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Thread: Hymns in church liturgies - why / why not?

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    Default Hymns in church liturgies - why / why not?

    So I grew up in a religious family whose church has hymns in their liturgies. Then I married a Christian Orthodox wife and we started attending a Christian Orthodox church. No hymns! Basically only chants.

    So I'm wondering how that came to pass - hymns in some religions but not others...?

    I'd luv any insight this group might have. Feel free to direct me to other resources too.

    Meanwhile, I miss the hymns - especially with pipe organs. Those who've grown up with them probably know what I mean...

    (Yes, if you'll Google, you'll find Christian Orthodox hymns. But afaik, hymns aren't really so much a part of the Orthodox DNA.)

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    I imagine it's because in the Orthodox & ancient Catholic churches, the emphasis was not on the congregation; but when the Protestant Reformation happened & the idea of 'the priesthood of all believers' came about, the laity were encouraged to read the bible and join in the liturgy more, therefore hymns fitted the purpose. The earliest would have been metrical settings of the psalms, as in the Scottish Kirk's 'Good and Godly Ballads', sixteenth century. And then a lay-centred liturgy emerged. The post-reformation Catholic church then wanted to win back the laity, or involve them, so it too adopted hymns.

    That's my theory, anyway!
    And anyway, I've opened the door to someone more learned chipping in, like my husband. When we were first married, he kept me up till the small hours one night explaining 'The Mass of the Catechumens'!
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Try Wiki on Hymns and Byzantine Chant.

    Two similar approaches but different philosophical backgrounds.

    The Calvinists and Zwinglians felt that any not specified in the Bible was wrong - so out go non-biblical hymns, music and all Catholic accretions. This means you end up with a capella singing like gaelic psalms. Psalms are OK because they're in the Bible.

    The Byzantine system felt that music came from god via the angels - rather like the end of a typical preface:

    Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia caelestis exercitus, hymnum gloriae tuae canimus, sine fine dicentes. Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

    (And therefore, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying. Holy, Holy, Holy)

    The singing united the church with the angelic host in praising God. This meant that singing was divine and should not be altered. It also meant that we should only have biblical texts, like the 9 canticles of the morning office. Note that in the preface text, the Sanctus is described as a "hymn".

    There is also the question of what to call something like the Improperia (or reproaches) - again Wiki refers to them as coming among the "hymns" for the Byzantine celebration of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Hymns are songs of praise to any deity. In the past many decades, they have also come to simply be sacred songs without a chorus between the verses. Zwingli went as far as to NOT have any music in church, though he, himself, was probably the best musician of the reformers. It is an interesting study. Most Orthodox, Primitive Baptists, and Churches of Christ (I am the latter) will be strictly a capella for church service music.

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