The very word hymn comes from the Greek hymnos, which means a song of praise to a god or hero. Adapting this pagan practice for their own use, early Christians wrote many hymns that have become models for hymn writers over the centuries. The hymns of both early Greek and Latin Christians are represented in the most recent American hymnals by the inclusion of five to eighty selections. These hymns reflect the faith and thought of many of the most well-known early Christian leaders and theologians.
The change in the worship experience of twentieth-century Roman Catholics may be appreciated by briefly looking at history. In the sixteenth century, Reformers had posed challenges to the lack of intelligibility of medieval Catholic worship experience to the laity. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) responded to the challenge by revising liturgical books, but the Latin language was retained and the textual uniformity remained.