One of the great joys of my life as a Catholic is participating in our parish choir. As an Episcopalian in my youth, I loved the old Protestant hymns, and belting them out beside my old man. Although I don’t think I’ve heard Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” inside a Catholic Church, I have enjoyed becoming reacquainted with other Protestant favorites like “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” and “Lift High the Cross,” a Lutheran standard.
But then there are the new hymns, new to me in my three years as a Catholic, which I never sang in a Protestant church. Now, through my experience in choir, some of these are becoming friends, not yet old friends, but close enough to raise my posture and make me smile each time we sing them. This morning we sang one of these, “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation.”
This video recording is, of course, from the Pope’s visit to England last year. He is not singing along. But as my choir buddy and fellow bass, Richard Chonak, explained, this hymn was translated from 7th-century Latin into English by the 19th-century Anglo-Catholic John Mason Neale, so it may be a relative rarity: an English hymn that didn’t start out as a Protestant one.
I love this hymn because it expresses my understanding of the CL charism in its opening words—not Christ was, but Christ is. It was also a powerful choice for the processional hymn during the Pope’s visit to Westminster Abbey for this ecumenical service, telling us that Christ binds all the Church in one. As the second verse makes clear, the hymn is a prayer, a begging for Christ’s presence among us today:
To this temple, where we call you,
Come, O Lord of Hosts, today!
With your faithful loving kindness,
Hear your people as they pray,
And your fullest benediction
Shed in all its bright array.
Music is something I love about CL, as well, and one of my big regrets is being so over-scheduled that I cannot make rehearsals of our regional CL choir in Boston. Maybe next year. But right now, today, it is enough to be able to remind myself that Christ is, not was.
(The icon at the top of this post is being used as the logo for our Parish Mission to be preached by Bishop John M. D’Arcy, March 14–16. Visit the Facebook page for the event and, if you’re nearby, please join us. The choir will sing Wednesday evening.)