Sunday, January 27, 2013

O You Lamb of God

Is the common, dumbed down style of language, which is inflicted on us in four out of the five mass orders in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's latest hymnal, really just as beautiful and worthy of liturgical use as is the classic liturgical English that has been sung in the Church for centuries?  The answer to this can no longer be assumed as self-evident; nor do many today even appreciate the value of the question, who have been led to think that beauty should be demoted in the priority scale of considerations for how best to address liturgical matters, and consigned a place far behind new priorities, like comfort.  Therefore we must never tire of addressing these questions anew in today's church. 

I suggest that one unscientific way of putting the vulgar second person singular pronoun, you, to the test, in terms of it's use in addressing God in the liturgy, is to take the classic English version of the eucharistic hymn, "Agnus Dei", and imagine just replacing "thou" for "you." 

So instead of singing this:
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God

try this instead:
O Christ, You Lamb of God

Obviously the makers of modern liturgy know this is unworkable, so they leave out altogether the opening address to "Christ," and go straight to "Lamb of God."  And of course the "O Christ" is a poetic flourish and not in the Latin.  Nevertheless, a little exercise like this goes to show the linguistic and aesthetic limitations of throwing in the "you" where we once had "thou."

3 comments:

Unknown said...

You could also have "O Christ, the Lamb of God" or "O Christ, O Lamb of God". Papist that I am, I prefer "Agnus Dei" above all.

Regarding "thou" and "you": people forget that "thou" is actually the second person familiar pronoun in English. Every other language which still retains that case distinction follows suit in addressing God (German: Du instead of Sie, Spanish: tu instead of usted). So when we use "thou", we are actually addressing God more intimately, part of being able to address Him as Abba.

Dave P. said...

For some reason, I show up as "unknown" with my Google ID>

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

I prefer Agnus Dei too, Dave. I am unlikely to hear it any time soon, however, in our churches.