Us Men

First off, Merry Christmas to all.

Now, story-time. I went to Midnight Mass last night at my local parish – the one I haven’t been going to since I left for college back in September, except for a few random times. Now, it just so happened that the church got new priests (two of them – a pair of Scalabrinians). So I wasn’t really familiar with these priests, nor with how they would run the mass. As it turns out, the mass wasn’t horrible, but there were two things that rather bugged me about it.

First of all – the Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. This isn’t exactly new, but they changed the lines that read

pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

to

pleased as man with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Now, there’s several problems with this, both theological and poetic.

First, the theological. The change implies that “man” is necessarily masculine, so we have to change “man” to “us” in order to be gender-inclusive – which is nonsense itself. But even assuming gender-inclusivity is a laudable goal – the change ruins the whole meaning of the lines. Since we’ve said that “man” is necessarily masculine, we’re no longer saying that Jesus was pleased to become human and dwell with us humans – we now claim that Jesus was pleased to become a male (and now we’re emphasizing his masculinity – doesn’t that defeat the whole gender-inclusivity we supposedly desire?) and dwell with, you know, “us”. It’s no longer about him becoming one of us, it’s just about him living with us for a while. So what? It seems to miss the fundamental point of the Incarnation.

Second, the poetic. The new lines are just so much weaker than the original. “Pleased as man / with man to dwell // Jesus our / Emmanuel”. The repetition of “man” isn’t redundant, it’s a great parallel – I don’t remember the technical term for it, but whatever it is, it’s well done. Then, something most people won’t notice – “with man to dwell“, “Emmanuel“. I don’t think that was accidental. The lines lose their force when you change it to “us” because the sound “man” is no longer echoed a line later. I believe that’s called assonance.

So – why make the change? Because someone somewhere decided women were offended by the word “man” referring to all of (hu)mankind. If they are – uh, I can be offended all I want at the fact that “rhinoceros” means a certain animal that lives in Africa, but does that mean everybody is going to suddenly refer to those animals as “unicorns”? (“Unicorn” is perfectly valid there – it just means “one horn”, after all – but so is “rhinoceros”, and no, I don’t advocate a change.) Besides, no females I know were offended by the original – my mom was offended by the revised version.

On to the second irritation.

At the end of Mass, we sung “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

……………………………………..________
………………………………,.-‘”……………….“~.,
………………………..,.-”……………………………..“-.,
…………………….,/………………………………………..”:,
…………………,?………………………………………………\,
………………./…………………………………………………..,}
……………../………………………………………………,:`^`..}
……………/……………………………………………,:”………/
…………..?…..__…………………………………..:`………../
…………./__.(…..“~-,_…………………………,:`………./
………../(_….”~,_……..“~,_………………..,:`…….._/
……….{.._$;_……”=,_…….“-,_…….,.-~-,},.~”;/….}
………..((…..*~_…….”=-._……“;,,./`…./”…………../
…,,,___.\`~,……“~.,………………..`…..}…………../
…………(….`=-,,…….`……………………(……;_,,-”
…………/.`~,……`-………………………….\……/\
………….\`~.*-,……………………………….|,./…..\,__
,,_……….}.>-._\……………………………..|…………..`=~-,
…..`=~-,_\_……`\,……………………………\
……………….`=~-,,.\,………………………….\
…………………………..`:,,………………………`\…………..__
……………………………….`=-,……………….,%`>–==“
…………………………………._\……….._,-%…….`\
……………………………..,<`.._|_,-&“…………….`\

Why does this bug me? Because it seems to ruin the solemnity of the Mass. Seriousness is fragile enough.

At least we did it after the end of Mass, instead of randomly at the homily or something.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: