Preparing Your Wedding Liturgy
Preparing your Wedding Liturgy
St Augustine, writing in the 5th century, spoke about the nature of hymns.
Do you know what a a hymn is? It is a song in praise of God. If you praise God without singing, you are not offering a hymn. If you sing but do not praise God, that is not a hymn either. If you praise something else, something unconnected with the praise of God, then, even though you ar singing praise, you are not singing a hymn. A hymn implies three things: it must be sung, it must consist of praise, and the praise must be offered to God. The praise of God, when sung, is called a hymn.
St Augustine argues that characteristic of texts sung in Church in the liturgy are that they are addressed to God and often have a theme of praise or thanksgiving. With 15 more centuries of tradition we knwo that this is not a hard and fast rule as there are texts which are prayers or petitions — asking God for help. There are also texts about Our Lady or the Saints. These often give thanks to God for the witness of the saints and usually end with a hope that we will join them in heaven. So texts sung in the liturgy will have at least one of the following characteristics:
- addressed to God,
- praise or thanksgiving (of God),
- prayer or petition (to God),
- expression of a future hope of heaven (with God).
Christ Jesus, High Priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced in this earthly exile the hymn that is sing through all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire human community to himself, associating with his own sing of this canticle of divine praise. (SC 83)
Catholics believe that Christ is present when the liturgy is celebrated. The most familiar expression of this is Christ’s presence in his Body and Blood shared at Communion but he is also present in the proclamation of the scriptures and in what the congregation or ministers say, do or sing. So when we sing in the liturgy it is Christ who sings and offers our praise and thanksgiving or prayer and petition to the Father.
These may seem like high theological concepts but they give rise to two questions:
- What is the text about? In what ways does it speak of God?
- Is this something that Christ might sing in the halls of heaven?
This may help to explain why choosing songs where the original purpose was not for use in Church will be better used outside the Church. And why music from the Church’s long and living tradition will have a more natural fit in the liturgy of the Church. So when considering a favourite song see whether it has one or more of the characteristics given above. It will probably fit better in the Wedding Reception where it may be even possible to explain why it is a special song for you both.
Even where there is no text being sung care should be taken. If a piece of music (e.g. an instrumental version of a contemporary song) brings to the mind of the listeners words or images that are inappropriate in a sacred setting it should be avoided. Again the Wedding Reception will be a more natural home for such a choice.