I'll admit that I was disappointed to see it suggested as a gathering hymn in their Today's Liturgy suggestions earlier this year!

  10. Chris,__Thanks for the response. Are you talking about using this piece during something like Parish missions? That could work, I suppose. The insinuation (from my reading of Mr. Knutson's blog) is not that such a piece exists, or is even printed in a music resource, but is actually used DURING the Mass. That is where the problem lies. __Even to that, these lyrics are, at least to my taste, woefully uninspiring. Yes, they share mission, but they do so in a way comparable to me sitting at the dinner table with my wife: "I am eating my dinner. I am using my fork now. The salt shaker is the thing I have in my hand at this moment

  11. (cont…) see, I use it. Won't you use it, too?" __Take the hymn, 'With Jesus for Hero', listed under 'Social Justice' in many hymnals. It states:_-"With Jesus for hero, for teacher and friend, the world to the purpose of God shall ascend: _We struggle and quarrel, but He brings release, and shows us the way to His wisdom and peace._-His Kingdom is coming, God's will shall be done, and kindness and justice and peace shall be won

  12. (cont…) _Then learn we that gospel of love to obey, till sickness and want and disputes pass away._-God's name shall be hallowed, his love understood, the Father protecting the wise and the good:_All people shall see Him in truth as He is, the heart of the world shall forever be His._-To God be the glory, to Christ be the praise, to God be our service, in Christ be our ways: _O Spirit eternal, in You be our rest, beyond us, within us, our goal and our guest!"__Now the dinner conversation is, "Honey, I really enjoyed this meal. Thank you for preparing it. I like it a little spicier, but you did a great job. Have we had this before?" __Even in social justice, we can look beyond MY/OUR actions and find the Source, the WHO that moves us to act. Yes, WE can do good things, but I can only do "all things IN CHRIST who strengthens me." To pretend otherwise is to neuter holy religion to a point where many just wonder, "Why do I have to crawl out of bed? If I'm just singing a bunch of self-declarative statements that point towards me, why bother? I can look in a mirror and shave all at the same time!

  13. It seems fairly evident that in the decades since the Council, the role of music in the Sacred Liturgy has in many places shifted from praising the Almighty to celebrating ourselves. Navel-gazing has become a prevalent element – sometimes the preeminent virtue – of secular society since the 1960’s. As Facebook, Hollywood, the cosmetic and clothing industries attest, self-adoration is a lucrative business. Consider the current popularity of the “selfie”. Given the social environment and economic realities, is not surprising that the major publishers of music marketed for the Liturgy have tapped into this pervading narcissism as well.

    It is easy to counter Nathan’s list with a list of Scriptural quotes beginning with “we”, but taken in their proper context, these passages do not place us at the center. Many – not all, but many – modern hymn and song texts do exactly that.

    It is interesting to note that the new translation of the Roman Canon changed the text from “WE come to you, Father…” to “To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition…”

    Coming upon a hymn text beginning with “we”, I would certainly read it through carefully to see exactly what it is saying about “we” and whether in fact it is saying anything about God.

  14. What is confusing here (and, I think, what John Quinn is responding to) is Nathan's list of hymns. The list seems to imply that any hymn starting with the word WE is anthropo-centric rather than Christo-centric, and therefore an example of the anthropo-centric tendency in the liturgy. The hymns in the list are all over the map, though – we have a translation of the Holy Thursday introit (We should glory in the cross), as well as We Three Kings which is not about the congregation at all, and shares the voice of the Three Kings with the communion proper for Epiphany. While it is probably not what you meant, Nathan, the list seems to rule out any hymns that start with WE as non-Christocentric. And most people would take issue with that assessment as overly simplistic.
    And anyway, the classic example of anthropo-centric hymnody doesn't have the word "WE" – it's Gather Us In!

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