Search This Blog

Thursday, August 2, 2018

SongStories 58: One Is the Body (GIA, Vision, 1992)

"One is the breath of the star and the rose."

It is from this line of the lyric that the cover art was imagined by my brother-in-law, Gary Palmatier. Having worked in "Re-membering Church" institutes for so many years with lights like Jim LoPresti and Joe Favazza and others, the confluence of scriptural and ecclesial images of reconciliation took shape in this communion song. Yes, it has a long refrain (this has been its most persistent criticism), but I think that the short lines and rhyme scheme mitigate that issue, and make the refrain memorable. It's scriptural, trinitarian, and takes a fresh look (I think) at all of that in the light of the eucharist. And it should still be in Gather.

Of course, every songwriter thinks this about every song. But I just got my royalty report for 2017-18 from GIA and OneLicense. And you know what? Among my Catholic song reprints, "One Is the Body" is the third-highest in reporting, and it hasn't been in a hymnal since the 1989 edition of Gather Comprehensive. Speaking of comprehensive, it's beyond comprehension to me why it hasn't appeared in any subsequent edition.

The so-called priestly prayer of Jesus ("priestly" because it parallels the high priest's prayer of second-Temple Judaism at the Feast of Atonement, and "so-called" because it appears in the gospel of John as the words of Jesus, but not a record of his exact words that night) leads up to one great prayer to Abba: "that they may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, that they also may be one in us." It is a prayer for unity and intimacy. The text of "One Is" starts with the eucharistic language about body, blood, bread, and cup, but it soon expands to "the living and dead," stars and flowers as symbols of all creation, with the unity of God as Father, Son, and Spirit. The song's three verses suggest that in gathering and forgiveness, in stewardship of the earth, in reflection on our place in world charged with God's presence, and in our care for the afflicted and needy, we are sure to encounter God among us, and, as the psalmist describes, actually "taste and see" the goodness of the Lord in our experience of life. Having sung about some of the many aspects of unity invoked by the celebration of the Eucharist, the refrain ends with the words, "To this I will say, 'Amen,'" referring to the word being spoken throughout the assembly at that very moment, ratifying again the new covenant in Christ's merciful love.

Things we love often develop a veneer of familiarity that obstructs our devotion from time to time. "One Is" tries, as we always do, I guess, to find a small way into a great mystery, a cluster of images and metaphors that might help us see old things newly again, maybe to transform the familiar into something fresher for the imagination. Here, scriptural images side-by-side with fragments from the Gospel of Thomas, Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the kind of language employed by mystics like Fr. Anthony diMello SJ, try to crack open that veneer for us so that we can see into the mystery a little more clearly for a few minutes. 

As a listening experience for the heart and soul, Vision remains for me our best album from top to bottom until To You Who Bow, released 25 years later. I think it has aged really well, and it is really ingratiating to discover that, after that much time, so many parish music directors feel something of the same, and continue to program it in spite of its absence from hymnals for so long. Thanks to all of you.
One Is (the Body)  by Rory Cooney 
One is the body, one is the bread,
One are the living, the unborn, the dead.
One is the cup, one blood in us flows,
One is the breath of the star and the rose.
One are the Spirit, Creator, and Son,
Just as the source and the river are one.
One are the stranger, my foe and my friend.
To this I will say: “Amen.” 
Gather, disciples, your Master to meet;
Learn to forgive from the bread that you eat.
Treasure the earth in the wine that is poured:
Taste and see the goodness, the love of the Lord. 
Now split the timber, now turn the stone,
Look where you will: you are never alone.
High in the heavens, deep in the flood,
All things are charged with the presence of God. 
I am the hungry, you are the poor,
God is the stranger who waits at the door.
Where any suffers, no one is free;
Whatever you do, then, you do it to me. 
Copyright © 1993 GIA Publications, Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment