Monday, April 26, 2010

It Remains Such An Unpleasant Song

While studying at Loyola Chicago, I heard for the first time the Agnus Dei, with its primitive rhythm and melody and Latin verses, it seemed like a prank. But it wasn't. In those three years, I'd hear that prayer sung again and again.

Over time I was just stunned that people would choose to sing such a flat and unattractive melody, a song so lacking in the spirit of the prayer, when there are such effusive and attractive English versions available.

And in part I felt as though there was some other agenda at work, that an assertion was being made as to what constituted "correct" liturgy. Latin having been the ancient language of the Church, it was only proper to include it in modern liturgies. It's a ridiculous argument, of course, and a selective one........Today I would not so readily cast aside all Latin hymns. Songs like the Ave Maria resonate deeply when sung well. Nor would I say that every time the Agnus Dei is sung in Latin, it's an act of liturgical aggression.

But I continue to challenge its use, not only because Latin is not, practically speaking, the language of the Church today (nor the language of any of its people), but because it remains such an unpleasant song. What are we doing at this point of the liturgy? We're asking Jesus to have mercy on us and to grant us peace. The words and tone of the music we sing here should reflect that desire, and they simply don't. As far as I can tell, we sing it simply because we used to sing it. And that's just not good enough.
Link (here) to the full blog post entitled Who is this Agnes? by Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J. Father's blog is called Gone Walkabout.

1 comment:

justrobnj said...

I was in formation with Fr. McDermott at Loyola Chicago, and don't remember him voicing such a sentiment before.

Despite the liberal zeitgeist in the Loyola Jesuit community, it is where I learned the Salve Regina.

I don't know why Jim is pursuing this particular line of thought on his blog. I will visit his blog and offer some comments of my own.