An Ancient Advent Hymn

There’s an Advent Hymn that I’ve wanted to point out to people for a while, and I figured I’d pull it up for you all at this blog.  It’s called Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding, and the reason why I’ve had it in mind is because it quotes the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent in its first verse.

… except, as I suddenly realized as I sat down to write about it, this hymn was written in around the 6th century.  So it’s probably not quoting the Collect as we know it.  But it’s making the same Romans 13 reference as the Collect, which means that the way we collect Scripture together to develop the themes of Advent is the way the Church has done it for over 1,500 years.  Let’s check it out.

Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding;
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say;
“Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day.”

There it is, our “cast away the works of darkness” reference from Romans 13.  Christ is near, we are children of the day, so put on the armor of light.

Waken’d by the solemn warning;
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

The theme of waking up, or staying awake, is also a prominent refrain in Advent hymnody and Scripture.  Christ as the morning star, or the sun at dawn, is also a common Advent image, depicting his Return as the beginning of a new and eternal day.

Lo! the Lamb, so long-expected,
Comes with pardon down from heav’n;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiv’n.

Now we’ve got an echo of “Come thou long expected Jesus” (another Advent hymn).  And this third verse also highlights something that tends to get downplayed by a number of people today: Advent is a penitential season.

So when next he comes with glory,
And the world is wrapped in fear,
May he with his mercy shield us,
And with words of love draw near.

Honor, glory, might, and blessing
To the Father and the Son,
With the everlasting Spirit,
While unending ages run.

I think it’s nice to see the same conflicting emotions from the 500’s that we have today when it comes to the subject of eternity and judgment: fear, mercy, and love.

The Trinitarian doxology in the final verse, by the way, is characteristic of ancient hymns.  It’s impressive how many subtly different ways people find to praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same 8.7.8.7 meter.

Another great thing about this hymn is that it fits anytime during Advent.  The reference to the first Sunday’s Collect makes it especially good for the first Sunday (in modern prayer book tradition, which no longer repeats that Collect throughout the season).  It also appeals well to the Collect for the 4th Sunday, so the end of the season works as well for this song as the beginning.  But apart from that, the wide sweep of classic Advent themes make this hymn great for any time in the season.

Harvest Home (but which one?)

Perhaps my favorite Thanksgiving hymn is Come, ye thankful people, come, also known in other books as Harvest Home.  Typically when dealing with hymns and songs on this blog, I stay away from the most popular entries, since people are more likely to have learned something about them already.  But this one… well, let’s just go for it and we’ll see what happens.

This is a great Thanksgiving Hymn, picking up immediately on one of the key origins for this holiday: the end of the harvest season.  Hence the first stanza:

Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest-home;
All is safely gathered in
‘Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest-home.

Pretty straight forward, yes?  God is the creator and supplier of all things, that time of year draws to its close, so let’s go worship and thank him.  Simple.  Almost too simple.  But the second stanza is where things start to transform:

All the world is God’s own field,
Fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown,
Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear,
Then then full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

Suddenly, while keeping the same imagery, the theological meaning has completely changed!  Now the field is God’s creation, the purpose of creation is praise him, wheat and tares grow together in the church, and we are called (planted) to bear the fruit of praise and thanksgiving.  Several parables and teachings of Jesus can be seen here, both distinctly and discreetly, and whether you follow either the 2019 prayer book or the traditional prayer book Sunday lectionary, themes like these have become prominent in recent weeks.

But we’re not done yet; stanza 3 takes it to another level:

For the Lord our God shall come,
And shall take his harvest home,
From his field shall in that day
All offences purge away,
Give his angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast,
But the fruitful ears to store
In his garner evermore.

Woah.  The return of Christ!  Judgement day!  The angelic harvest of the church… again the same parables alluded to, but now with a distinctly Advent theme.  This song can singlehandedly transition the worshiper from late Trinity to Advent!  The 4th and final stanza turns this into a prayer:

Even so, Lord, quickly come
To thy final harvest-home;
Gather thou thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In thy presence to abide;
Come with all thine angels, come;
Raise the glorious harvest-home.  Amen.

“Come, Lord Jesus” is the prayer at the end of the book of Revelation, and a key theme of the season of Advent (indeed, it is the Acclamation at the beginning of the modern Communion liturgy.)

It helps a great deal that Thanksgiving Day normally lands three days before the beginning of Advent, like it does this year.  Occasionally Thanksgiving is early enough that there’s still one Sunday left before Advent, but however it works in a given year, this hymn is a fantastic end-of-the-year song to sing.  There are a handful of Thanksgiving songs that I really like, and even more available in most hymnals, so I kind of feel bad appointing it every year at the expense of the others… but you know what?  I think this one’s worth it.

Thanksgiving Hymns

Thanksgiving Day, in the USA, is always the 4th Thursday in November, which makes it land on the 22nd (at the earliest) through the 28th (at the latest).  This year it’s on the 28th, the latest possible date.  There’s a fun fact for you!

But that’s not why we’re here.  The point of Thanksgiving is not its unusual calendar date challenge, but in taking time to be particularly attentive to the great virtue and practice of giving thanks.  You know that never-ending question “What is God’s will for my life?”… well, consider this as one of the answers:

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Anyway, if you look in most hymnals (American hymnals at least, I don’t know for sure about other countries) you will find a section of Thanksgiving Hymns.  Most of them are keyed to the harvest, which is one of the major sources for the timing of Thanksgiving in the US (and probably also Canada… theirs is a month earlier, but perhaps their growing season ends earlier than ours?).  And so, when constructing a sing-the-hymnal-in-a-year plan, the simple idea in my mind was to spread out the Thanksgiving Hymns through the period of time in which Thanksgiving Day might land.  When I originally did this with the 1940 hymnal, I keyed it to Thanksgiving Day and the weekdays leading up to it and following it, but the 2017 hymnal, Book of Common Praise, has more Thanksgiving Hymns, so instead they are lined up with the seven days in which Thanksgiving Day could land, plus an extra day before and after.  Here’s the list:

  • 21 Nov. #199 We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing
  • 22 Nov. #200/201 Now thank we all our God
  • 23 Nov. #202 Give thanks with a grateful heart (1978 praise song)
  • 24 Nov. #203 Come, ye thankful people, come (Harvest Home)
  • 25 Nov. #204 We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land
  • 26 Nov. #205 Thank you, Lord (African-American spiritual)
  • 27 Nov. #206/207 For the beauty of the earth
  • 28 Nov. #208 Praise God, from whom all blessings flow
  • 29 Nov. #209 Sing to the Lord of harvest

Some of these have two numbers because in this hymnal alternate tunes for the same lyrics get separate numbers – not all hymnals handle this the same way.

If you have a different hymnal at home, feel free to find these songs in your book, or simply read/sing through what you’ve got at an appropriate time.  I sometimes wish we could have a “Thanksgiving Sunday” instead of Christ the King Sunday, so we could have a chance to sing some of these truly marvellous songs with the whole congregation, rather than the weekday chosen few.

A Pre-Advent Hymn: Behold! the mountain of the Lord

Recently we discussed the transitional features of the month of November, how All Saints Day kicks off a sequence of Sundays in calendars both old and new, that increasingly anticipate the season of Advent.  You can revisit that here if you need.  Today I thought I’d put theory into example – let’s look at a hymn that fits into this time of year.

Behold! the mountain of the Lord is not a hymn that’s super famous, as far as I know.  I didn’t pick it with any special interest in mind; it’s simply the hymn appointed for Friday in the week of Proper 26 in this Customary’s daily hymnody plan.  As you get toward the back of most hymnals (at least Anglican ones), you start getting into the eschatological stuff – church triumphant, kingdom of God, sabbath rest… themes like that which play perfectly into this season’s thematic features.  So that’s where this hymn comes in.

Behold! the mountain of the Lord
In latter days shall rise
On mountain-tops above the hills,
And draw the wond’ring eyes.

To this the joyful nations round,
All tribes and tongues, shall flow;
“Up to the hill of God,” they’ll say,
“And to his house we’ll go.”

This is a pretty close approximation of Isaiah 2:2-3 and Micah 4:1-2.  As I recall, Micah picked up a lot of Isaiah’s themes and ideas in his prophetic writings, so the close similarities between those two texts should be no surprise.  Let’s continue.

The beam that shines from Zion shill
Shall lighten ev’ry land;
The King who reigns in Salem’s tow’rs
Shall all the world command.

Among the nations he shall judge;
His judgments truth shall guide;
His scepter shall protect the just,
And quell the sinner’s pride.

Micah 4:3 and Isaiah 2:4 are particular inspirations behind these two stanzas.  Curiously, this hymn is so faithful to the biblical text that it never actually names the King as Jesus for us.  Hopefully that much is obvious to the singer.  The section header, KINGDOM OF GOD, in this hymnal, helps direct our interpretation of these words too – we’re directed to look past earthly-kingdom fulfillments of the Prophets’ words, and look to the heavenly kingdom that Christ is inaugurating even now in his Church.

No strife shall rage, nor hostile feud
Disturb those peaceful years;
To plowshares men shall beat their swords,
To pruning hooks their spears.

No longer hosts*, encount’ring hosts,
Shall crowds of slain deplore;
They hang the trumpet in the hall,
And study war no more.

Come then, O house of Jacob! come
To worship at his shrine;
And, walking in the light of God,
With holy beauties shine.

Wrapping up with adaptations of Isaiah 2:4-5 and Micah 4:3 and 5, we celebrate the great peace of heaven in the age to come.

In a culture that is much better at writing and singing celebratory Christmas music, hymns like these, which draw out forward-looking Advent themes, are very helpful for us.  Lyrics like these are meditations on the Last Things, the Christian goal, the telos** of creation.  And that’s a great way to get into the Advent spirit!

* hosts means armies
** telos is Greek for end (in the sense of a purpose, or goal)

The Singing Schedule has changed

Did you know that The Saint Aelfric Customary offers a sing-the-hymnal-in-a-year plan, for the Book of Common Praise (2017) put out by the Reformed Episcopal Church – a subjurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America?  It’s true, and you can read about it here.  Like the Bible, thanks to the daily office lectionary with its expansion, and like the options in the Prayer Book itself, the principle of completionism is at work here.  The idea of completionism is that if (or as) these books are fully authorized and endorsed by ecclesiastical authority, it is right and good for the Christian to (at least have a means to) read or make use of every page in its appropriate time.

Even if you’re not using this daily hymnody plan, at least skip to the last paragraph for a calendar insight.

With the hymnal, as we draw near the end of the liturgical year, the pace of the hymnody has changed.  From Trinity Sunday until this past Sunday (Proper 24) it has brought us two hymns almost every day of the week, working through the bulk of the General Hymns half of the book.  The “Christian Warfare” section has been running its course for the past week or so, some of it lining up neatly with the war stories of 1 & 2 Maccabees.  But now we’re down to one hymn a day, allowing more room for the Morning & Evening Hymns, and generally decreasing the time it takes to say the Office.  But there’s another practical reason also…

As the month of November approaches, the number of holy days increases.  The second half of October is unusually rich with major feast days but November starts off with All Saints’ Day, which is one of the seven principle feasts of the year, and includes Thanksgiving Day.  Both of these holidays have a substantial number of hymns associated with them, and therefore the regular progress through the hymnal is slowed at this to make room for the numerous special hymns of the season.  More than half of the days in November have at least one holiday hymn appointed for them.  So if you’re not normally a user of the hymnal in the rounds of daily worship, this time of year is a good one to consider picking one up and giving it a try on occasion.  Here are some of the hymns coming up, for your consideration:

  • 23 Oct. (St. James) – #195 Rise again, ye lion-hearted
  • 28 Oct. (Sts. Simon & Jude)- #169v20 From all the saints in warfare
  • 31 Oct. – #617 Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
  • 1 Nov. (All Saints’) – #186 For all the saints, #193 Lord, who shall come to thee
  • 2 Nov. (Commemoration of the faithful departed)
    – #187 Behold a host, arrayed in white, #319 O Lord, my God, I cry to thee
  • 3 Nov. (now filling out the All Saints/Souls Octave)
    – #191 Who are these like stars appearing
  • 4 Nov. – #192 I sing a song of the saints of God
  • 5 Nov. – #194  The saints of God! their conflict past
  • 6 Nov. – #318 Tempted and tried
  • 7 Nov. – #320 I fall asleep in Jesus’ wounds
  • 8 Nov. (now leading to Veteran’s/Remembrance Day)
    – #215 Thou by heav’nly hosts adored
  • 9 Nov. – #216 Rejoice, O land
  • 10 Nov. – #217 God bless our native land
  • 11 Nov. – #218 God of our fathers, whose almighty hand

How not to use music in church

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a style-bashing article.  Although we have looked almost exclusively at traditional hymnody on this blog, I have always maintained that there is a place for contemporary songs and styles in the liturgy.  There is more work involved when it comes to discerning the value and use of a new song, if at least because no previous generations have already done that work for us, but I don’t proclaim an “inherent value” of one style over another.  Chant is precious, hymnody is precious, and the various culture-specific expressions of worship music are precious too, at least in their home cultural contexts.

Rather, when I come up with a title “How not to use music in church“, I am concerned with the function of music in the liturgy.  The basic worship-related axiom for us as Anglicans must always be this: the Prayer Book is our liturgy.  Everything else, including music, is brought in to support the frame and plan of worship set out therein.  An opening song is not to “get people in the mood,” but to open the door between heaven and earth; an offertory song is not to “fill time during the collection”, but to reflect on the sermon, or the theme of offering, or begin meditation on the Communion; a closing song is not to “go out with a bang”, but to wrap up the themes heard that morning and/or send the people out into the world to do all the good works the Lord has prepared for them to walk in.  We take our cues from the Book of Common Prayer; it shows us how to worship, and keeps the Scriptures at the forefront, provided we don’t drown it in excessive music (or excessive incense, or excessive spontaneous prayer, or anything else).

To this end, I encourage you to read this article that came up earlier this week: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2018/04/20/a-call-to-reject-the-orgasmic-worship-experience-and-return-to-liturgy/

I know not everyone will read it, so I’ll give a brief summary.  The author is critiquing the methodology of popular megachurch-inspired “worship”, which uses music in very powerful ways.  He uses the analogy of a sexual experience, where a standard set of five songs works like this:

  1. Set the mood (while people are still settling into the service)
  2. Musical foreplay (building momentum)
  3. Experience ecstasy (the song that goes big and all-out)
  4. Bask in the afterglow (a quiet, restful, meditative song in which to “linger”)
  5. Get up and make breakfast (last song starting gentle but ends with a bang)

Some call this emotional manipulation.  I’ve called it “addict spirituality.”  Whatever you call it, the problem is this: music is used as a substitute not only for liturgy, but for biblical reflection and intellectual participation.  This is worship according to the doctrine of “Sola Feels” as some, snarkier than I, have put it.

Where the article I linked to above falls short, I think, is setting out the clear corrective to the obvious abuse-with-music problem.  The Prayer Book liturgy does have emotional ups and downs, a rise and relax, high points and lows.  The steps of Collect of the Day, Old Testament reading, Psalm, Epistle, Gradual/Sequence music, and Gospel, form an upward movement leading us closer and closer to Jesus, until we plateau at the Sermon and Creed (in whichever order).  Similarly, the Prayers, Confession, and Great Thanksgiving form another upward movement toward the high point of walking up the aisle and receiving Holy Communion.

These can be emotionally-experienced too, but we needn’t force that like megachurch liturgy does with its music sets.  It can be oh-so-tempting for some evangelical Anglicans to mimic the worship forms of their former church homes, or of the large “successful” church down the street.  But we have to remember that this model of worship they put forth is manipulative, sexualized, and encourages addiction rather than devotion.  We would not do well to try to import such practices into our own.  The liturgy already has ups and downs, highs and lows, variations of intensity, which are much more time-tested, much more biblical in pattern, and contain far more Scripture in its prayers and dialogues than a megachurch music set can ever hope to achieve.

Can some of their individual pieces of music find a home in our liturgy?  Absolutely!  But, just as with traditional hymns, the music minister or priest has to use wisdom and discernment to apply the right pieces of music to the right parts of the worship service such that the liturgy is reinforced, not shaken apart.

Book Review: The Lutheran Service Book

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

It’s been a couple weeks but we left off with a couple non-Anglican liturgical books, and today we’re picking that trend back up again with The Lutheran Service Book (2006), which is basically the official liturgical text for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).

This book is basically a Prayer Book and Hymnal in one, which is super handy.  What’s strange about it, from an Anglican perspective, is the ordering of its contents.

Introductory Contents:
Church Year, Sunday & Holy Day lectionaries, Dates of Easter, Glossary, instructions for chanting psalms

Most of this makes sense to us, the only oddity is that the Sunday / Holy Day lectionaries are placed up front with the calendar – historically that’s where we would have the Daily Office Lectionary, though the 2019 BCP has all its lectionaries toward the back instead.

Interestingly, this book includes two choices for the Calendar and Sunday lectionary: one is their version of the 3-year Revised Common Lectionary (essentially the same as ours, only minor differences), and the other is the traditional one-year calendar and lectionary (essentially the same as in the classical Prayer Books).  Although I’m not surprised the 2019 Prayer Book didn’t provide both calendar & lectionary options, I kind of wish it had.

The chanting instructions make sense here because the first primary section of this book is:

The Psalms

Yes, all 150 are here, and they’re even pointed for chant!  For example, from Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn | in your tent? *
Who shall dwell on your | holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does | what is right *
and speaks truth | in his heart.

So that’s pretty useful.  The chant style is very similar to Simplified Anglican Chant, which is great.  Functionally it’s strange that the psalter should be put first like this: this means that you “have to know” where the right worship service starts in the book, increasing the necessary page-flipping.  But in another sense, giving the Psalms place of preference is a theological statement: this is where our worship begins.  Virtually every worship service in the liturgical tradition utilizes the psalms, and biblically they are our greatest model for faithful prayer.

The Divine Service

The next nearly-60 pages are taken up with five “Settings” of the Divine Service, or Holy Communion.  “They have five different eucharistic texts!?” you ask.  Yes.  But they are all extremely similar to one another.

The primary difference between the order of service here and in the 2019 Prayer Book is that this starts with a confession and absolution, rather than placing it after the Prayers of the People.  Setting One’s confession prayer in particular is clearly based upon our confession in the Daily Office.  For the Creed, both the Nicene and Apostles’ are offered.  Two sequences of Communion Prayers are typically offered, one placing the Words of Institution before the Lord’s Prayer, and the other after.  In general, the style and wording of the prayers – particularly the Communion prayers – progress from traditional to contemporary as you look through from Setting One to Setting Five; the last of which sounds the most like the 1979 Prayer Book.

Another fascinating, and consistent, feature of the Lutheran liturgy is the use of the Canticle Nunc dimittis as a Post-Communion praise, just like how the classical Prayer Books employed the Gloria in excelsis.  This has prompted and encouraged me to explore different Canticle options after the administration of Holy Communion in my own church’s worship services, rather than always simply employing a Communion Hymn.

Another curiosity, perhaps marking the most obvious distinction between the five Settings, is the music.  Settings One through Four each have a particular collection of Service Music printed right into them.  This is useful for those who desire to use them, though a bit odd from my observing perspective, as it ties you to particular combinations of musical settings with the variations of prayers.  I assume it’s permissible for them to mix and match text and music, but it just seems an odd way of printing it.  Whateverso, the range of styles are interesting: different forms of chant (some like plainchant, some like Anglican Chant, including the Old Scottish Chant of the Gloria in Setting Three).  Setting Five has no music printed in it, though, preferring the simplicity of spoken liturgy, and indicating a few hymns to sing in place of the standard Kyrie and GloriaSanctus and Agnus Dei.

The Daily Offices

Where the Daily Offices hold pride of place in Anglican Prayer Books, the Lutheran Service Book starts them on page 219, after the Communion settings.  These, too, include musical settings of various Canticles and Psalms right in the text, as well as other chanted parts for the dialogues and blessings and whatnot.  Five Offices are provided: Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Payer, and Compline.  Again this is a “huh?” moment for Anglicans, as Matins & Vespers are the Morning & Evening Offices.

As it turns out, Matins and Morning Prayer are very similar in this book, containing largely the same elements.  Like the Communion Settings, the music and chant is the most obvious difference between the two,   Matins is the most like the Prayer Books’ Morning Prayer; the Morning Prayer in this book lacks the Te Deum and rearranges the prayers after the Canticle.

None of these offices include Confessions or the Apostles’ Creed, which is another difference between this book and our tradition.

Vespers and Evening Prayer are similar to one another, but start markedly different: Vespers more resembling the Prayer Book tradition, and Evening Prayer starting off with that curious “Service of Lights” thing in the 1979 Prayer Book.

Compline is very similar to as it is found in modern Anglican Prayer Books.  I assume, since it was not taken up in most Protestant liturgical books during the Reformation, that it saw the least amount of editing and change in unofficial use, such that when it started to reappear in the late 20th century it had undergone the least amount of denominational divergence.

Other Services and Resources

From here the book includes a collection of other liturgies that a Prayer Book would be expected to have: Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Funeral Service, Responsive Prayers, a Litany, Corporate and Private Confessions & Absolution, Daily Prayer for Families, a Daily Lectionary, table of Psalms for the Offices (though not covering the whole psalter or the whole year), Occasional Prayers, the Athanasian Creed, and Luther’s Small Catechism.  All this is comparable to what one would expect in an Anglican Prayer Book, and much of its contents are recognizably similar to our own.

The first “Other Service”, however, does not have an Anglican counterpart (unless you delve into England’s controversial Common Worship).  It’s called Service of Prayer and Preaching, and it seems to be a what-to-do-on-a-Sunday-morning-when-the-ordained-minister-is-away sort of service.  Opening Verses, an Old Testament Canticle (known to us as #8 Ecce Deus), Scripture readings, dialogued responses, a congregational reading from part of the catechism, Sermon or Catechetical Instruction, (Offertory) Hymn, several Prayers, a New Testament Canticle (known to us as the Pascha Nostrum), and a closing Blessing.

The Hymns

636 hymns follow, arranged by Church Season, Person & Work of Christ, the Christian Church, the Christian Life, other Times and Seasons, additional Service Music, and National Songs.  Naturally there are quite a lot more German Chorales here than in a typical Anglican hymnal (though the 2017 hymnal has quite a few!), and several hymns well-known to us with different arrangements – occasionally entirely different tune settings.  For example Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face is set to FARLEY CASTLE instead of PENITENTIA, and At the Lamb’s high feast we sing is set to SONNE DER GERECHTIGKEIT instead of SALZBURG (ALLE MENSCHEN).

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Page-flipping within a particular worship service (especially the Sunday Communion) is minimal.  The main challenge is making sure you know what service you’re actually doing (five Communion rites, remember).  If you’re trying to use this for the Daily Office then things are rather more complex as you have to hunt for the lectionary and psalms with rather more vigor than a typical Anglican Prayer Book.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
This book is not the sum total the LCMS expression of Lutheran worship, but all the basics are here.  As Anglicans we could use this book and find a faithful approximation of our own liturgical tradition.  The Communion Prayers are all significantly shorter than ours (even shorter than what’s in the 1662 Prayer Book), but on the whole theologically compatible with ours.  The lack of clarity regarding daily psalmody would be a loss, however.  This book also has a nice collection of hymns that could supplement our own hymnals.  And to be fair, if I was a Lutheran, I’d rate this as either a or a 5, depending upon what I’d thereby know of the historic liturgies before this book.

Reference Value: 2/5
It’s hard to rate this score.  For most of us, we have no reason to pick up the liturgical text of a different tradition, even one so closely-related as the Lutherans.  The similarities of English-language Lutheran worship with Prayer Book worship also makes it clear that they have taken several queues from us.  As such, this Lutheran Service Book is probably best understood as an expression of historic Lutheran worship using the Anglican Prayer Book as a useful filter from time to time.  If you really want to explore historic Lutheran liturgy, you probably have to pick up the Book of Concord or something to that effect.  But I haven’t done that yet.

Happy Michaelmas!

On this special occasion of celebrating the feast of St. Michael and All Angels with the whole congregation on a Sunday morning, I thought it would be fun to share our liturgy here.  The Communion rite we’re using is the Anglican Standard Text, as usual.

OPENING HYMN: Christ the fair glory of the holy angels

ACCLAMATION: Worthy is the Lord our God: / To receive glory and honor and power.

COLLECT FOR PURITY, SUMMARY OF THE LAW, KYRIE,

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS sung to the setting #784 in the Book of Common Praise 2017

CHILDREN’S MINISTRY MOMENT

  • Revelation 12:7-12, followed by a 1-minute Children’s sermon
  • explanation: my church has two children, ages 2 and 4, so they spend most of the liturgy playing in a separate room.  I’m a big believer in including young children in the liturgy, but sometimes they need space to move around, and our context is so small that it wouldn’t work so well at the moment.  Soon the older will be able to sit/draw/play/read quietly in the worship space with the adults, and this addition to the liturgy will be removed.
    Normally, this ministry moment includes a few-verse Bible reading followed by a one-minute teaching, but on this occasion the short reading is actually the same as the Epistle Lesson, so it’s just being moved up here wholesale.  Yes it’s a strange way to tinker with the liturgy, and no I’m not crazy about it, but I’ve got to minister to everyone I can with the very limited resources and manpower available.

HYMN: Ye holy angels bright

COLLECT OF THE DAY, OLD TESTAMENT LESSON: Genesis 28:10-17

PSALM: 103, SEQUENCE HYMN: Life and strength of all thy servants

GOSPEL LESSON: John 1:47-51

THE SERMON, THE NICENE CREED, THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

THE CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION OF SIN, THE PEACE

OFFERTORY HYMN: Bread of heav’n on thee we feed

THE SURSUM CORDA, leading to the Preface for Trinity Sunday

THE SANCTUS, THE PRAYER OF CONSECRATION, THE LORD’S PRAYER

THE FRACTION, THE PRAYER OF HUMBLE ACCESS, THE AGNUS DEI

THE MINISTRATION OF COMMUNION

POST-COMMUNION CANTICLE: #6 Dignus es (from page 84)

THE POST-COMMUNION PRAYER, THE BLESSING

CLOSING HYMN: Ye watchers and ye holy ones

THE DISMISSAL

Singing Psalm 121

We all know that the Psalms were originally meant to be sung.  There is, wonderfully, a new movement these days, mostly grassroots, to put music to the Psalms and put them into the hands of the congregations.  I’ve jumped on that bandwagon a little, providing an explanation of Simplified Anglican Chant, and I know others others on YouTube and even in the ACNA have made resources to encourage and enable to chant the psalms.

The wonderful thing about chant is that it provides you with some very simple music that you can then apply to any set of lyrics.  You don’t have to “learn a whole song”, just memorize a few notes and get a feel for where in each half-verse to move from note to note, and you’re good to go.  What makes Anglican Chant different from historic Plainchant is that 1, the chant tunes are written in more recent times and are rarely “tied down” to any particular Psalm or Canticle, and 2, ours come with classical four-part harmonies allowing a choir (or at least a keyboardist) to beautify the music.

What I thought would be fun to try today is providing a set of examples of how one short Psalm can be done in different styles of chant.  This will, I think, help clarify how the more “complicated” forms of chant work, by working our way up to them through some simpler forms.

Here’s the text as used:

1 I will lift up my eyes un|to the | hills; *
from | whence | comes my | help?
2 My help comes | from the | Lord, *
who | has made | heaven and | earth.
3 He will not let your | foot be | moved, *
and he who | keeps you | will not | sleep.
4 Behold, he who keeps | Israel *
shall | neither | slumber nor | sleep.
5 The Lord himself | is your | keeper; *
The Lord is your defense | upon | your right | hand,
6 So that the sun shall not burn |you by | day, *
nei|ther the | moon by | night.
7 The Lord shall preserve you| from all | evil; *
indeed, it is he | who shall | keep your | soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your | coming | in, *
from this time | forth for|ever|more.

– Sample 1 –

Omitting the usual Gloria Patri at the end of the Psalm, here it simply read aloud with the musical rhythm of the ending of each verse in mind.  Always make sure you can read the Psalm comfortably before you sing or chant it!

 

– Sample 2 –

Now let’s use Fr. Ben Jeffries’ Simplified Plainchant.

 

– Sample 3 –

Next let’s move up to Simplified Anglican Chant. This and the following images are from the hymnal, Book of Common Praise 2017.

simplifiedchant740

 

– Sample 4 –

Now we’re ready for a fully-fledged Anglican Chant.  First let’s go for a Single Chant, which means each verse gets the same tune.

singlechant653

 

– Sample 5 –

Last of all, here’s a Double Chant, meaning the repeated tune spans two verses.

doublechant660

An Ember Day Hymn

If you’re following this Customary’s plan for Daily Hymnody from The Book of Common Praise 2017, then you’ll find that the hymn appointed for this Ember Day is “Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire.”  In the 2017 hymnal this is set to the Sarum Plainsong tune VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS, which is a bummer for me because I’m used to it being sung to COME HOLY GHOST.  And the way the lyrics are matched to the notes in the 2017 hymnal is different from how it’s done in the 1940 hymnal, so that’s just confusing to me as a musician who has paid attention to that in the past.

Tune-related issues, aside, the text of this hymn is very significant.  It is appointed in the Ordinal to be sung or said at the ordination of a priest and bishop!  This is true for the 1662 as well as the 2019 book, so it’s pretty standard Anglican fare.  And it’s a 9th century text, so it’s a piece of our Western/Latin heritage as well! Let’s take a look at these words.

COME, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.
Thy blessed unction from above,
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.

Prayers addressed to the Holy Spirit are rare in the liturgical tradition.  Confirmations and Ordinations are among the few times we actually do this.  The seven-fold gift of the Spirit is a long-standing image in Church literature, stemming from the New Testament itself, and includes an Old Testament precedent that is not often in favor with Protestant interpretation.  You can read more about that here if this is unfamiliar to you.

Enable with perpetual light
The dulness of our blinded sight.
Anoint and cheer our soiled face
With the abundance of thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home;
Where thou art guide, no ill can come.

These are the primary specific petitions of this hymn.  Open our eyes, cheer us, grant us peace… if you think back to one of the titles our Lord gave for the Holy Spirit – The Comforter – these all make perfect sense.  Christ has won the victory, Christ has redeemed us; it falls to the Holy Spirit to apply these truths to our hearts and minds, to point us back to Jesus.  Such sight, cheering, and peace are all thereby ministries of comfort and help.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And thee, of both, to be but One;
That, through the ages all along,
This may be our endless song:
Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Finally our plea is that we would know God the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that in this knowledge we would be able to worship and praise him forever.  Knowledge and worship, doctrine and doxology, teaching and liturgy, these are pairs that should never be separated.

Interesting that this hymn doesn’t actually mention anyone getting ordained, huh?  Yes, its function in the ordination liturgy makes it into a prayer especially for the candidate for ordination, but but textually it need not be so limited.  By all means, sing this and pray for your clergy.  But you can pray this for yourself, for all the Church, just as easily and honestly.  In the context of ordination, it makes sense that we should pray for clarity, for sight, for knowledge – not just for the candidate but for the whole congregation.  Calling a new minister of the Gospel, in any Order, is a “big deal” – one that will impact many lives for many years to come.  The Church needs to be in her right mind when placing the collar of recognizable authority upon another servant.

So on these Ember Days, be sure to pray for your Bishop and his clergymen, as well as for those individuals considering or seeking Holy Orders and the congregations in discernment with them.  The process is useless if the aspirant is surrounded by “Yes Men” whose eagerness to support blinds them from asking any hard questions about his true calling.  So pray this hymn with them and for them.