I had two thoughts this morning about the "L'homme Arme" (The Armed Man) Mass phenomenon.
The first was a possible biblical justification for the use the tune L'homme Arme
The original tune "L'homme Arme" had lyrics that translate thusly:
The man, the man, the armed man
The armed man is to be feared.
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
That everyone should arm himself with an iron coat of mail.
So my mind immediately went to the passage in Ephesians where Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God and the components of said armor.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
Iron coat of mail? Breastplate of righteousness? It is just too easy.
The second thought I had was that the use of this secular tune, not as a focal point of the composition of these Masses, but merely a guiding or structural element, was also biblically related. Jesus makes several statements about being "in the world" but not "of the world." Here's one of them:
They [those whom God gave Jesus] do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
- John 17:16. (See also John 15:19)
Even though "L'homme Arme" is "in the world" (i.e., secular) it is transformed in these Mass settings (Romans 12:1-2) so that it becomes something quite special (i.e. "not of the world").
Now look here, I haven't done any research at all, and already I have explained why everyone and their father (mothers didn't do much composing back then) wrote a Mass based on this silly tune. It starts out being a weird obsession with Paul's armor of God concept, and then it goes on to elucidate the whole "in"/"not of" the world thing.
One might say that I found myself thoroughly armed with biblical references this morning.
Tangents: I wrote this in honor of Mary Larew who dedicated an entire early-morning radio program on WOBC to "L'homme Arme" thereby prompting me to call in with the following: An Interview with the Armed Man.
In my continuing commitment to musicological excellence, I initially translated "L'homme Arme" automatically: "The man, the man, the man arms, the man arms, the man arms doibt one doubter, doibt one doubter. One made by all shout, That chascun viegne to arm itself, of an iron haubregon. The man, the man, the man arms, the man arms, the man arms doibt one doubter, doibt one doubter."
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