HEN DID IT BECOME fashionable to tamper with the sacred liturgy? Contrary to what certain authors claim, Vatican II was not the first instance of this. Some point to the manufactured feast of Christ the King in 1925 as typical of liturgical tampering. Here are some reasons why: (1) It was manufactured, meaning the Propria Missae and hymns for the Divine Office are modern creations; (2) It disturbs the two traditional times honoring Christ the King, viz. the Epiphany and Palm Sunday; (3) It replaces a Sunday rather than being fixed to a date on the calendar; (4) It added a PREFACE, and after Vatican II hundreds more would be added, contrary to the traditional praxis. 1
Jeff Is Unqualified: I am not qualified to decide whether the feast of Christ the King should have been added in 1925. As a choirmaster, I simply deal with reality: It was added. Where can we find excellent hymns in honor of Christ the King? Without question, the best source is the Brébeuf hymnal. For example, page 758 has a beautiful text by Father Percival Jones set to the BRETON melody. At the bottom of the page, the Brébeuf hymnal includes a marvelous “text only version,” allowing melodic flexibility.
Mixing Things Up: Whenever the choirmaster selects a lesser-known hymn, it’s important to also include some “favorites.” Therefore, on the same Sunday we sang that hymn to Christ the King, we also sang the following (as a recessional):
Holy Communion Hymn: When it comes to Holy Communion, an excellent choice is “Pange Lingua” by Saint Thomas Aquinas. The following version is #366 in the Brébeuf hymnal, with an English translation by Robert Campbell, a Scottish attorney who published Hymns and Anthems for Use in the Holy Service of the Church (1850). He converted to the Catholic Church in 1852, but was never a priest—despite the erroneous claim made on page 251 of the American Catholic Hymnal according to the Motu Proprio of His Holiness Pope Pius X (1913).
Former Slave Holder? I have mentioned before that anyone who carefully examines the Brébeuf hymnal will find a few texts by people who were not Catholic. An example would be #860, which is by John Newton (d. 1807), who had an “interesting” life. He was captain of slave ships, and later became an investor in the slave trade. (England got rid of slavery about forty years before the United States did.) John Newton was captured, and became a slave himself (in Africa). He subsequently became an abolitionist and Anglican clergyman. One of the songs he wrote is “Amazing Grace.”
If you read everything I’ve written, you deserve a wonderful reward—and here it is:
* PDF Download • Image of Christ the King
—Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne circa 1500AD.
More hymns for Christ the King can be found at this link.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 For about 1,000 years, the Roman Rite only had about ten prefaces. Following Vatican II, they wrote or “adapted” hundreds of new ones. Indeed, the USCCB even manufactured a Preface for the 4th of July!