Troubling Lyrics in Though the Mountains May Fall
  • I'm just a guy in the choir, so I have little or no say regarding the music selection, and it's been only lately that I've really scrutinized the appropriateness of our music.

    Anyway, here's the troubling verse:

    Should you turn and forsake Him
    He will gently call your name
    Should you wander away from Him
    He will always take you back

    At first it sounds nice but shouldn't that be in the PAST tense? If you HAVE fallen, come back to God. But this verse is implying that if you decide to have an adulterous affair, go ahead, because God will take you back. It doesn't seem to allow for the possibility that you may "wander" and then drop dead, or that you may "wander" and might not feel like coming back.

    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,097
    I think there are two sides to this.

    Yes, it is presumptuous to choose, or to suggest others might choose, to walk away from God because you know He is forgiving.

    On the other hand, God IS forgiving.

    So the lyric rings true according to the facts. Yes, God will forgive.

    But if it were taken as a prescription for future actions it would be a temptation, like the serpent's.

    Fwiw, I think it means to just be stating the theological reality of forgiveness.
    Thanked by 1Marc Cerisier
  • I see your point, but I also see this as if a wife were to say to her husband, "If you should ever cheat on me I am forgiving and will always take you back." For some guys that might be a temptation...
  • Lacrimosa,

    Your intuition is correct. While Kathy's point is valid, that God is forgiving, no where in the text you present does the idea of the need for repentance poke its head. There's a formulation of the same idea (which Kathy rightly identifies) that there is no sin which you can commit which God can't or won't forgive..... but one must be sorry in order for God to forgive the sin.
  • It's technically true, but simplistic on a poetic and theological level. Not something I would include in any sort of liturgy.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,930
    Here is a period recording of the song, from the 1975 album Earthen Vessels. At the time the "St Louis Jesuits" performed songs with accompaniment in a pop-folk style. I wonder, though, whether unrhymed prose is really consistent with that genre.
  • It appears to me to be somewhat of an endorsement of the sin of presumption.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,162
    Sounds like Schutte.
  • It IS based on the image of Israel as an unfaithful spouse. I can see where you are coming from, but I don't believe the song is advocating that at all. The song cites Isaiah 54: 6-10; 49:15; 40:31-32 as text. The verses of the song are written very closely to the scripture verses it cites.

    I cringe every time I play this piece, because the dum, dum, dum , dum folksy style isn't fitting with the rest of the liturgy, but I appreciate songs that come from scripture. I would love to find a song that highlights God's mercy and is befitting of the liturgy that the parish- not just the choir- can sing. So far, this is it. (There's a wideness in God's mercy in lyrics and melody has not been a suitable substitute for this parish.)

    Schonbergian: A critique of melody and style seem more appropriate than the song lyrics. As such, you are calling the scripture of Isaiah simplistic.

    Isaiah 54:6-10 NAB

    he LORD calls you back,

    like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,

    A wife married in youth and then cast off,

    says your God.c

    For a brief moment I abandoned you,

    but with great tenderness I will take you back.
    Thanked by 1Kathy
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,337
    He takes us back, but we cannot continue to live in the sin of presumption or we are heaping condemnation upon ourself for the final day.
  • This is the future perfect tense, and not future tense. Not that that makes the lyrics any less insipid...
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,162
    Though the mountains may fall
    and guitars turn to dust,
    and the hippies no longer can stand...
  • Francis, of course not. Neither the scriptures nor the song lyrics quoting the scriptures suggest that.
    Thanked by 1drforjc
  • I didn't know it was based on those scriptures and neither does the congregation. He will always take "you" back means "me." The song is telling "me" that if I wander (fall into serious sin) that God will always take me back. Sounds like a good deal. But how do I know I won't die before I go to Confession? The way I hear it, it's making me feel good about whatever sinful state I might be in. No hurry to change it. He will take me back when I feel like returning. (Give me chastity but not yet...)
  • It's worth reflecting:

    Many of these clean theological distinctions / dichotomies that we make (presumption v. despair, justice v. mercy) are not nearly so clear in the primary sources (the Scriptures). Instead, large passages dwell on the one or the other, and it is the task of good exegesis to put them together.

  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,337

    Well, YOU might think as such, but what about the REST of the people in the pews? A little ambiguity goes a long way.
    Thanked by 1KARU27
  • Confession: I like this song, as well as Blest be the Lord, because at face value, they are pretty good from a folk-pop stand point. So, since I never program it for Mass (plus it isn't in my parish's hymnal), what is there for me to worry about?
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,930
    Nothing to worry about, indeed! There should be a category for "songs to sing in the car but not at Mass". :-)
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • Sincerely, Francis: Shall we chain the bible back up to the pulpit, because people might misinterpret?

    No one is singing this in a vacuum. The fuller picture is given through homilies, faith formation, scripture study, etc.

    Thanked by 1JL
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,930
    And I thought bibles were chained in place because they were costly and stealable!
  • PolskaPiano,

    When you say this....
    The fuller picture is given through homilies, faith formation, scripture study, etc.

    you force me to ask: "With this kind of music in place, what kind of preaching do you think accompanies it?" Lex Orandi.
    Thanked by 1KARU27
  • And I thought...
    You thought correctly. The matter of chained Bibles is frequently trotted out by evangelicals and their ilk as an example of how the Church kept Bibles from 'the people' ('the people' who, at any rate, could not read them if they had them). Truth - they were chained to keep them from being stolen, just as other books were chained to the reading desks of libraries. Books in and of themselves were very valuable, the more so those whose covers were studded with gold and costly gems.
    Thanked by 1KARU27
  • I think you’re reading way too into this. If you look hard enough, you’ll find heresy in everything. This was, and is, still one of my favourite St. Louis Jesuit songs that I like to sing in my car. It’s a song about God’s unconditional love for everyone. God doesn’t turn us away when we sin; we turn ourselves away from God through sin. If we return to God, he will always take us back. Good grief you guys.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 270
    Reminds me of the General's insurance commercial, they'll take you back even if you have a lapse in payment.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,337

    “One of the least preached on dogmas of the Faith in our time is that all those who die in a state of mortal sin will be condemned to the eternal torments of Hell. St. Anthony wrote about this dogma repeatedly in his autobiography, attributing the inspiration for his exhausting labors to his desire to save souls from such a fate.

    St. Anthony did not think it was difficult or rare for people to commit mortal sins. He wrote, “Faith teaches that the pains of Hell are eternal, and it also warns us that one single mortal sin suffices to condemn a soul forever because of the infinite malice by which it offends an infinite God. With these most positive principles in mind, how can I remain indifferent when I see the ease with which sins are committed, sins that occur as frequently as one takes a glass of water, sins and offenses that are perpetrated out of levity or diversion? How can I rest when so many are to be seen living continually in mortal sin?”

    He expressed his incredulity at how many of his contemporary priests and lay faithful would not warn sinners about the frightening path they were on: “Neither can I understand why other priests who believe the selfsame truths as I do, as we all must do, do not preach or exhort their flock so that they might avoid this unbearable eternity of Hell. It is still a source of wonder to me how the laity — those men and women blessed with the Faith — do not give warning to those who need it.”

    John Henderson
  • What do Canon 915, excommunication, The Merchant of Venice, and Elizabeth Warren's plan for health care have in common?

    They were all in the sermon I heard this morning at Mass.

    "What does this have to do with the thread here under discussion?, you ask.

    Father made the point that withholding Communion from someone who is an obstinate public sinner is, in itself, at act of charity and mercy. He went on to talk about how one should receive a repentant sinner. The forgiveness and welcome are there -- but the sinner must be repentant.
    Thanked by 1Carol