Hymns and the Christian Myth
From its beginnings in the Bible, Christian hymnology has fulfilled three functions -- praise, recital and teaching of the Myth, and collective and personal adoration as well as the foundation and worship of the church. In Hymns and the Christian Myth Lionel Adey demonstrates that over the centuries shifts emphasizing particular elements of the Christian faith accord with the interests and concerns of the times in which the hymns were composed.
Using a broad range of texts, Adey deals with major themes of every period from biblical times to the early twentiet century. In tracing the changes in representation of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and Four Last Things in early and medieval Latin hymns, post-Reformation chorales and psalm-based hymns, and English hymns from the time of Watts, the book shows an increasing sense of personal response to the Incarnation and Passion of Christ and of participation in His redemptive work.
Chapters on hymnody of the Nativity and Passion illustrate the tendency of monastic poets (the Learned tradition) to focus on dogma, mystery, and paradox, and carolists (the Popular tradition) to convey devotional tenderness. Those on hymnody of the Holy Spirit illustrate a shift through the medieval period from representing pentecostal events to exploring their spiritual meaning. During the Reformation and the Evangelical Revival, the weight of hymnody shifts first to the Father and then to the Son's Passion and Atonement, applied personally and inwardly re-lived by the convert. Most consistently, hymnic representations of the Last Things shift their focus from collective to individual judgement, from death as sleep until the general awakening to death as instant passage to reunion with family and friends.
As a hymnologist rather than a theologian, Adey makes no pronouncements on the truth of Christian beliefs. His focus is on how poets have expressed them over two millenia. As such, the book will interest not only students of religion but also those in such related disciplines as literature, psychology, history, and sociology.