You or Thou?

It matters what we say in worship.

Anthony Esolen, “Thou,” in First Things, November 2020. Anthony Esolen is not happy with the new Worship hymnal. In their attempt to modernize the language, editors have compromised the dignity and majesty of many hymns. Esolen sees this as a symptom of the state of worship in the Church today.

The effort to modernize worship has drained away much of the majesty and solemnity worship should entail. He writes, “Sacred language, to be significant, to be sign-bearing, must not only be made manifest amid change. It must be a sign of what does not change.” He thinks works of art - like great old hymns and liturgies - should be left alone, and appreciated for what they are, without having to reset them into the vernacular. Worship becomes banal when everything in it is designed to suit the tastes of contemporary culture.

When our worship fails to lift us by the loftiness of its language and themes, and when instead it merely reflects the world and its mundane interests and capacities, then we become more like the world and less like the majesty and solemnity things divine should provoke in us.

While Esolen is addressing issues relative to worship in the Roman Catholic Church, his concerns deserve the attention and consideration of all pastors and church leaders.