Ritualsong 699...
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    is the tune WESTMINSTER ABBEY, and a great one, to be sure. The text, however, is Christus Paradox, written by a Lutheran or Methodist priestess---Sylvia Dunstan--- who died rather young. Most of the poem seems perfectly acceptable to Catholic orthodoxy; Christ being a "peacegiver" as well as a "swordbringer"; an "...everlasting instant"; Christ is both "lamb and shepherd"; paradoxes like these are images that Chesterton would have found familiar, I think. However, the last stanza reads:

    Worthy is our earthly Jesus
    Worthy is our cosmic Christ
    etc....

    Is this appropriate? That particular phrasing just seems, I don't know, rather Arian, especially as the conclusion of a hymn full of otherwise acceptable paradoxes. Is anyone familiar with this? Can any of you hymn experts offer an opinion? WESTMINSTER ABBEY is a wonderful hymn tune; should I just stick with "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" if I'm teaching this to schoolchildren?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    The text can be reached from a link on this page (I'm not able to link it directly here), and I don't think the text is meant in an unorthodox sense. However, those particular words have some unfortunate associations that would make them a source of scandal to a fair number of concerned Catholics.

    "Cosmic Christ" echoes a book title of Matthew Fox, the notorious doctrinal dissenter (now an ex-Catholic), and also sounds like an echo of Teilhard de Chardin, whose writings are still under an official warning from CDF.

    Also, the juxtaposition of "earthly Jesus" and "cosmic Christ" could be taken as evoking certain theologies that make a strong disjunction between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith", as if the latter were a construct of human thought.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 1,038
    "You, whom we both scorn and crave"

    Huh? I think the text goes a bit too far here as well.

    I have been quite underimpressed by Sylvia Dinstan's texts - I'm thinking in particular of "This Holy Covenant Was Made" sung to the venerable LASST UNS ERFREUEN (All Creatures of Our God and King). I hat eto say it, but the line "Seas were parted, freedom started!" at the end of the third line always cracks me up. "Go to the World" set to SINE NOMINE (For All the Saints) also seems awkward, to say the least. Perhaps this is the fault of the editors in pairing tunes to texts, but more often than not the words strike me as too clever and colloquial, trying too hard to pack in "paradox" and "insight" at the expense of breadth and imagery.

    Sam Schmitt
  • Don't you mean the tune "Westminster Abbey"?
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    Quite right about the tune name---I typed too quickly. Thanks to everyone for all the commentary. I agree especially with Mr. Schmitt: that the poem seems to opt for cleverness and sophistry where it should have aimed for richness, subtlety or expressiveness. I'll strike this one from future consideration.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I'm not a huge fan of this hymn text in general, but I do not see any problem with "worldly" and "cosmic" as a poetic descriptions of the humanity and divinity of Christ. I can' t imagine anyone thinks this is referring to Christ as an astronaut, or as one concerned with material possessions. Do you also object to "Ave maris stella" (which conjures pagan images of Venus) or the "Pie Pellicane" (Christ is both man and God, but never a bird -- like Zeus appearing to Leda) verse of "Adoro te"? Sometimes a poem is just a poem. But again, do we really need to sing this one? Why not just sing "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing"?
  • Maureen
    Posts: 675
    Christ as pelican (ripping up His chest to feed His children with His own blood) is a lot older image than "Adoro te". You can blame Physiologus' bestiary for that one, because it was widely used as a source of sermon material.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    Why not just sing "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing"?

    For example, in the setting by olbash.
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    I have absolutely no objections to either "Ave maris stella" or "Adoro te", both of which I sang to lull my infant son to sleep. Those two hymns are a part of Catholic tradition, obviously, and Christus Paradox is not. You are imputing to me assertions that I did not, in fact, make. We don't need to discuss the potential pitfalls of interpretation in "Ave maris stella" because it has centuries of performance and imagery that support it, while Christus Paradox is a late 20th century invention. That doesn't automatically strike it from consideration as worthy of inclusion in worship, but it does mean the text needs careful vetting before putting it out there for students to sing. In this case, I think we've all concluded we should stay away from Christus Paradox, especially since there are so many more hymns that are perfectly orthodox and have a longer tradition.

    Secondly, the reason I even mentioned the tune is that it appears in Ritualsong, the hymnal currently in use by the Catholic school where I teach. Sure, I'd love get the Adoremus or the PBEH when it's available; those are not options for me right now, so I'm trying to find material that is both musically enriching and theologically safe to teach to the students.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    With respect to rogue and others, I find the argument from "tradition" extremely lame. Adoro te WAS at one time a new hymn, just like Christus Paradox. Furthermore, Aquinas himself started a new movement in theology, one which had little precedent except in the scholasticism of his day. At one point, the same could have been said of Ave Maris. It was doubtlessly a hymn which represented something new. YES, people must be wary of embracing the new and different, but if that in itself were the sole criterion, we'd still be running around chanting psalms in Hebrew. The entire difference between Catholicism and, say, Orthodoxy is that Catholic tradition builds and changes through the addition of Ave Maris Stella, Thomine theology, Adoro Te, and should it stand the test of time, Christus Paradox. My guess would be that it won't stand the test of time and will be forgotten in 20 years, but I'm primarily making my point against the "argument from tradition".

    And for what my opinion's worth, I didn't read any invective in incantu's response, so I think you may be interpreting malice into what was a respectful and wise counter-argument.

    EDIT: I'd like to add that there were many, including church leadership, who considered Aquinas's theology to be heretical.
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    Gavin, you're quite right about the Catholic definition of tradition: that which stands the test of time, and that was fully implied in my previous post. I have no problem at all with building and shaping our Catholic musical heritage (obviously, or otherwise I wouldn't have been combing about in a late 20th century hymnal for music to use). I only wanted to check and see what other people thought about this one in particular and if anyone else shared my doubts. If I were a betting man, I'd lay no money at all on the long-term prospects of Christus Paradox---but like you mention, Aquinas was considered heretical by many, so I won't presume to foretell the future. I appreciate all the responses and input. And I want to apologize to incantu----I probably overreacted, and I didn't mean to offend. I was upset that you seemed to be dismissing an honest question, and I should have responded in good faith. Sorry for any hurt feelings.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    "I find the argument from 'tradition' extremely lame."

    Then you find a large amount of the Catholic faith lame, don't you?. :/

    Question, also: you say a difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is this building of tradition. Do you mean to say that the Orthodox do not also build onto their tradition? If so, how do you explain Russian four-part polyphony, Znammeny chant, et alius?

    And since I also tend to find Aquinas heretical, I don't have much more to comment here. Other than, yes, you gotta see what stands the test of time, but you also have to approach things reasonably. How else do things get filtered out of history? When people look at them, think the text is weak, and choose not to use it.