Editor’s Note: Each contributor is reflecting upon Comparison of 15 Traditional Catholic Hymnals. Rather than rehashing Mr. Craig’s article, they were given freedom to “expand upon” this vast subject. Click here to read all the installments that have appeared so far.
UNG ON OUR kitchen wall is the morning prayer we say, written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val and translated by Father Robert Skeris. It talks about how the Jesus Christ—the Son of God, Whose power is infinite and Who will be our Judge at the end of the world—lived a life of meekness, poverty, and humiliation. This paradox calls to mind what is believed about Julian the Apostate, the last pagan emperor of Rome. Shortly before dying, he supposedly exclaimed: “Pale Galilean, Thou hast conquered.” The emperor didn’t want to believe that someone Who had died the death of a criminal was also the Son of God.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was sensitive to paradox. He wrote that our Holy Catholic Faith began, surprisingly, with total catastrophe:
“Christianity, unlike any other religion in the world, begins with catastrophe and defeat. Sunshine religions and psychological inspirations collapse in calamity and wither in adversity. But the Life of the Founder of Christianity, having begun with the Cross, ends with the empty tomb and victory.”
I am not sure what I can add to Daniel Craig’s article comparing 15 hymnals, so I will share a recording I sang Soprano for. This melody was written by composer Kevin Allen, and it’s #869 in the Brébeuf hymnal:
Rehearsal videos for each individual voice await you at #869.
True Christianity is not related to the “prosperity Gospel” preached by Protestants. They claim that if you believe in Jesus, you will be rewarded in this life: a big house, fine clothing, the best food to eat, the nicest cars, etc. The Catholic Church rejects such a notion; and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once speculated that people would become Christians for the wrong reasons if the prosperity Gospel were true. The reality is that some of the holiest saints of the Church, such as the Jesuit Martyrs of North America, lived lives of unspeakable hardship and severe poverty.
Earlier, I spoke of paradox. Number 869 in the Brébeuf hymnal (Solemn Hymn to the Son of God, an original hymn text by Father Dominic Popplewell) makes use of paradox. Most of the paradoxes should be fairly easy to understand, especially since the Scripture references were listed at the bottom of the page. For instance, this hymn speaks of Jesus Christ being the True Shepherd, but also the Paschal Lamb. The hymn is under copyright by the Brébeuf hymnal, so I can only provide a few verses:
2. Ever God, in time a man,
Limited, whom none may span,
Knowing all, whose wisdom grew, (Lk 2.52)
Paschal Lamb and Shepherd true:
(Jn 1.29, 36; I Cor 5.7; I Pt 1.19; Jn 10.11, 14; I Pt 2.25)
Who by yielding won the strife,
Who by dying garnered life,
Who departed, but to bide (Mt 28.20)
With the Church, your chosen Bride. (Eph 5.25-27; Ap 21.2, 9)
I would like to speak of the line that says: “Who departed, but to bide | With the Church, your chosen Bride.” Jesus said (John 16:7) that He must go: “And yet I can say truly that it is better for you I should go away; he who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go, but if only I make my way there, I will send him to you.” But Jesus said in Matthew 28:20 that He would stay: “Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” Is our Lord Jesus Christ here? Or not? We know that our Savior is present in the Holy Eucharist: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The bishop of Mopsuestia (Theodore) writing in the 5th Century, said:
When Christ gave the bread,
He did not say,
“This is the symbol of my body,”
but, “This is my body.”
In the same way,
when He gave the cup of His blood
He did not say,
“This is the symbol of my blood,”
but, “This is my blood.”
We can also see Jesus in other ways. We see Jesus in the eyes of the poor. We see Jesus in the eyes of those who are persecuted. We see God in the wonders of Creation, such as mountains, clouds, oceans, and the snowflake. And Matthew 18:20 says: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Theologians could probably explain more ways Jesus is here with us.
Father Popplewell’s hymn (#869) continues with more verses, making much use of paradox.