Thursday, September 16, 2010

Non convenit

"Non convenit" is the rough Latin equivalent of our venerable Southern declaration: "that ain't right."

The idea of something not going together is so fundamental that Sesame Street has even turned it into a game for preschoolers. For truly, some things simply do not belong, do not go together, are incongruous. They just "ain't right." And sometimes children are the best at pointing out the obvious.

"Non convenit" can indeed mean "that's messed up there."

"Non convenit" comes to mind when the St. Joseph Church carillon here in Gretna plays certain tunes. Ironically, the powerful Lutheran reformation hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (written by Martin Luther) - which is played from time to time and just played a few minutes ago (two stanzas, in fact), does fit just fine ("convenit") with the musical style of the church bell - even if there is a historic irony based on our past enmity. Tonight, "A Mighty Fortress" segued seamlessly into "Faith of Our Fathers."

These hymns are dignified, bonded to the church in history, and just "sound right" when played on a churchly musical instrument.

By contrast, the bells of St. Joe's were ringing out some more, shall we say, "contemporary" (actually not a very good word to describe them) songs a couple weeks back. I won't use any names, as a couple of them are (I'm sad to say) in our own LSB hymnal. To hear these ditties played on the carillon made me think the ice cream truck was going by. It just wasn't working.

Non convenit.

Style cannot be separated from substance. You can play Lada Gaga on a carillon, and it is a clever novelty, but it will never be anything more than a joke. For just as you can put lipstick on a pig and you still have a pig, there are simply some tunes used by Christian churches that may work well around a campfire or at a singalong on the bus - but will never rise to the level of hymnody, of singing the faith, of confession, and of the timeless and eternal dignity that we have in our new life in Christ.

Non convenit.

1 comment:

Past Elder said...

During my sojourn in the South, that venerable phrase, at least as I recall, shall we say had a clear noun in place of a demonstrative adjective standing as a noun, let the reader understand.

But then again that was East Tennessee, not Louisiana.