Hymns in Periodical Literature

By Music, David W. | The Hymn, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Hymns in Periodical Literature


Music, David W., The Hymn


The Theology of Hymnody

John R. Tyson, "Charles Wesley and the Language of Evangelical Experience: The Poetical Hermeneutic Revisited," The Asbury Journal 61/1 (Spring 2006), 25-46.

Charles Wesley is not usually named as one of the major "formal theologians" such as Augustine, Aquinas, or Calvin. Rather, his is an "experiential theology," one in which knowledge about God results in experience with God. This article centers around four "experience" words that appear frequently in Wesley's hymns: "feel" or "felt," "prove," "know," and "taste." The author defines the words as they were used in the eighteenth century and examines the special ways in which Wesley applies them. A most valuable insight is Tyson's analysis of the ways in which Wesley combines the words, and the "know-feel nexus" he often employs. In the author's view, "experience ratified Charles Wesley's theology, but it never created theology" (41). But Wesley's hymns do not merely teach or respond to theology: "he was ... a hymnological evangelist who wrote hymns that were designed to induce the very experience he was describing" (41-42).

C. Clark Carlton, '"The Temple That Held God': Byzantine Marian Hymnography and the Christ of Nestorius," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 60/1-2 (2006), 99-125.

An article that examines the theology of a different body of hymnody, but reaches much the same conclusion, is C. Clark Carlton's study of hymns for the Byzantine feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos [God-bearer] into the Temple. Many themes emerge from this hymnody, but two stand out in particular: Mary as the temple of God (focusing on the Incarnation) and Mary as a sacrificial offering to God, reflected in her fiat ("let it be," focusing on her role in salvation). Regarding the first point, the hymns for the feast emphasize the paradox that "the one who is to become the temple of God is, herself, led into the temple in Jerusalem" (107), and thus she becomes "the living personification of Israel and, in particular, Israel's temple" (110). The second point suggests that, through her obedience, Mary sacrificed herself to God "as the human dimension of God's plan of salvation" (114).

The author concludes that this Theotokos hymnody developed principally as a reaction to the christological disagreements of the fifth century, especially the Nestorian controversy. Along the way, he asserts something to which members of The Hymn Society would say a hearty "Amen": "liturgical texts provide what is, in many ways, a more profound expression of the Church's theology than dogmatic treatises or even conciliar definitions," for they express "in poetic form the faith as it is prayed and lived by the people" (99).

Richard J. Dillon, "The Benedictus in Micro- and Macrocontext," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68/3 (July 2006), 457-480.

This study of the Song of Zechariah disputes a common theological presupposition that sees this and the other canticles in Luke 1-2 as unwelcome interruptions of the Nativity story. In the author's view, this would be like "attending a performance of, say, Aida, Rigoletto, or Turandot and being told in your program notes that 'Celeste Aida' or 'Caro nome' or 'Nessun dorma' was being omitted because the celebrated aria is not really essential to the plot and you can follow the action more easily without it" (459). Dillon goes on to point out that the structure of the Benedictus makes its appearance at this point in the Nativity story perfectly logical. Though not directly concerned with congregational song, the article reminds us that hymnody should serve a specific liturgical function by being directly connected with its surroundings, which calls for careful planning and analysis.

The History of Hymnody

Jon D. Vieker, "'Who from Our Mothers' Arms': The Story of the Hymnals That Came before Us," Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 79/1 (Spring 2006), 2-25.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is releasing a new hymnal, Lutheran Service Book. …

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