“Since contemporary hymnody and contemporary catechetical texts evolved, to some extent, together, it can be useful to use this list of ten imprecisions to alert a bishop, pastor, or liturgical music minister to deficiencies they may find in hymns, or in a collection of hymns as a whole,” the doctrine committee advised.
They urged that those involved in hymnody “be especially attentive” to six categories of potential deficiencies: in the presentation of Eucharistic doctrine; of Trinitarian doctrine; in the doctrine of God and his relation to humans; a view of the Church that sees her as essentially a human construction; doctrinally incorrect views of the Jewish people; and incorrect Christian anthropology.
Regarding Eucharistic doctrine, the bishops warned that “Catholics nurtured on a steady diet of certain hymns will learn from them that at Mass we come together to share bread and wine, which remain bread and wine, a common meal, even if under special circumstances … A steady diet of these hymns would erode Catholic sensibility regarding the fullness of Eucharistic teaching, on the Mass as sacrifice, and eventually on the Church, as formed by that sacrifice.”
They advised that language implying “that the elements are still bread and wine after consecration should be avoided,” and that “poetic license should conform to customary usage of Scripture and liturgical Tradition.”
Examples of hymns that offend the presentation of Eucharistic doctrine, they said, include “God is Here! As We His People”; “Now in This Banquet”; “Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees”; and “All Are Welcome”.
As alternatives, they offered “Ave Verum Corpus”, “Taste and See”, “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart”, “Seed Scattered and Sown”, “I am the Bread of Life, “One Bread One Body”, “Eat This Bread”, “Look Beyond”, “At That First Eucharist”, “O Sacrament Most Holy”, “O Salutaris Hostia”, “Adoro Te Devote”, and “At the Lamb’s High Feast”.
Hymns with poor presentation of Trinitarian doctrine include “The Play of the Godhead” and “Led by the Spirit”, while the bishops said that “God Beyond All Names” is a hymn that “fails to respect God’s transcendence.”
Those that erroneously see the Church as a human construct include “Sing a New Church” and “As a Fire is Meant for Burning“.
The bishops wrote that hymns “that imply that the Jews as a people are collectively responsible for the death of Christ” would be ruled out, naming in particular “The Lord of the Dance” and “O Crucified Messiah”.
The document on hymns said that “Canticle of the Sun” “teaches that death is natural and necessary for our life to have something at stake and thus be ‘real.’ In fact, it is the Resurrection of Christ that makes our life ‘real,’ restoring what we had lost in Adam, and it is the Passion of Christ, not death per se, that ‘helps us to feel.’ Death is not a necessary part of human nature.”
“Catholic Hymnody at the Service of the Church” concluded by reflecting on Vatican II’s emphasis on “the importance of sacred music in the Church’s liturgical worship.”
(Story continues below)
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“In this document we have endeavored to identify and to reflect on the role that these words--the lyrics—have in music intended for use in the liturgy. It is our hope that this guidance will help insure that all the sacred music employed in liturgical celebrations will achieve its purpose, ‘which is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful’.”
The advisory on the use of hymns comes as the USCCB has been approving new translations of components of the Liturgy of the Hours.
At its 2019 fall general assembly, the conference voted overwhelmingly to approve the ICEL grey book translation of the hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours. That translation was in turn confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship in May.
The new edition of the hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours is the first time that English translations of the hymns found in the typical edition, in Latin, will be prescribed. The edition of the Liturgy of the Hours heretofore used included its own hymns, very few of which were translations of those in the typical edition.