Lent-Safe Songs

It is customary for some of us to put songs of praise on hold during the Lenten season, particularly songs of praise containing that particular Hebrew word proclaiming the praise of Yahweh.  We get serious about avoiding it.  We bury it.  We listen to Handel’s Messiah with great care, lest the nine or ten movements appropriate to Lent lead us to hear that famous chorus before its time.  I’ve even heard performers apologize for their potential offense of those with liturgical sensibilities (or, as Thalia and I would say, liturges) by including The A Word (not that one, the other one) in their program, which was performed during Lent because there are only so many openings in the performance hall schedule.

Normally it’s easy enough to avoid, because you know what you’re avoiding.  But there are occasional false positives.  Here’s the scene: Peachy sits, as before, listening to Celtic music on Pandora.  Gaelic Storm’s rendition of “An Poc Ar Buile” has just begun.  “Can I listen to this?” he asks me.

Preposterous, right?  Surely he can listen to whatever he wants.  But An Poc Ar Buile has made me wonder too.  The chorus goes “Ailliliú, puilliliú, ailliliú tá an puc ar buile” and it does sound a bit jubilant.

But Gaelic’s not the same thing as Hebrew by any means.  It turns out they’re singing about a fellow in Dromore, up in the County Down, who meets a mad goat.  When it catches its horns in some gorse, he jumps on its back, and rides it some 230 or 240 miles to County Cork.

You will probably hear more from me about goat-songs before long.  For now, know that ailliliú is like an extremely literal hosanna: anyone caught on a mad puck goat could well sing “Save me now!”

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5 thoughts on “Lent-Safe Songs

    • One thing I’ve heard from friends who have gone from non-liturgical to liturgical settings is that the latter really underscores the salvation narrative, which is interesting/rewarding for those interested in reading and writing stories. The readings from the lectionary connect the old prophesies/promises/covenant with their fulfillment; the fasts highlight the feasts; and the music/vestments/etc. reflect what’s going on in the calendar.

      • I have a lot of appreciation for liturgy and tradition, and the beauty of those cycles and patterns, but I’m drawn to many aspects of the non-denominational tradition I grew up in as well. I would say that we (the non-denomination community I am from) do a good job of not abandoning our roots, and of underscoring the narrative of our faith, but I would like a little more liturgy and pattern in my life as well.
        What I really long for is a reconciliation between the different traditions that blends their strengths. I would like more liturgy, but I am not willing to sacrifice some of the freedom of expression a less-liturgical community gives me.

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