During the past week, over at the First Thoughts blog, there has been a lively argument about a proposed list of “worst hymns”. There are so many nauseating ones in circulation that, naturally, quite a few commentators felt that the really worst ones had been left off the initial list. A second block of comments challenged the whole idea of the list, alleging either that there aren’t any bad hymns, or that there are but it is uncharitable to say so. (That last is nonsense, of course. If the hymns are bad, it is uncharitable not to say so, lest the already battered aesthetic sensibilities of our co-religionists be further eroded and destroyed utterly.)
Upon seeing that list, I had the idea to compile a counterweight hit parade of the best hymns. But, with one thing or another intervening, I haven’t had time to do it properly, and now the folks at First Thoughts have gone and beat me to it.
But here’s the thing: they did it wrong. They forgot to include some of the very greatest hymns. In fact, although their list includes some fine hymns, my top ten favourite hymns are not represented on their list at all. For the record, my choices are, in rough descending order of superiority:
- Come Down, O Love Divine
- Be Thou My Vision
- All Glory, Laud, and Honour
- O God, Our Help in Ages Past
- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
- Amazing Grace
- All People That On Earth Do Dwell
- Hail Thee, Festival Day
- Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
- I Know That My Redeemer Lives
I am also very fond of these two lesser-known hymns:
- Now God Be With Us : a Compline hymn
- Let Saints on Earth in Concert Sing : a funeral hymn
I learned both from an Anglican hymnal. As far as English-language hymns go (and, if it were not already obvious, I am limiting myself to English-language hymns here) Anglican hymnals are generally vastly superior to Catholic.
What are your favourite hymns?