What Did He Do?
My wife was recently trying to select hymns for my son to play on Trinity Sunday in the small church where we attend Mass in the summer, in Cape Breton. The Canadian Book of Worship III is not very obliging. Most of the songs are contemporary trash. Most of the remainder are unsuitable for Christian consumption, their texts having been rendered heretical or imbecile. The emphasis in general is on our feelings, not on the mighty deeds of God. So she pretty much gave up on it. The Trinity may be the central mystery of the Christian faith, but you wouldn't know it from that dreadful hymnal.
The mighty deeds of God, the mystery of the Godhead, the unfathomable sacrifice of Christ—I found them well-celebrated in a small, old hymnal my wife gave me as a present the next day: Favorite Welsh and English Hymns and Melodies, published for Welshmen living in the United States and Canada, and for the Gymanfa Ganu, the Festival for Sacred Song. The editor's account of how the festival came about confirms our intuition that people are only really united from above, by common worship. The festival
is expressive of the soul of the Cymry, or Welsh, since it gives an outlet for their deep and fervent religious feeling through the medium they love best, the music of human voices blended in harmony. It is, as it must be to be Welsh, a democratic institution, for persons in all positions in life take part in it. It is devoted to four-part singing of hymns and anthems, and has given the congregational singing of the Welsh people concededly first place among the nations.
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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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