Stones Instead of Bread: Reflections on Contemporary Hymns: Part III

by Mary Oberle Hubley

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Music is made sacred by its association to other, related factors, each of which is indispensable:

  1. By association with the occasion (or purpose)

  2. By association with a sacred text

  3. By association with that which is set apart, or separate from the worldly or profane

  4. By association with what is truly art

  5. By association with a particular tradition


1. By association with the occasion (or purpose)

The music used in our Catholic churches must be worthy (Anglo-Saxon - value) for the occasion, which is the worshipping of the Divinity through rites and prayers in His House.

It ought not to be understood in terms of ourselves, such as in celebrating ourselves as a "community;" for true community will flow naturally and honestly only out of our first giving God His due, which is the priority. A self-directed perspective is too limiting of God as well as of ourselves; it would direct the rites to ourselves, not to God, Who alone gives them meaning and significance.

Our music, then, must reflect God as He reveals Himself (His transcendence, His omnipotence, His immanence); not as we deem Him to be through our puny, created minds and vision.

Peace Is Flowing Like A River,1 a song which claims to be based on Psalm 107, is an example of a self-directed, community-oriented song. It is symptomatic of many of these songs, so often of pentecostal inspiration, that almost nothing is said in regard to God while the real reference is to the congregation.2 Also symptomatic is the juvenile character of the melody; second graders are unchallenged by it, which fact complements the monotonous repetition of the text. The text, by the way, is utter nonsense.

Another song which offers an example of self (community) - not God -direction is the immensely popular "All That We Have."3

So minimal is its reference to God that He is only obliquely referred to in the third person. The actual subjects of these folksy reflections are "some," "others," "sometimes," etc.

 


1 North American Liturgical Resources, Glory and Praise (Phoenix, Arizona: 1977), p. 55 by (former Rev.) Carey Landry.


2 Ibid., Verse 1.

“Peace is flowing like a river,
flowing out of you and me.
Flowing out into the desert,
setting all the captives free.”

(Con’t) Verse 2. “His love is flowing like a river,” etc. Ibid.
Verse 3. “His healing’s flowing like a river,” etc.
Verse 4: “Alleluia,” etc.
Verse 5: “His peace is flowing like a river,” etc.


3 Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 7, by Gary Ault.