I entered into a very good Twitter debate today. I’d seen a thread earlier in the day where some folks with traditional leanings were highlighting the lack of merit they give to some more contemporary music. To say this struck a nerve with me is too strong, but it did hit a sensitive spot.
My personal taste in liturgical music is more traditional than contemporary as a rule, I still love the old hymns like Faith of Our Fathers, Oh Bread of Heaven, Soul of my Saviour etc, I always will, and I love it when they are used. I love sacred music, O Vos Omnes, Beati Quorum Via, Miserere Mei Deus and the like, I can lose myself in it all day.
There are some contemporary hymns I like, Christ Be Our Light is one I will always love. Partly because I am such a huge fan of Bernadette Farrell, more for her social action work (which kicks rubbish out of anyone else in the world ever, who I have met) than her music. Be Not Afraid I want to be carried out to at my requiem, and Tell Out My Soul, lifts my spirits every time.
(as an aside, today has been a very very hard day, I’ve been singing ‘Tell Out’ ad nauseum)
I have reported before that I see so much more denigration of contemporary liturgical tastes by traditionalists than comes the other way. And very often when they denigrate they go for it hammer and tongs. Some traditionalists might say ‘and rightly so’, but no, not rightly so.
Something I have seen, not a lot, but enough, is a person who not as secure in their faith as they would like to be, having their tastes, the tastes God gave them, being derided by those who are more secure. I have seen someone told, quite vitriolically, “That’s not a hymn, that’s a nursery rhyme” (I omitted an adjective there) which cut the poor chap to the quick, i know he continued to go to Mass, but never again to that church, never again with his community.
Traditionalist will always dislike the contemporary, Edwardian house fans would not be carried into church in a 60’s through lounge kitchenette special, Fans of Fragonard, Goya or Turner would set Hodgkinites alight for heresy, fans of Euripides would not look at a Dickens, let alone a La Plante, it’s ever been thus and ever will.
But in matters of spirituality it’s different, very very different. The Church is huge, and encompases all sorts of people, with all sorts of tastes and all sorts of abilities to find a way to praise and glorify the heavenly Father of us all. At no point in scripture are we told ‘down with this sort of thing’, but we are told to be kinds and gentle to one another, to look for the things of mutual upbuilding and to love one another. We don’t do that by being unpleasant to each other, or about each other to our friends with similar tastes and sensitivities.
If you can do so with a clear conscience then by all means do, but that’s rather like the 70s error of telling the faithful “it’s down to your own conscience”, it’s not actually, just read the short reading in this evenings Vespers (week 3 Romans 12: 9-12)