Tether No More
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    Just thought I would share my blog screed objecting to the opening hymn of the Holy Father's ecumenical prayer meeting, Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether. I probably took a minority view!


    This hymn is not suitable for an ecumenical gathering in which Catholics participate, because of its low Eucharistic theology and overemphasis on the priesthood of believers to the disregard, if not disdain, of the sacramental priesthood.

    In verse 1, the quotation from the Gospel of Matthew (although skillfully paraphrased and metered) has been used for centuries now by low Protestants to "prove" that there is no need of a sacramental priesthood. "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name..." the Lord said, He would be among them. Yes, but isn't there something here that needs an explanation? What can this mean: "In my name?" For Catholics, praying in the name of Jesus means more than simply saying His name. It means praying as He taught us to pray in His memory: together, with Peter, with the apostles, at the Eucharist.

    Which is a different kind of meal than is described in verse 2. Addressed now is not Jesus, but "us." We are breaking bread and blessing the cup "as the disciples" who used to gather, the song says. They met for the breaking of bread and the prayers, the Acts of the Apostles tells us. But again, they met with Peter and the Eleven. And they considered the friendship to be with Christ and the Father as well as with each other, bound in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

    In verse 3, the hymn extends the non-priestly communion fellowship into all areas of life, asking Jesus (here again the addressee) to make "all our meals and all our living...as sacraments of you." The precision of the word "sacrament" is striking, and in the context of an ecumenical gathering seems actually designed to contradict the teaching of the Council of Trent that there are seven Sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ.

    Taken as a whole, for all of the above reasons, the hymn promotes an ideal of ecumenism which I like to think of as "lowest-common-denominator" ecumenism. I encountered this idea many times during my ecumenical work. Lowest Common Denominator ecumenism holds that what is needed is a return to a purer, more primitive, Christianity. If we were able to recover the essentials, rather than holding on to the accretions we have developed over the centuries (such as clarifications of Eucharistic theology, for example) we would all be united.

    In other words, the hymn promotes Protestantism.

    What is sad about this choice is that there are other quite acceptable options. One choice could be to retrieve a hymn from ancient times, such as a morning or evening hymn from the Office. These hymns are acceptable to all, and there are several outstanding versions of the great hymn Phos Hilaron in English. For an ecumenical gathering, one might well steer clear of the Gregorian chant "O Radiant Light, O Sun divine," but why not sing "O Gladsome Light, O Grace of God the Father's face"?

    In other words, an evening hymn focused on our true Common Denominator, Christ the Lord, would be most appropriate. Other options might be any other Trinitarian or Christological hymn of praise, such as Jesus Shall Reign (my personal favorite for this sort of event) or Rejoice, the Lord is King, Love Divine All Loves Excelling, or the modern P&W classic, In Christ Alone.
  • "This hymn is not suitable for an ecumenical gathering in which Catholics participate . . ."

    If you only allowed hymnody reflecting iron-clad Catholic sacramental theology, it would hardly be appropriate for an ecumenical gathering. If it's ecumenical, there has to be some give and take to promote discussion. Besides, it is delusional to think Catholicism has not benefited from certain aspects of Protestant thought and practice.

    I am familiar with Harold Friedell's anthem 'Draw Us in The Spirit's Tether,' but not with any congregational hymn by that name. Can you be more specific as to its source. Thanks.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    The anthem is based on the hymn: the text is the same.

    I'm certainly not advocating singing a hymn about Catholic sacramental theology at an ecumenical gathering! Rather, I think we should find a hymn that offends neither Protestant nor Catholic sensibilities. And I think that this particular hymn offends Catholic sensibilities, intentionally or not. As a Catholic, I don't think I should sing it.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Well, it won't take me as many words, but I agree with Kathy.

    A significant portion of hymns used as offertory or Communion hymns in Catholic churches come from "memorial meal" Protestant traditions. Many have lovely tunes associated with them, including "Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether," but their theology is weak to bad. When I've had this discussion with singers and clergy, I often hear, "Well, it's just a song." That's right - and we all know that things that are sung are remembered much more than things that are heard or said since more parts of the brain and our physical being are engaged. Consequently, all the more reason to consider carefully our choices.

    "Hymns Ancient & Modern" and "The English Hymnal," of which the USA's 1940 Episcopal hymnal is a relative, have a wealth of office hymns in Neale translations, many with singable tunes. Better those than those focusing on the sacramental, where we'll just "overlook" our serious differences.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,094
    With all due respect to Protestants (and I am married to one), the hymn tradition spoken of in this thread does water down Catholic sacramental theology. In response to the "its just words" argument, I respond back "and what is your homily, kind sir?"
    Its darn time we start paying attention to "the words" we sing. But then, I still use fountain pens and wear bow ties.
  • Regarding 'Draw us in', the hymn is a simplified version of the anthem, which came first.
    Some hymns from Protestant sources are entirely consistent with Catholic orthodoxy; many are not.
    Many Anglican hymns actually express a 'high' ecclesiology and/or sacramental theology never widely or consistently held by most Anglicans.
    It's an extremely complicated issue and quite impervious to easy analysis.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    My mistake re: the hymn and the anthem.

    Analysis of hymn texts is very difficult but this does not mean that the attempt should not be made. My belief is that this is one of the urgent tasks of the moment and that each text should be looked at individually and carefully.
  • D.B. Page is right: this issue is '...complicated and... impervious to easy analysis'. Also, though one has to swallow a little bit, there is ceratinly truth in R. Nichols' assertion as to the delusional state of those who would maintain that there has not been some profitable cross-pollination on both sides. Newman, of course, was a product of Anglicanism and brought to the Catholic faith an intellect bearing seed which could have germinated from nowhere else. And, the late and respected Fr. Neuhaus famously suggested that there was no longer a need for Protestantism, implying with his now-Catholic mind that there had been some positive adaptation in the Church that rendered Protestant criticism null. This makes all the more sad the fate of the Anglican church for which many of us had such high hopes for a re-union with Rome only to see them dashed, trod asunder, by feminists and ruined, sullied, by all manner of modern and post-modern flotsam. Before I crossed the Tiber I, and many, used to think with certitude that Romans did not have a monopoly on the Catholic faith; that we, along with the Orthodox were proof of it. We may have been right, but alas, we lacked the one thing that preserves that Faith: the Magisterium! Now, as Catholics of the Anglican Use, we may be certain that at last we are, truly, 'Anglo-Catholics' - and no one can gainsay it. We exult in the Catholic Faith AND the riches of the Magisterium while maintaining much that is a uniquely English contribution to the Catholic heritage both before and after Henry the Tyrant. Kathy is quite right, though: we need to look very carefully at the words we sing and the prayers in which we participate. Vatican II issued some landmark and compelling thought and encouragement concerning oecumenism - but, we need always to watch that our 'oecumenism' does not involve a denial of the Faith or an utterance of heresy.

    This works beautifully with a LM plainsong tune such as 'Jesu dulcis', or, if you are a little more ambitious, 'Aeterna Christi

    Almighty Father, Lord most high,
    Who madest all, who fillest all:
    Thy Name we praise and magnify,
    For all our needs on thee we call.

    We offer to thee of thine own,
    Ourselves and all that we can bring -
    In bread and cup before thee shown,
    Our universal offering.

    All that we have we bring to thee,
    Yet all is naught when all is done
    Save that in it thy love can see
    The sacrifice of thy dear Son.

    By his command in bread and cup
    His Body and his Blood we plead:
    What on the Cross he offer'd up
    Is here our sacrifice indeed.

    For all thy gifts of life and grace,
    Here we thy servants humbly pray
    That thou wouldst look upon the face
    Of thine anointed Son today.
    The Rev. V.S.S. Coles,
    Anglican priest, 1904
  • Yes, absolutely, hymn texts must be evaluated rigorously!
    And this is so precisely *because* the task is so complex and difficult and therefore avoided by those who should be guarding the liturgy!
    My emphasis on the unavoidable complexity involved was intended as cautionary rather than inhibiting.
    What we must avoid are easy categorizations such as 'Originated in an ostensibly/putatively Catholic source, ergo it's Catholic' and 'Originated in an ostensibly Protestant source, ergo it's not compatible with Catholicism'. John Mason Neale's hymn translations are more Catholic than a pile (sic) of Music Issues/Gather/Come Celebrate could ever hope to be.
  • Actually, I came across an older hymnal with very different words to Draw Us In and, from what I read, they are very Catholic compared to what is in the Worship III hymnal. The words, I believe, are found in the Worship II hymnal. When I read them, I was pleasantly surprised, but, greatly disappointed that things had changed. I need to hunt the book down inside my Jeep.

    Now, I did find an old People's Missal and looked through some of the stuff in there. Even the current version of "Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether" is not as problematic as some of the stuff that Sebastian Temple wrote. In fact, some of the compositions in the book are, sadly, insipid and sound like the pop tunes of the day. I am all for cleaning up the lyrics of "Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether" because the tune is beautiful, especially hearing it on an organ.
  • Here is one version that I found and it doesn't even match what is in Worship III:

    Draw us in the Spirit's tether;
    For when humbly, in thy name,
    Two or three are met together,
    Thou art in the midst of them:
    Alleluya! Alleluya! Touch we now thy garment's hem.

    As the faithful used to gather
    In the name of Christ to sup,
    Then with thanks to God the Father
    Break the bread and bless the cup,
    Alleluya! Alleluya! So knit thou our friendship up.

    All our meals and all our living
    Make as sacraments of thee,
    That by caring, helping, giving,
    We may true disciples be.
    Alleluya! Alleluya! We will serve thee faithfully.

    I realize that this is not very theologically strong as it was written in 1931 by an Anglican priest. I am listening to the Cathedral Singers sing this on my rhapsody player. It is quite lovely. I will say this for the High Church Anglicans, this song is certainly better than One Bread, One Body and Pan de Vida.
  • benedictigal - you are correct: there is 'something' inordinately lovely about this text, particularly in its setting by Friedell. However, I really don't think that it would pass theological muster with truly High Church Anglicans, let alone Catholics of any Rite or Use. It's not what is says (or, even, that it says what it says in a rather maudlin way) - it is what it fails unutterably to say (or admit [or even contemplate]).
  • That is true. I did find it rather interesting to see the Holy Father singing along. Would that someone could tweak the words and make it more theologically sound. However, when matching it up side by side with th stuff that David Haas and Marty Haugen write (which is even less theologically sound than this piece), Draw Us In would certainly be the more acceptable of the bunch. I would even choose it over anything that Bob Hurd, Fr. Manolo or the rest of the OCP stable would submit. Now, the one that comes close to capturing the beautiful musicality of the song is Fr. Schiavone's Amen, El Cuerpo de Cristo. Even though the lyrics still lean a bit towards the horizontal (I would rather that he expound the veritcal elements), it is still the best that OCP has in its aresenal. Maybe Fr. Schiavone could retool Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether.
  • I am not a musician, but, would this work?

    Draw us in the Spirit's tether;
    For when humbly, in thy name,
    Two or three are met together,
    Thou art in the midst of them:
    Alleluya! Alleluya! Touch we now thy garment's hem.

    As Apostles used to Gather
    to offer this Sacrifice of Praise
    to thee, O Heavenly Father,
    thy Son's Body and His Blood
    Alleluya! Alleyua! We partake of this heavenly Food.

    All praise to God the Father
    and all glory to God the Son
    and all hail to God the Spirit, praised they be eternally,
    Alleluya! Alleuya! We will serve Thee faithfully.

    As I said, I am no musician, but, a tweak here and there and it can work. The first verse isn't as problematic when placed in its proper context. We gather at Mass. The Church teaches that Christ is also present in the faithful gathered for the Holy Sacrifice. The penitential rite, although not a subtitute for Confession, offers us spiritual healing, much like the woman with the hemorrhage who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus' garment.

    The second verse can be amended to note the sacrificial element of the Mass, along with our belief in the Real Presence. The last verse has the traditional praise to the Trinity. Maybe those of you who are much more skilled at this than I am can make it work.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    It is a beautiful tune, and the harmonization of the amthem is lush and gorgeous! And I'm in favor of letting the text stay as it is and nourish folks who believe what it says.

    My objection is simply that it was a mistaken hymn choice in context.

    Here's a link to a longish discussion of a hymn choice I thought was excellent: the hymn that opened the Papal Vespers last April http://hymnographyunbound.blogspot.com/2008/04/continuity.html
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thanks, Kathy. It was a good reading and remind me to pray for our Pope, for his contiuous wisdom and the strength.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623

    Excellent idea. Centuries ago, Protestant congregations in certain parts of Europe did the same thing in the other direction: they took Catholic music and re-wrote the words. It seems advisable, in this thoughtlessly relativistic age, to do the same.

    It is no good pretending to enjoy a spurious unity when there are important and substantial differences between us.

    The reality of bread and wine is changed. Christ was explicit about this, was not speaking in parables, and of course knew the potent effect His perduring Presence would have on binding the faithful together -- not just to each other, but to Him.

    Lex orandi, lex credendi. We must be wise about it and always act accordingly.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Kathy, I would quibble about one point in the article: at the end, you say "a great hymn selection." I think the word "selection" is somewhat misleading, as there was no selecting done in this case: that was the hymn that SHOULD* be used, and so it was done! What a wonderful example of singing the black!

    *I don't know that this hymn is mandated for Eastertide Vespers, but I'm fairly certain it used to be.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    Right, exactly. In the old days it was not a selection, but nowadays it is. They sang the old black.

    The new "green?"
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    Here's something for you, benedictgal and Pes. This is more along the lines of what I would want to sing at an ecumenical prayer service. This, or almost anything by Charles Wesley, or Ubi Caritas.

    As the Holy Spirit hovered when the earth and heavens were made
    Let our union be recovered in the name of Jesus Christ who prayed
    Alleluia! Alleluia! for our unity the night He was betrayed.

    As the children of one Father, as disciples of one Lord
    let us pray with one another that our fellowship may be restored
    Alleluia! Alleluia! That the world may know; that Christ may be adored.

    Its clunky, I know. I'm thinking of a 3rd verse that would incorporate my favorite phrase from Ubi Caritas: cessent lites. Maybe : may our quarrels have an end. Or is that under copyright?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    s/b "fellowship in them"
  • Pes
    Posts: 623

    Playing around:

    [a verse about fall into division]

    As the Holy Spirit hovered
    when the world was knit and made
    Let our union be recovered
    by the love of Christ who prayed
    Alleluia! Alleluia!
    for unity, the night He was betrayed

    As the children of one Father
    as disciples of one Lord
    let us pray with one another
    that harmony* will be restored
    Alleluia! Alleluia!
    in unity, that Christ may be adored

    * or "one Church"? is that the push? I feel ambivalent, actually. I like a healthy diversity in non-essentials.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100

    vs. 1: I like the causal connection between Christ's love, as He prays, and our unity.
    Why "knit?" Is this a biblical image or your own? It's interesting, and certainly good metrically

    vs. 2: i like the echo of "unity" in the same place in both verses
    line 4: 2 notes on that? or on harm?

    Some of the separated communities do not want one Church--this argues for harmony, or something...
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    Pes, obviously knit is in Psalm 139. Is it also on Genesis?
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I don't know off-hand -- I was thinking of 139, too.

    vs. 2, line 4 -- rhythm probably should be trochaic, thus:

    As the children of one Father
    as disciples of one Lord
    let us sing with one another
    glory, praise, in one accord
    Alleluia! Alleluia!
    blest unity, that Christ may be adored!

    This is sort of working toward a traditional Gloria Patri gesture at the end.

    Something like that.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    The division verse:

    After Luther's nailed contentions
    on ye olde cathedral door
    Christians since have seen dissension,
    divorce, dispute, bad hymns, and war
    Miserere! Miserere!
    disunity and strife we do abhor!

    I'm kidding.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    What I don't understand is why we don't just sing Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, and leave it at that.

    Love divine, all loves excelling,
    joy of heaven, to earth come down;
    fix in us thy humble dwelling;
    all thy faithful mercies crown!
    Jesus thou art all compassion,
    pure, unbounded love thou art;
    visit us with thy salvation;
    enter every trembling heart.

    Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
    into every troubled breast!
    Let us all in thee inherit;
    let us find that second rest.
    Take away our bent to sinning;
    Alpha and Omega be;
    end of faith, as its beginning,
    set our hearts at liberty.

    Come, Almighty to deliver,
    let us all thy life receive;
    suddenly return and never,
    nevermore thy temples leave.
    Thee we would be always blessing,
    serve thee as thy hosts above,
    pray and praise thee without ceasing,
    glory in thy perfect love.

    Finish, then, thy new creation;
    pure and spotless let us be.
    Let us see thy great salvation
    perfectly restored in thee;
    changed from glory into glory,
    till in heaven we take our place,
    till we cast our crowns before thee,
    lost in wonder, love, and praise.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I agree. That's a superb text.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    It's the inimitable Charles Wesley, of course, capable of expressing complex spiritual thoughts, and, in particular, religious feelings, in simple, elegant, eminently singable verse full of scripture.

    For Catholics, he passes another important test: he expresses no sentiment that is foreign to the meaning of the proper texts of the Mass. Unless I'm missing something, he is constantly expressing prayers that are fully consonant with the Mass itself.
  • Actually, if we really wanted to get down to the nitty gritty of being ecumenical, then "In Christ, There Is No East or West" would have worked a lot better:

    1. In Christ there is no east or west,
    in him no south or north;
    but one great fellowship of love
    throughout the whole wide earth.

    2. In Christ shall true hearts everywhere
    their high communion find;
    his service is the golden cord
    close binding humankind.

    3. In Christ now meet both east and west,
    in him meet south and north;
    all Christly souls are one in him
    throughout the whole wide earth.

    Or, this one, Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation:

    1. Christ is made the sure foundation,
    Christ the head and cornerstone;
    chosen of the Lord and precious,
    binding all the church in one;
    holy Zion's help forever,
    and her confidence alone.

    2. To this temple, where we call thee,
    come, O Lord of Hosts, today!
    With thy faithful loving-kindness
    hear thy people as they pray,
    and thy fullest benediction
    shed within its walls alway.

    3. Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
    what they ask of thee to gain;
    what they gain from thee forever
    with the blessed to retain,
    and hereafter in thy glory
    evermore with thee to reign.

    4. Laud and honor to the Father,
    laud and honor to the Son,
    laud and honor to the Spirit,
    ever three and ever one;
    one in might and one in glory,
    while unending ages run.

    Both would have worked well. Although, I stil believe that with some amendments, Draw Us in the Spirit's Tehter can work. At least it is much better than anything that Bob Hurd, Marty Haugen and David Haas have written. It is certainly better than Song of the Body of Christ.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    Here's what they should have done: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-WrvjbKLSs&feature=related
  • Sorry, Kathy, but the feds, in their infinite wisdom, won't let us have access to YouTube. :(. When I get home from Mass tonight, I'll try to see if I can get the link on my little laptop.

    Do you not like anything that I have proposed?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    The video link is a big production of Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, from a St. Olaf Christmas Concert. I was thinking thinking that this would be an excellent beginning to an ecumenical prayer service because of the way it invites (begs!) the Lord to come into our midst. And that is what I think is the best ecumenical prayer: please, Lord, be here, make us one by Your presence here. And it's a beautiful production, with all kinds of young people--the sort of thing that would be great for a pope!

    I'm not entirely in favor of In Christ there Is no East or West. Although I don't think that there is anything heretical or misleading about it, and although it certainly is an enjoyable hymn to sing, it seems rather earthbound to me. Christ is obviously very much spoken of, but the allusions to Him are rather vague and much less significant in the hymn than the allusions to us, and to the world we live in. In other words there is a horizontalism in the hymn, and I think this is reinforced by the lack of a clear directionalism in the hymn. Who is speaking? Who is being addressed? Both of these are unclear; it is narrative speech rather than vocative.

    Narrative speech is not "wrong" in and of itself, in fact many of the propers are not directed toward the Lord. But they still always convey a deep intimacy of the Lord and a delight in something very active that God is doing, such as coming, supporting, forgiving, being faithful, etc. But the unity in Christ expressed in this song is not expressly based on something deep within God. In fact, the only direct and non-vague cause for our unity given in the hymn is service--our service of Christ.

    I think one dangerous reductionist impression that is very prevalent in our time is the idea that we unite ourselves. I think that song can be thought of as supporting that idea, even though it says repeatedly that our unity is in Christ--and I think it's a bad idea for ecumenists to have in their heads when they begin to pray together, and so is the recurring theme "throughout the whole wide earth." These geographical references take up so very much verbal space in the hymn, and they are very earthbound.

    The second hymn is fine and very nice. My only quibble is with the expression "this temple where we call You." It seems to me that God calls us to worship Him, not the other way around. This is a very significant theological issue; however, I don't know whether it would be the sort of thing that would leave an impression on folks who sing it. And there is a lot of good in that text. Verse 1 is pristine, and excellent.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,930
    Would the ecumenical congregation mind if we sang "Christ is made the sure foundation" to the tune "St. Thomas" (Tantum ergo)? :-)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    If they don't mind singing Draw Us In... to the tune Union Seminary!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Kathy I really like your analysis. It's eye-opening for me. Please keep posting. Maybe average people don't really think about this, but it reamins in them whether they think about it or not. Especially when it's repeated I'm sure it can start to change what you believe. And most of all, it helps for musicians who select the music think twice.
  • Kathy, I can see your point, but,in an ecumenical setting, both of these songs would work. It's interesting to note that In Christ is an African-American Spiritual. Now, regarding the use of the word Temple, in Mexico, they use that word for church. For example, el Templo del Santo Nino means the Church of the Holy Child. Even the signs cautioning tourists against wearing shorts inside the church use the word "templo" instead of "iglesia". It weirded me out at first, but now, I can understand.

    Besides, the Church is the New Israel and, just as Ancient Israel had its temple, we have ours.

    Now, I know that you have issues with Draw Us In, but I find the setting rather beautiful. Draw Us In, as I have stated before, is probably a lot better content than O Love of God/Amor De Dios and Come to the Feast/Ven al Banquete, which really waters down the Church's teaching on the Eucharist worse than Draw Us in does.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,100
    bendictgal, I heartily agree with you that any hymn that is misleading about Eucharistic theology / the Real Presemce would be seriously inappropriate. But this is not the only error possible.

    Perhaps we should just agree to disagree...