Hymn of the Week: The Church's One Foundation (AURELIA)
Hymn Title: The Church's One Foundation
Tune Name: AURELIA
Meter: 76 76 D
"Many of the traditional doctrines of the Catholic Church are shared by our separated brethren. This hymn [The Church's One Foundation], one of the richest in English celebrating the Church, was written by an Anglican clergyman in South Africa and is sung to a tune composed by the grandson of Charles Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. But the reverence for the Church, the Scripturally-rich imagery, the connection with history and eternity make this an eminently Catholic hymn."*
There seems to be a dearth of modern Catholic "hymns" about the Church that are actually Christ-centered. I suppose that the dreaded "Spirit of Vatican II" (which has very little to do with the teachings of Vatican II) told us that we should turn our attention to ourselves and celebrate the Body of Christ without her Head. So many of these songs are in fact little more than self-congratulatory back-patting sessions. Hence we look to our separated brethren for a little enlightenment, from time to time. Though their additions to the building built on our foundations may not be fully permitted or up to code, there is some good quality work in there. This particular work is doctrinally solid, top to bottom.
The Church's One Foundation is an ode to the Church Militant, Head and all. The strong poetry does not shrink from the difficulties besetting our pilgrim journey, but never descends into self-pity, nor turns to self-praise. This makes it a great hymn for for All Saints' or All Souls, or for any occasions when the theme of the day calls us to the cost of discipleship (and the worth of the promised reward). These can be otherwise challenging readings to find hymns for, so keep this one on call!
Make sure your sopranos are limbered up before singing - the melody has a range of a full octave, and spends a significant amount of time in the upper half of that octave. There are some charming unexpected dissonances too: teach your choir to savour them, not fear them.
*He goes on to cite the Scripture passages upon which all the figures of the hymn are based - you should read it, especially if you are a music teacher in a Catholic school. You can find it for sale through the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education here. Support a good cause!