Seven Gems from Calvary
by Anthony Esolen
When people ask me how they can bring back into their lives and their worship some of our great heritage of Christian art, music, and poetry, I ask them instead why they would hesitate to do something, anything, to make it happen. Suppose you knew that in your attic was a chest filled with photographs of Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Lee, taken by Matthew Brady. Suppose there were also letters written and signed by the president, unknown to scholars, and a daguerreotype of him dated March 1865, also unknown. Surely you would pack up provisions and take that long trek up to the attic. You would turn the knob and open the door. You would brave the cobwebs. You would open that chest, and you would, mirabile dictu, take things out of it and look at them.
The old hymnals are that chest in the attic. Take them all in all and we have thousands of gems, gathering dust. It is a shame and a scandal. I am not speaking merely of the quality of the hymns, but of their kinds. People may argue with me when I assert that almost nothing of any high poetic quality has been written for church music in the last sixty years. They have no argument at all when I ask them to show me contemporary instances of the kinds of hymns that people used to write.
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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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