OME PEOPLE love to argue, and never concede anything. They go to sleep each night believing nobody can match their intellectual prowess. These arrogant men—who were never properly educated (from Latin, meaning “to lead out”)—frequently embrace a fatal error: viz. that each word in English has just one definition. As a matter of fact, many English words have multiple meanings. There are even words whose meanings directly contradict each other (such as “cleave” or “sanction”), but context will guide the reader. One of my favorite words is MEAN, which has at least eight different meanings.1
Wrong About Hymns: Sometimes we encounter cantankerous people who insist that hymn lyrics should be inordinately archaic and impossible for 99% of the congregation to understand. They justify their position by saying: “If people don’t understand archaic speech, they’re imbeciles.” We have discussed this in the past, and I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said. Do I have solution? I would suggest that—generally speaking—hymns should be intelligible to an “average” person. On the other hand, if an unfamiliar word is used, that’s okay. After all, learning new words is both good and healthy. These days, one need not go home to consult the dictionary since everyone carries a “smart phone” containing more data than 100,000 dictionaries.
For Every Rule… For every rule, there is an exception. The Brébeuf hymnal does contain some hymns which use archaic language. If you have a priest who absolutely hates archaic language, it would be better to choose other selections (and the Brébeuf hymnal has a billion). The following is a Eucharistic hymn by Father Robert Southwell, a Jesuit who suffered brutal martyrdom at the hands of the Anglicans:
His Words Matter: Only a very foolish person would change or “modernize” the words of Saint Robert Southwell, whose lengthy hymn is a brilliant treatise on Transubstantiation. We must remember that the Anglicans were vehemently opposed to Catholic doctrines, especially the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and (in particular) the doctrine of Transubstantiation. After the time of King Henry VIII—in both England and its American Colonies—religious oaths were required to hold a rank in the military or government. For example, the oath George Washington signed read as follows:
“I [……] do declare that
there is no Transubstantiation
in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper
or in the Elements of bread and wine
at or after the consecration thereof
by any person whatsoever.”
By signing this oath, George Washington was assuring the Anglican government he was not Catholic. If you want to learn more, Google “Anglican Test Act.”
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Perhaps some of our readers have experimented with “mean tone” organs.