When it comes to church music, I have to confess to a certain curmudgeonry about hymns written after, say, 1900. Nothing against 20th and 21st century composers*, but for me there is a certain dignity, comfort and reverence found in older hymns such as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” especially when played on the kind of pipe organ whose thunder resonates in your chest like the roar of a rocket launch.
Today’s celebration of Pentecost opened with a hymn that made both the curmudgeon and the medievalist in me do cartwheels (liturgically correct inner cartwheels, of course): “Come Holy Ghost.” Here is a hymn whose lyrics are attributed to Rabanus Maurus, a Benedictine monk of the late 8th and early 9th centuries. Rabanus belonged to what’s called the Carolingian Renaissance, one of the brief moments of illumination in the darkness that swallowed post-Roman Europe. A teacher, poet and scholar, Rabanus was among those who helped pass on another spirit: the spirit of learning.
For more about Pentecost and what it means to those on the journey of faith, read Father Jason Smith’s post.
*I like Ricky Manolo and Marty Haugen as much as anyone, but when one of the “old time” hymns comes up during Mass, those are the ones that engage the most voices among the congregation.