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Monday, December 12, 2005

How to get a round dozen comments on a Catholic blog without really trying.

Rule 1: talk about the music at Mass.

Todd had a couple of interesting posts (I don't think his permalinks are working) concerning this online survey.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the traditional classics, mortified by more than a few and somewhat bummed to not see either Charles Wesley or a recent Catholic classic (not quite an oxymoron) like To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King.

I'm going to steer clear of the usual grumbling about the cotton candy ditties and focus on Todd's point that the newer songs are grounded in scripture.

Well, sorta. Kinda. They are grounded in certain consistent images taken from scripture, and almost always the God-As-Eternal Comfort Blanket images, to boot. Take, for example (please) the #1, On Eagle's Wings, based on Psalm 91.

Here are the lyrics:
You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,
Who abide in His shadow for life,
Say to the Lord, "My Refuge,
My Rock in Whom I trust."

Refrain:
And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

The snare of the fowler will never capture you,
And famine will bring you no fear;
Under His Wings your refuge,
His faithfulness your shield.

Refrain

You need not fear the terror of the night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day,
Though thousands fall about you,
Near you it shall not come.

Refrain

For to His angels He's given a command,
To guard you in all of your ways,
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Refrain

Here's Psalm 91:

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

3For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.

9Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place--the Most High, who is my refuge-- 10no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

11For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

14"Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."


Rather close--certainly far, far better than Hosea (urk), which turns the prophet into a less-flinty version of Stuart Smalley. But you can see what OEW edits from Psalm 91 in bold, and it is telling. So much for the notions of sin and salvation, the girding for strife, and proceeding boldly with the Lord at your side--OEW makes the singer a passive recipient in a way that the Psalm manifestly does not. And that's all the worse when you consider that the Psalms were written to be sung in worship. Not to pick on OEW, though--as I said, it's better than most of the popular ones that claim to ground themselves in scripture, which are even more incomplete and distorted in their use of imagery. Comforting, to be sure--but dangerously tame and fragmentary.

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