Sunday, September 14, 2008

Crown Him?

Yesterday, at my father's memorial, we sang what presumably was one of his favorites, that grand and stirring "Crown Him with Many Crowns."

For some years now that hymn has puzzled me. I have two questions:

To what does it refer? (Is there something like a coronation ceremony in the Bible I've missed, or in Church dogma?)

And secondly, to whom is the hymn addressed? Who is going to presume to crown the God-man?

There's another hymn like it, "All Hail the Pow'r of Jesus' Name," that tells us who should "Crown Him Lord of All." First, the exhoration is to "Ye chosen seed of Israel's race, ye ransomed from the fall," and then it's "Sinners whose love can ne'er forget"; then it proceeds from "every kindred, every tribe" through martyrs, and finally, to ourselves. But who of those addressed is going to be found worthy to bestow this crown?

Probably I just have a too-literal mindset and it's all just a hyperbolic way of praising Christ. I just don't much care for imaginary stuff in religion.

14 comments:

William Weedon said...

I think the "crown" recognized Him as OUR King. Obviously it is the Father who crowns the Son, yet the song pleads that we recognize His Son as our King and the King of all. Interestingly, it is not merely a "Protestant" hymn, for it is found in both Roman Hymnals (*Worship* 496 ) and in the Western Rite Orthodox Hymnal, *The St. Ambrose Hymnal*, #279. Thus the hymn is sung in virtually every jurisdiction: Roman, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and most Protestants.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

As I said, probably I'm just too literal-minded. Had the author simply left off the first two letters, making it "Own Him the Lord of Life," etc., the words would have been more acceptable.

The music, though, still wouldn't be. Pity the Western Rite apparently didn't perceive that.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

P.S.) The Father crowns the Son?

Lucian said...

Yep. You should've been either a Talmudist, Islamist, or Scholastic.

:-)

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Okay, so this is a hyperbolic way of saying, "Let's all acknowledge Him as Lord of All." Fine. I don't care for it, as it's put in rather presumptuous terms, on account of the crowner necessarily being greater than the crownee - but so be it.

Where does the coronation imagery come from? I mean, is the whole thing just imaginary? In Scripture, all I can find so far are references to Christ crowning us.

-C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
-C said...

Trying again ...

"Where does the coronation imagery come from?"

Well, we sing every Saturday night at Great Vespers, "The Lord is King, he is robed in majesty..." (Prokeimenon)

Sounds like coronation imagery to me.

anonymous god-blogger said...

Anastasia, you wrote,
"The music, though, still wouldn't be. Pity the Western Rite apparently didn't perceive that."

Do you have time to explain that? I don't understand what you mean...

Thank you!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

-C, yes, there is clearly a "Christ the King" motif running throughout Christianity from the beginning. But my point is, there's no grand coronation ceremony anywhere I know of.

Sometimes I find it helpful to muse upon the tradition from which I came.

Anonymous, think of yourself standing in a Protestant congregation where everyone is singing this hymn with gusto, to the accompaniment of loud organ. Now, what happens to you? In your body, I mean? (IOW, it's carnal.) What is that stirring you feel, probably in the chest? Pay close attention and you'll see it's something not very nice.

When a song appeals mostly to the carnal self, that competes with, obscures, even blocks the expression of the spiritual man. A proper Christian hymn should appeal to the human spirit instead.

Anonymous said...

You wrote, "Anonymous, think of yourself standing in a Protestant congregation where everyone is singing this hymn with gusto, to the accompaniment of loud organ. Now, what happens to you? In your body, I mean? (IOW, it's carnal.) What is that stirring you feel, probably in the chest? Pay close attention and you'll see it's something not very nice.

When a song appeals mostly to the carnal self, that competes with, obscures, even blocks the expression of the spiritual man. A proper Christian hymn should appeal to the human spirit instead."

I need to learn more about this. Can you direct me to your sources on this issue? Do all Orthodox Christians see it this way?

Thank you,
Anonymous God Blogger

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Ahem. Well, um -- sources? I didn't use any. Myh main influence on this topic is probably Met. Anthony, in an interview he gave and I read many years ago, before I had any idea what he was talking about.

But you can look into your own self to see what I'm talking about, without other sources. This particular hymn is triumphalistic, in both lyrics and melody. Notice the certain swelling in the chest as you sing it? Recognize what that is?

Whe music appeals to the spirit, then certain apppropriate emotions follow, and we are worshipping with the whole person. But when the music appeals to the passions, the spirit is bypassed, and only the lower part of myself is in gear, my animal brain.

Same principle applies to icons. We don't depict the Most Holy Theotokos with delicate, glowing skin, rosy cheeks, luscious curves, a chaste but definitaly desirable Virgin. Instead, we show her as the Mother. We don't show saints (usually!) with eyes rolled up to heaven in some emotional orgy, clutching at their breast, but looking sober and calm. We portray the inner person, not the outer; the deified body, not the merely biological one.

anonymous god-blogger said...

Hmmm...I think maybe I thought you were saying something you weren't actually saying--I think I thought you were implying that only Orthodox music is o.k., and that all hymns and songs of other traditions aren't--please forgive me for jumping to conclusions!

Love,
Anonymous God Blogger

Wendy said...

Mom told me while we were singing this song at Dad's memorial service that he loved the phrase "ineffably sublime." She said than whenever he was singing with the choir and would come to those words he would catch her eye and they would smile together. I think she chose this hymn because it was a remembrance of something they shared.
Is it impossible to believe that you can worship with spirit AND passion in music, and in fact we are called upon to do both? I'll bet than when David danced and sang in the streets, he was doing so with passion. Maybe not all passion is strictly carnal.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Hi, Wendy!

Sorry to be so slow replying to you. When Demetrios is home (Friday through Monday), I have a lot less time time for getting on the computer. He keeps us hopping. Furniture shopping all weekend, this time.

Yes, Mom told me the same thing several days before the memorial, except at the time, she wasn’t sure which hymn contained that phrase. She thought it was an Easter hymn, and wasn't sure that would be appropriate. I assured her it would be. I’m glad someone helped her find which hymn it was. And I’m glad it was included because Dad would have liked that and it was meaningful to Mom, too.

King David? Heh-heh; that is one of my favorite stories, on account of the reaction of one of his wives. (2 Samuel 6) Michal was offended, as any wife might be, because her husband had been leaping around in public wearing only a loincloth that flapped up and down as he danced. She said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” David, who had been doing this quite innocently, “before the Lord,” never slept with her again. He, of course, had seven other wives, plus concubines, so it was no sacrifice for him. See? We can’t follow this sainted prophet’s example in quite all things! And by the way, there was no law against plural marriage, a point people ought to remember before they tell us the Law represents God’s perfect will for mankind.)

Worship, you’ll recall, is what went on in the Tabernacle. God had prescribed every detail of that worship, including exactly how to build the tabernacle and furnish and decorate it, what vestments were to be worn, what things were to be done, and how. Worship was ordained by God Himself in every particular. God enforced that, too! When two of Aaron’s sons decided to ignore God’s instructions and worship in a way they thought would be nice, fire came down from heaven and consumed them.

Worship didn’t include dancing naked in the streets. That event was, instead, a state occasion, part of the royal pageantry. It was a national day, a day of rejoicing because the Ark was being brought to the capital city. King David’s performance isn’t meant as an example for us to follow in worship.
or getting on the computer.

I've more to say on this subject, but I think I'll put it in its own post, so this doesn't get too long.

Lots of love to you and Roy from both of us.