Behold the Lamb, Martin Willett
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    I am supposed to select a blend of traditional and more contemporary hymns/songs in order to keep the peace. Trouble is, my list of appropriate songs gets heavier toward the traditional side each week.
    This week, after 4 communions with Martin Willett’s Behold the Lamb, I sat down and worked out my objections:

    “Behold the Lamb of God, all who eat, all who drink shall live…”
    - All who eat, all who drink? Christ said if you do NOT eat his flesh and drink his blood, you have NO life in you. And that those who do eat and drink will be raised to eternal life. But this must be interpreted through St Paul:
    I Corinthians 11:27-29 “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”
    And St Thomas (Lauda Sion): All receive the self-same meat:
    “Nor the less for others leave.
    Both the wicked and the good
    Eat of this celestial Food:
    But with ends how opposite!
    Here 't is life: and there 't is death:
    The same, yet issuing to each
    In a difference infinite.”

    Verse 2
    “Peaceful now,
    those whose hearts are blessed with understanding of the wheat,
    of the wine united with his word
    and the love we share.”
    - Wheat and wine united sounds like a doctrine other than transubstantiation. The Eucharistic species is no longer bread and wine, but entirely Christ.
    Council of Trent, 13th Session. On the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist”:
    “CANON lI.-If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.”

    Verse Three:
    “Gentle one,
    Child of God, join with us at this table. Bless our lives;
    nourish all who hunger for this feast; shelter them this peace.”
    - Christ is customarily referred to the the “Son” of God, we are referred to as “children of God.” Who does child refer to here, us or Christ? What is being emphasized: the kinship of Christ and believers? Or are we trying to cast Christ in gender neutral terms?
    - Mention of table and feast. No mention of sacrifice in this song (other than that implied by the term “Lamb of God” analogy)

    I would like to do what I’m told. But while I can’t do gift of finest wheat EVERY week, I could list 25 traditional hymns with better Eucharistic theology right now. Is my dislike for contemporary music muddling my thinking? Or does bad theology just go hand in hand with bad music?
  • I have to admit that this piece is a guilty pleasure of mine. I truly wish I didn’t like it, but I do. Most of it is for sentimental reasons, but I do like the melody over the words. I also am reminded of my home congregation and how it would belt the refrain of this.

    I think you raise many valid points. The theology in this is very wishy-washy. I like your mentioning of “He who eats unworthily brings condemnation on himself” when comparing “All who eat, all who drink…” It really is a valid point. I think Willett may be making a reference to John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and the one who believes in me shall not thirst.” However, in light of St. Paul’s letter, it is foolish to say “all,” because it really is simply not true. One must believe.

    Verses 2 and 3 suffer the same “feel good” notions: “…and the love we share” and “shelter them with peace,” respectively. Verse 3 has always struck me as odd with how its written. It seems odd to refer to Christ as a “Child of God.” I don’t know if the goal here was gender-neutrality or what.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,028
    While I do program that song every so often, it's not one that I use frequently, partly because of the lyrical defects you mentioned. For better Communion options that are contemporary, I recommend the following:

    "Draw Near" by Stephen Janco.

    "Take and Eat" by Michael Joncas.

    "Ubi Caritas" by Bob Hurd.

    "Our Blessing Cup" by Bob Hurd.

    "Bread of Angels" by Curtis Stephan.

    "The Supper of the Lord" by Lawrence Rosania.

    I program other contemporary songs and some traditional songs besides those, but those above are my "contemporary" staples, the ones I program more frequently than others.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,170

    It's rather tolerant for you to include that one with its stilted refrain:
    "Bread of love is broken now, cup of life is poured..."

    Hey, Vanna: can you get me some definite articles here?

    If an author is trying to write a sacred song but ends up making it ungrammatical, maybe that's an opportunity to use some discernment and say that the proposed sentences just aren't working. Why didn't he just title the song "Supper of Lord"?

    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CGM
    Posts: 687
    Other contemporary — that is, recently written — pieces of Eucharistic music which might suit your needs are

    — Thanks Be to You, O Lord, by Paweł Bębenek
    — Welcome, Bread of Life, also by Paweł Bębenek
    — Soul of Christ, Sanctify Me, by Stefan Stuligrosz

    See the attached PDF for scores.
    Thanked by 1Roborgelmeister
  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,028
    About the refrain in Rosania's "The Supper of the Lord," it's better now that the original lyrics were changed to avoid implications of consubstantiation. Recall that the first line used to be:

    "Precious body, precious blood, HERE IN bread and wine..."

    That was changed several years ago by OCP to:

    "Precious body, precious blood, SEEN AS bread and wine..."

    It was a needed improvement that salvaged the song. In its original iteration it would have been unacceptable in my judgment.

    One of the factors in my judgment to use that song now is that it references the Precious Body and Precious Blood of the Eucharist, which few, if any, other contemporary songs do. The verses are also predominantly quotes from or paraphrases of Scripture, mostly John 6, giving another option for that Scriptural content besides Toolan's "I Am the Bread of Life," which I also program but less frequently because of its irregular verse rhythms and wide, almost unsingable ambitus. I'd add that all the other songs I suggested to the original poster are better than "The Supper of the Lord," but I think there's still enough merit in that song for it to be worthy of use in a parish at which contemporary music is expected to be sung.

    There are relatively few contemporary Communion songs that are appropriate for Communion at Mass, in my judgment. There was discussion in another recent thread about Hurd's "Taste and See." I won't program that one, mostly for reasons of its musical style being incongruous with that moment of the Mass.

    This is a good opportunity to remind people or make new readers aware that about a year ago the USCCB Committee on Doctrine published a paper about evaluating songs for use at Mass. The section about Eucharistic doctrine is germane to this thread: Hymnody at the Service of the Church_0.pdf

  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,163
    “seen as”, hmm.

    Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur. Good.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,170
    About the refrain in Rosania's "The Supper of the Lord," it's better now that the original lyrics were changed to avoid implications of consubstantiation.

    Thanks for the info, Mark. It's good to hear that the song has become less bad than before. At one of my old jobs I was stuck singing it with the unorthodox words (I was not the director of music).

  • [off topic: aside}
    Hey, Vanna: can you get me some definite articles here

    Anyone younger than 35 not understand this reference?

    [back on topic]


    I wouldn't use this piece. I know you're supposed to use "contemporary" repertoire, but could you use contemporary stuff elsewhere, instead of in this modernly-challenged area of the Mass?
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    Thank you for the suggestions, and Chris, yes, that is the challenge, where to use contemporary stuff?

    The other half of the dilemma is everyone wants to sing "the songs we know." Having ruled out so many on the lists they give me of "songs we know" for either musical or textual reasons, even alternative contemporary songs are viewed as "something new," and "not the old songs that we used to sing."


    Anecdote: I had a voicemail just now from my parish "Susan" telling me how much she loved the songs (including Behold the Lamb) we sang yesterday at mass...
  • Davido,

    Anecdotally, most of those who attend Mass in the Ordo of Paul VI don't believe that they really receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ when they receive Holy Communion. Those same anecdotes suggest that most Catholics in that same group think Mass is a celebration, not a sacrifice. Two places you can't compromise, therefore, are the Offertory and Communion. What they sing as they leave.... you could just abolish the last hymn, and find a way to sing something cheesy before Mass actually starts, for the procession.
  • Carol
    Posts: 852
    My latest pastor put the kibosh on "The Supper of the Lord" even with the improved lyric. I think there are better communion hymns, but I think this one is acceptable. We use OCP and one year they dropped "Soul of My Savior." They must have had an outcry, because it was back in the next year.

    This year's cycle of readings has such an emphasis on the Eucharist that it is difficult to have variety and yet use only the best communion hymns.
    Thanked by 1MarkB
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,385
    "it is difficult to have variety" but how nuch variety is neccessary (or indeed desireable)?
    I know some musicians get bored by repetition, but what about the PIPs, many I think take great comfort from pedictability. If you add the cycle of the seasons to a rotation of selections in 'ordinary time' how many are needed?
    The Roman Church managed with just one eucharistic prayer for a millenium and a half, with a few seasonal interpolations.
    Thanked by 3MarkB Carol hilluminar
  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,028
    I agree with a_f_hawkins that directors need to repeat songs frequently enough for the assembly to get to know the songs and be confident singing them, if they want the assembly to sing. My communion song parish repertoire for a yearly cycle is only fifteen selections, of which the ones I listed above are the most often repeated. But those fifteen exclude the Gregorian chants that the choir sings at the very beginning of communion, for which I rotate among only five chants so that they are heard more frequently by the assembly to assist in their learning them, and after the chant we switch to a "normal" communion song in the hymnal.

    If music leaders get bored with the repetition, well... suck it up. We're here to serve the liturgy and the faithful, and repetition is part of that service. People can't learn the songs nor sing them with confidence if they aren't reinforced through repetition. So establish a solid, balanced repertoire and then make very few changes to it once it's settled.

    My master repertoire for the parish, excluding Christmas carols, is only about 135 songs. I'm comfortable with that; I think it provides for balanced variety and repetition.

    "Soul of My Savior" is too saccharine, in my opinion, so I don't program it. I consider that to be an example of a poor "traditional" song. If a choir sings it occasionally as an anthem, okay; but that's not one that I would choose and intend for the assembly to sing during communion.
    Thanked by 2Carol PaxMelodious
  • Mark, Davido,

    Remember that "popular" and "appropriate for Mass" aren't the same kinds of quality.

    In an OF format, since the readings repeat only once in three years -- and this kind of variety was considered a huge step in the right direction -- why not program hymns for a once-in-three-years box, too?


    Is is the theology or the music which troubles you about "Soul of My Savior"?
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    Chris, I am very aware of your point.

    This parish HAD a limited, regular repertoire of songs, as people suggest using above. They're just almost all inappropriate and need replacing with non-heresy.

    It's a certain style of music that appeals to certain people. I don't think they even really pay attention to the words.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,170
    Is is the theology or the music which troubles you about "Soul of My Savior"?

    I can't answer for Mark, but here's my own thought about the song. Every line of it mentions Jesus and mentions "me". Given a choice, I would rather sing about Jesus and Jesus than about Jesus and me. Of course, it's a setting of a venerable prayer by a saint, so it's not junk: it's just not ideal for singing at Mass.
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    Soul of my savior frequently crops up as a suggested prayer after reception of holy communion in old prayer manuals. How would it be less appropriate sung publically than prayed privately?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,170
    Here's some information about the Anima Christi:
    To my surprise, it turns out that it wasn't from St. Ignatius after all.

    The text doesn't really fit the melodies used with it, since it is irregular, with varying numbers of syllables in each line. This is basically the same reason Sr. Suzanne Toolan's "I Am The Bread Of Life" is not a well-crafted musical work, even though the text of that song is a verbatim quote from the Gospel according to St. John.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen hilluminar
  • Te Deum, is unproblematic, and even praiseworthy,but in many modern arrangements "we" would receive more musical emphasis than God, the angels or the other elements
  • Irregular text ⇔ chant
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • Carol
    Posts: 852
    I am in favor of repetition for the sake of the congregation being more comfortable with a hymn and therefore more willing to sing. The pickings of suitable hymns are slim in OCP, as we all know. Interesting that irregularity is seen as a problem. "Gift of Finest Wheat" has mixed meter. I find that could be a problem, but it's funny that the PIPS don't seem to notice.
  • Carol,

    Being familiar with a thing doesn't make one (necessarily) more willing to sing it. I sang the same portion of Handel's Messiah every year for nearly a decade as a boy, and I've never missed it, since. This isn't because the music is bad. It's not because I have musically dull tastes. It's because I needed to get a break from it rather than get in a rut, and eventually come to hate it.

    Thanked by 1Liam
  • Carol
    Posts: 852
    True, on the other hand I was sad to hear a longtime parishioner shake his head on the way out and call our church "the church of the unknown hymns." Moderation...
  • Carol,

    As Julie Coll will testify, congregations can (and do) sing chant.

    Part of the problem with "Behold the Lamb" and anything in a similar vein is that it proceeds from the premise that congregations can and should sing everything because Mass is about them. If the teenager is miserable at his own birthday party, or if he spends all his time (during that birthday party) ignoring his guests and the effort someone went to in order to give him a happy birthday, that birthday party has, perhaps failed. Some well-meaning parent will re-tool the party, so that the next time it satisfies the needy teenager and the needy parent. Mass, on the other hand, isn't about the congregation's temporal appetites.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • TCJ
    Posts: 973
    Part of the life of a music director is sitting down, reviewing hymns, and determining what is and is not appropriate - both for the music and the text. It sounds like he's doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing.

    People who dig up 3-year old threads to make comments such as the above, however? Somehow, I think that comment probably refers to the person who posted it more than the actual target.
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