Using the Pronoun ‘I’ in Corporate Worship

Wikipedia on the poet Yehuda Halevi (because I like Wikipedia-surfing, and it’d be interesting to learn about mediæval Hebrew poetry): ‘Next to God, the Jewish people stands nearest to his heart: their sufferings and hopes are his. Like the authors of the Psalms, he gladly sinks his own identity in the wider one of the people of Israel; so that it is not always easy to distinguish the personality of the speaker.’

When especially I stand together with the people of God to sing the Lord of Israel, the I that passes my lips isn’t simply the one who answers to the name of Lue-Yee Tsang: my first person then is the Church catholic throughout the ages, from Adam to eschaton, and my words are her words, and my cry is her cry, and my longing is her longing for the Desire of all nations. What she has seen, I have seen also, and what she has experienced is my history and my memory, and her children are my people.

This is exactly not about personal expression of spirituality: whatever individual devotions I do that aren’t mandated for all are simply for me to participate in the greater act of corporate adoration before the face of YHWH. What speaks is what speaks to the entire people of God, not just me as the twenty-one-year-old Chinese-American that I am. The I belongs not to me alone but also to everyone else the Lord has elected to enter the Church through the baptismal waters.

Even if a hymn were to speak to every single member of the congregation – hardly a realistic outcome in the first place – it could fail to be the Church’s voice. If so, it’s for individual devotions at home, not for worship in the holy assembly. But the point in that assembly is to worship God as part of the Bride of Christ, the queen of Solomon, immersing myself into the identity of that holy catholic and apostolic Church.

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