Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hymns of the Church

Regarding music Luther writes:

"We know that music is hateful and intolerable to devils. I firmly believe, nor am I ashamed to assert that next to theology no art is equal to music; for it is the only one, except theology which is able to give a quiet and happy mind. This is manifestly proved by the fact that the devil, the author of depressing care and distressing disturbances, almost flees from the sound of music as he does from the word of theology. This is the reason why the prophets practiced music more than any art and did not put their theology into geometry, into arithmetic, or into astronomy, but into music, intimately uniting theology and music, telling the truth is psalms and songs. But why do I praise music now, trying to depict - or rather to disfigure - so great a subject on so small a slip on paper? But my love for music, which has often refreshed me and set me free from great worries, abounds and bubbles over."

Like Luther, I believe that the church hymns and psalms are the most powerful creedal statements. Hymns can preach and teach. Lutherans have been called the "singing church." Lutherans have sung everywhere. They sing at work, in school, at home, and certainly at church. Hymnody speaks God's precious law and beautiful gospel. For Calvin and later reformers, music was held in greater suspicion. The singing laity was to be held at bay - to be watched and guarded. Likewise, the Papacy and Rome were suspicous of music and instrumentation in worship all the way up until Vatican II in the 1960's. Romanists have still not accepted the joys of music fully for the laity.
A church is hymn is a sung confession of the faith. They deal in objective truths - not about author's personal journey, personal thoughts, or subjective feelings. It is not a confession of "my faith" but the Church's. Church hymnody ought to breate the air of heaven and comfort assailed souls.

Be Still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to your God to order and provide;

In ev'ry change He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul; your best, your hea'nly Friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end (1st stanza)

Be Still, My Soul LSB 752

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