June 03, 2004

Hymns Ancient and Modern

When Mrs H was shopping at Asda a couple of days ago, she purchased a 3 CD collection of The Best Worship Songs...Ever! Wow, I thought, this is amazing. They've searched over 4000 years (starting at the time of the father of the Faith, Abraham, I would think) and they have compiled the best worship songs.

Okay, I didn't really think that, because at the bottom of the CD cover it says, "50 of the most popular modern worship songs". Wow, I thought, now there is a coincidence, the best worship songs ever are all modern. As an historian, I know that there is no agreement on when the modern era began, but at least we are looking at the best of the last 400-500 years.

Okay, I didn't really think that, because looking at the copyright information, none of the songs was published before 1974. Only one was from that year and next oldest was 1983. The amazing thing is that many, if not most, of them have been released in the last five years.

This, you must realise, is truly amazing. Most of the the best worship songs ever have been composed in the last five years! They rank ahead of the Song of Moses after the deliverance through the Red Sea (Exodus 15), all of the Psalms, all of the hymns of the early Church, everything!

It may shock my evangelical and charismatic readers to know that I'm not opposed listening to modern praise and worship music. We even have it on here from time to time. I know there are those who complain that is often shallow. But not all of the ancient hymns of the Church are particular deep. As I look at the lyrics of these 50 greatest songs, admittedly a lot of it is very self-centred, as opposed to God-centred. But there are times when the focus of our conversion with God is about either how we would like to worship Him better or the things he has done for us personally.

Except in places where they are simply theologically wrong, there is nothing wrong with these songs. They have many private and group applications. I just wouldn't use them on Sunday morning. Or more specifically, they have no place in the Divine Liturgy.

That being said, I don't think that the DL has to have everything in the Eight Tones. (I think the Western Rite of the Antiochian Church is evidence of this.) I think the Eastern rites of the Eastern Church have stuck doggedly to the Octoechos because they are safe, not because they are particularly holy. They are, after all, an innovation. They only go back to St John of Damascus.

It is the content of the Liturgy which is important, not the musical package surrounding it. Nonetheless, I can't imagine that any Liturgy will ever contain any of the "best worship songs ever".

Posted by david at June 3, 2004 04:01 PM | TrackBack