Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Praying Mantis

This is a praying mantis for my more charismatic friends (I didn't take it).

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

After the 40 days of Lent, I'm so glad we've finally reached the feast of the resurrection! As the high point of the Christian year, and the most important for our faith, Easter also has some of the best hymns. Besides the hymn I started this blog with one year ago, there are so many other wonderful expressions of joy from the 2,000 years of the Christian tradition.

This text, Aurora lucis rutilat, is a Latin text from the 5th century. It's been put with the tune Puer nobis in the Hymnal 1982 and in others, which is a good, joyful tune to which to sing it (although a little slow in the linked version). This is a 15th century tune that was adapted by Michael Praetorius.

That Eastertide with joy was bright,
The sun shone out with fairer light,
When, to their longing eyes restored,
The apostles saw their risen Lord.

He bade them see His hands, His side,
Where yet the glorious wounds abide;
The tokens true which made it plain
Their Lord indeed was risen again.

Jesus, the King of gentleness,
Do Thou Thyself our hearts possess
That we may give Thee all our days
The tribute of our grateful praise.

O Lord of all, with us abide
In this our joyful Eastertide;
From every weapon death can wield
Thine own redeemed forever shield.

All praise be Thine, O risen Lord,
From death to endless life restored;
All praise to God the Father be
And Holy Ghost eternally.

Enjoy this 1600-year-old hymn of praise, as you celebrate the resurrection!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Set of ears says generosity is there

I really love the Princeton Theological Seminary book sale. Since Amy's a student, we can go in for the Sunday night preview, and, since I'm surrounded by mostly systematic theologians and biblical scholars, I usually do very well in the music and liturgy departments. Besides a first edition Bushnell, and a couple of volumes from the series Twenty Centuries of Christian Worship, I was happy to find both an early 19th century biography of Watts and a fairly rare book I've seen once before by Charles S. Nutter, famous for his Hymn Studies. This book, Historic Hymnists: A Portrait Gallery of Great Hymn Writers, published in 1893, includes pictures and a short biography of many of the famous hymn writers from the 19th century and before.

Pressed into its pages was a typed sheet, "Prayer Meeting on Feb. 15, 1933." This I found very interesting, as a short liturgy in 7 sections involving the book in question. Section 2 interests me the most. Unfortunately I have no idea what hymnal was being used by the author of this sheet, so the hymns they sang (other than that named) will remain a mystery. But, here is this section (without the appropriate indentations—sorry, I didn't want to spend the time editing all that html):

2. Prayer Meeting hymn "MY FAITH LOOKS UP TO THEE".
A. Show picture of the writer--Dr. Palmer
B. Interpret face
a. Head well set in the midst of a strong pair of sturdy shoulders.
b. Set of ears says generosity is there
c. Eyes well set in firm sockets--piercing eyes kindly and pleasing eyes
d. Pointed nose -- fine penetrated into new paths "I'LL FIND A WAY OR MAKE ONE"
e. Large nostrils sign of deep breather which says plenty of fresh air--lungs of capacity
f. Firm and determined jaw
g. Pleasing mouth--not a TALE BEARER--eather [sic] when he opened his mouth he said something

Following this excursus solely on Dr. Palmer's picture, the leader shared the story of his life (also handily in this book), and then read and interpreted his hymn sung above, also known as "Consecration hymn." Afterwards, all knelt to pray, while the piano played softly, and then the speaker sang the hymn "from another room." Finally they sang one more hymn, which shall remain anonymous.

I found this very quaint, but extremely interesting. The plethora of "hymn stories" books from the late 19th century have intrigued me, especially since they have continued in popularity until today (with books such as 101 Hymn Stories and the like). I always imagined devotional readings of these stories from homes—I never really pictured a whole service built around such a story. And, I imagined even less a large section of such a service based only on the picture of the writer in question. I almost expected to see a phrenological chart of Ray Palmer following!

It is, without question, a great hymn. Here's its text:

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!

May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!

While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my Guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.

When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream shall o'er me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above— a ransomed soul!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Chintzy Chasubles

Thanks to Ron for pointing this out:
Chintzy Chasubles. If you come across any good ones, I think the blogger would appreciate pictures!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Holy Week

We've come to perhaps my favorite time of the Christian year, which is Holy Week. Besides the final week of Lent and the anticipation for Easter, the services of Holy Week are wonderful times of reflection and praise—Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (although many churches, my own among them, have no vigil, which decimates the Easter triduum—a topic for another time).

Part of the moving nature of Holy Week is the wonderful hymns that get sung—"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded," "Ah, Holy Jesus," "Go to Dark Gethsemane," and, on Palm Sunday, "Ride on, Ride on in Majesty," "All Glory, Laud and Honor" and many, many more. Many of these hymns have survived in the English language in large part due to the Oxford Movement, the group of high-church Anglicans who sought to reform the church back to a more highly liturgical past. Such luminaries as Edward B. Pusey, John Henry Newman, John Keble, Henry Manning, Robert Wilberforce, and others were highly influential in the movement.

Hymnologically, it was largely this movement that provided for English singers the rich history of Latin, Greek, Russian, Syriac, German, and many other hymns. John Mason Neale was the biggest influence in this, and it is his work that started me thinking about the Oxford Movement this week. "All Glory, Laud and Honor," the great hymn for Palm Sunday, is part of his corpus. He translated it from the Latin of Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans, famous for his treatise on the term filioque. It's usually sung to ST. THEODULPH by Melchior Teschner, and harmonized by William H. Monk (who, interestingly, harmonized several of the other hymns I mentioned above).

The first verse was originally presented as a refrain, but now the hymn is presented with two verses together, leaving only three total.

All glory, laud and honor,
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Bless├Ęd One.

The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

I'm interested that so many of the hymns for Holy Week and Easter are of the more ancient variety (at least, before the 18th century), like this one. Others include "O Sacred Head," "The Day of Resurrection," "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," and many more. These hymns appear in most denominational and nondenominational hymnals. It seems that this is one time when, in celebrating the central feast of the year, Christians are united in singing the same fabulous texts, which antedate the division of Protestant and Catholic, and, in many cases, of Eastern and Western Churches. I was especially reminded of this in thinking about all the Christians who have been blessed by these texts throughout the centuries from the times in which they were written—as the creed reminds us, the communion of saints, praising God in heaven and on earth.