February 1, 2009
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
A Light to Enlighten the Nations
Eucharistic prayers from different provinces of the Anglican Communion on each Sunday of the Epiphany season as a reminder that God reveals himself to the whole world in his Son, Jesus Christ. This week: Prayers from the Church in India
This Week’s Lessons
Beginning with the leading of a star to the manger in Bethlehem and the voice of God announcing the Beloved Son on the banks of the Jordan River, Epiphany is a season of revelation. As Jesus begins his ministry, his words and actions continue to “peel back the layers” of who he is and what God is up to.
Psalm 111 (Anglican Chant: H. Walford Davies)
He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and full of compassion. (v. 4)
This Week’s Hymns
436 Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates (Truro)
The use of this hymn today is suggested by Luke 4:32, “They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.” As Jesus teaches, heals, and casts out demons, the people begin to wonder about who he is—though it should be noted that the demons know immediately—and this hymn answers the question. The original German text, “Macht hoch die Tur,” was written by the Lutheran pastor Georg Weissel (1590-1635). The familiar and elegant English version is reminiscent of the stirring final verses of Psalm 24: “Lift up your heads, O gates; lift them high, O everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.” The translator is the indefatigable Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), by whose efforts so many 17th century German texts made their way into 19th century English hymnals.
The regal tune ‘Truro’ is named for the ancient cathedral city in Cornwall, the county on the peninsula that forms the southwest tip of Great Britain. Its composer is unknown, and it was first published in London in 1789 with the words “Now to the Lord a noble song,” a hymn by Isaac Watts that has since fallen into disuse.
567 Thine arm, O Lord, in days of old (St. Matthew)
We could easily sing this hymn every week through the whole season because it is pretty much a full summary of chapters 4-8 in Luke put into rhyme and set to music. Particularly germane to this week’s lessons is the opening line, “Thine arm, O Lord, in days of old was strong to heal and save” as well as the reference in stanza 2 to the frenzied spirits calmed. And it isn’t any wonder that the text of the hymn so closely follows the text of the Bible when one considers the credentials of its author, Edward Hayes Plumptre. Educated at University College, Oxford in the 1840’s, he became quite a scholar and held teaching appointments and both Oxford and Cambridge but he continued to be active in pariah ministry until the end of his life.
The tune, “St. Matthew,” is new to me and one of those ponderous, lyrical English tunes that I am very much looking forward to singing. I think there is a touch of irony in the fact that a text that has such an affinity with the focus on healing and mercy in Luke’s gospel is sung to a tune named for Matthew. In fact, when I thumbed trough several hymnals I could find no tune at all called St. Luke; perhaps we should commission some enterprising composer to repair this oversight.
324 Let all mortal flesh keep silence (Picardy)
This music started life as a folk tune in the Picardy region of northern France. Since the middle of the 19th century, it has been inextricably linked with this English translation of the ancient Cherubic Hymn that, according to legend, was written by St. James of Jerusalem, the brother of Jesus.
As legends go, this is a pretty tall one. Even if we leave aside the issue of what the New Testament means when it mentions Jesus’s siblings (which as been quite a hot-button issue from time to time in the Church’s history), the attribution of an extant liturgical text to one of them is—well, you know. But just because these sort of things shouldn’t be taken at face value doesn’t mean that they have no value.
I am thinking about St. Davids Cathedral in Wales. It is a charming little cathedral in an idyllic city that was purposefully built down in a vale so that it would be not be visible to Vikings sailing along the coast. In it there is a chapel behind the high altar with shrine containing the relics of St. David, the Patron Saint of Wales. The story on this is that when St. David died way back in the 6th century, some relics of his were persevered in his monastery but, for whatever reason, they disappeared several centuries later. They were lost until someone in the 13th or 14th century found “some bones” in “a wall” and put them in “a box” as the relics of the saint. Several years ago, the Bishop of St. Davids (not the present one) made the relics available for scientific examination to determine if they were in fact authentic. Now, let’s be reasonable—they were unaccounted for for five centuries over 800 years ago—OF COURSE they aren’t authentic. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have value. The very existence of the cathedral is a sign of our fellowship with all the followers of Jesus who have preceded us in his name. And the shrine within it—regardless of what it contains—is a visible symbol of the many examples of people of faith who had the courage and conviction to take the light of the Gospel to the dark places of the world. It is also a reminder of that there are still many dark places in the world (and in our city and in our lives) to which we are charged to take the light of the Gospel.
Same thing with St. James of Jerusalem and this hymn. Whether he was Jesus’s brother or his cousin or his roommate in college, it doesn’t invalidate the fact that Jesus had a circle of brothers/disciples/apostles/followers who planted the seeds for what was to become the church and that that circle of followers extends to us today and that we have the same responsibility that they did. And whether or not this particular text can be attributed to him doesn’t invalidate the fact that we are heirs to an incredible body of music, art, prayer, and liturgical writing from throughout the ages that can give us insight into God’s love for us.
Anyway, getting back to the hymn itself, I chose it for this week because a) we haven’t sung it in a while and thought we could use a “six-winged seraph” fix and b) because it paints a compelling picture of the “one who teaches with authority.”
53 Once he came in blessing (Gottes Sohn ist kommen)
Here is another German text and tune, both of which come from the middle of the 16th century. The tune has the aspect of a medieval carol and I am not one hundred percent in love with it, but the text is appropriate to the day because it makes explicit the notion that the Jesus who teaches and heals and casts out demons in first-century Capernaum is the same Jesus who comes to Myrtle Beach in 2009 as Savior and Lord with the promise of wholeness and salvation.
This Week’s Anthem
Hildebrand: You will I love
This is a subdued and lyrical setting of a text by Johann Scheffler (1624-1677). This is one of the best-known of Scheffler’s poems from his collection called Heilige Seelen-Lust oder Geistliche Hirten-Lieder (Holy Desires of the Soul or Sacred Shepherd Songs). Scheffler’s poetry was a product of Pietism, a 17th movement within the Lutheran church that reacted against formal corporate worship in favor of personal devotion and prayer. Though Pietism had some weakness as a theological movement, some of its writings are a rich inheritance for us, and this is a beautiful example. And this is a classic Pietistic text: rich in imagery and intensely personal.
Kevin Hildebrand is Associate Kantor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. His bachelor’s degree is from University, River Forest, Illinois and is master’s degree is from the University of Michigan where he studied organ with Marilyn Mason.
This Week’s Voluntaries
Picardy (‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence’) is such a familiar and well-constructed tune that it lends itself to almost infinite musical variation and compositional treatment. Example: I can pull five hymnals off my shelf and find five compelling and well-crafted harmonizations of this tune, all of which are completely different save for the melody itself.
In this setting for organ, the tune is presented simply in the pedal while ethereal sustained chords hang in the air above it. The middle section is more animated, and it amounts to a “fantasia” on the tune that echoes itself in different voices and cycles its way through different keys. After this section runs its course, it gives way to a final section that is like the beginning, eventually fading away into nothing.
Albert Travis is organist and director of music at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
Swann: Trumpet Tune
Frederick Swann is one of the grand old men of the American organ scene. The son of a Methodist bishop, he has been associated with two of the highest profile churches in the United states, one on each coast: the Riverside Church in New York City (from the early 1950’s until 1982) and the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California (from 1982 to 1998). He recently completed a six-year tour of duty as National President of the American Guild of Organists. Incidentally, he is succeeded by Eileen Guenther, professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC, who is a close personal friend of Elise Reed. I swear that woman knows everybody!
This Trumpet Tune is a splashy little piece that follows the traditional trumpet tune form: a theme is played on the solo trumpet, repeated on the principal chorus and so forth; then there is a contrasting theme in a minor key, then the main theme comes back and builds to a big climax.
This piece reminds me of a significant lesson that I learned in my formative years as a musician. This is actually one of the first pieces I learned when I began studying the organ. I never thought of the piece as “significant repertoire,” but it was easy and appealing. After I learned the piece, I had a chance to here Frederick Swann give a recital, and he used it as an encore. I thought, wow—I get to hear the composer play his own music and now I will hear how it goes. When he began to play, I HATED it—his approach and interpretation were completely different from mine. We were both playing the exact same notes in the exact same order with completely different results. And the lesson that I am still learning is that the act of putting notes on a page is objective, but the process of taking them of is shockingly subjective.
This Week’s Word from St. Augustine
Beauty is indeed a good gift of God;
but that the good may not think it a great good,
God dispenses it even to the wicked.
Mark Chaney: Weekly Music Newsletter From TrinityPosted: January 31, 2009 by limabean03 in Anglican Communion, Christianity, Music Ministry at Trinity, Thought and Practice in the Diocese of South Carolina, Trinity Tidings
February 1, 2009