Music Notes: Sunday, May 12, 2024

Womb of Life, and Source of Being was written by Ruth C. Duck, a notable hymn writer with a controversial but effective style regarding gendered language. According to hymn scholar Simon Hill, “When it comes to handling sexist or exclusive language, Duck does not believe that the issue should be solved by eliminating all gender and placing a ban on gendered images. Instead, Duck advocates for the presence of both masculine and feminine imagery and language, creating a space for both traditional and new wording. She proves that the two perspectives can exist side by side. After all, the Scriptures are filled with metaphors that cover an array of images. Duck sees this as a call for Christians to thoughtfully develop and sing of new metaphors that fully and appropriately convey an encounter with the Divine, a call that Duck takes to heart in much of her hymn writing.

Womb of Life, and Source of Being takes on the matter of metaphor, exclusive language, and the Trinitarian formula. The traditional formula is often a subject of debate and theological question in terms of sexist language. Duck believes that because of the exclusive, male-centered language, the traditional formula – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – does not fully celebrate the liberation of new life offered through Jesus, the Christ. The traditional formula also runs the risk of implying a gender-exclusive community, rather than allowing the Trinity to be a model of a loving and all-embracing community. In Womb of Life, and Source of Being, Duck makes an effort to broaden the images of the persons in the Trinity and to establish it as a model for a vibrant community.”

Mothering God You Gave Me Birth is an adaptation by Jean Janzen (1933-present) of musings by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), whose life fell entirely during the “Hundred Years War.” According to Janzen’s study of Julian of Norwich, ‘Julian saw Christ as our “true mother,” saying, “The human mother will suckle her child with her own milk, but our beloved Mother, Jesus, feeds us with himself.”’