Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Penultimate Seminary Paper, Music, and More Hymn Boringness

Well, I just finished my second-to-last seminary paper ever. I have to say it's still kind of surreal that things are moving along this quickly.

So, as I've mentioned, I'm re-reading Kathleen Norris' wonderful book The Cloister Walk about her experiences as a Benedictine oblate at St. John's Abbey, and it instilled a desire within me to listen to some Gregorian chant. So, I bought a CD and had it playing in the sanctuary during my tri-annual music sorting extravaganza; it was very peaceful and helped make sorting papers a bit more bearable. Anyway, as it ended, I was surprised by the diversity of the next three songs on my iTunes: Clara Ward and the Clara Ward Singer's "When the Saints Go Marching In," The Clash's "London Calling," and Colm Wilkinson's (the original Jean Valjean in Les Miserables) take on the West Side Story's "Somewhere." Gregorian chant, Dixieland Jazz, Punk, and Show Tunes...sounds about right.

Bed bugs were found in University of Illinois dorm rooms. Gross/school crisis. I think bed bugs/lice are two of my nightmares. Once when Kassi was cutting my hair, she nonchalantly asked me, "What would you do if I told you you had lice?" After making sure she was kidding, I said I would shave my head and burn my house down (something that probably wouldn't please my upstairs neighbors!). Same goes for bed bugs - though shaving my head might be a tad gratuitous...I might just get in the shower and never come out again.

I've finished going through the blue hymnal and noting all the alterations. It turns out the vast majority are indeed updating archaic language and making language for humanity gender inclusive. There were some more interesting theological changes (This is for you, Amy!). For instance, in Wesley's "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," which has what I consider one of the best last stanzas in history ('till we cast our crowns before thee/lost in wonder, love, and praise."), Wesley writes in the hymn:

Breathe, O Breathe thy loving Spirit into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit; let us find that second rest.
Take away our power of sinning; Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning, set our hearts on liberty.

This reflected the Wesleyan holiness tradition that you could rid yourself of sinning and live in pure holiness on earth, that you could "take away" the "power of sinning" and go from the "first rest" of an impure believer to the "second rest" of a sanctified and holy believer who would now live the rest of life sinless on earth. As Karl Olsson remarked, "Covenanters are too introspective to believe they are sinless" (paraphrase). So, as with almost all hymnals today, "let us find thy second rest" is changed to "let us find thy promised rest," and "take away our power of sinning," is changed to "take away our bend toward sinning."

I think the worst part of doing the research was visiting the Oremus or cyberhymnal websites to find original hymn lyrics and being forced to listen to MIDI versions of these hymns. Click here to see what I'm talking about. It's weird, and the bass line sounds like a ghost singing. I realize I could just shut my sound off, but then I couldn't listen to any music. So, most of the research was done in silence.

Anyway, I'm going to play some piano, read, and go to bed. Later.


  1. I too have experienced the pain of cyberhymnal

  2. oh my goodness yes those MIDI tracks are AWFUL on those sites!!

  3. NOT BED BUGS! I had never given them much thought until I heard a This American Life show about them. There was one story about this woman who lifted up her mattress to find that it looked like her box spring was moving due to all the bugs. To this day, every once in a while, with terror and trepidation I'll muster up the courage to peek under my mattress. Just to make sure.