Friday, December 04, 2009

Arise, O Jerusalem!

It seems that the Revised Common Lectionary - and apparently we use a version created specially for the Episcopal Church, which makes me wonder what's so "ecumenical" about having adopted it in the first place? - is in fact following fairly closely the 1979 BCP Lectionary for the Sundays in Advent, at least. Well, except that it goes mad with Canticles in Year C, as a replacement for the Psalm.

In any case, for Old Testament this week we have the choice of readings from Baruch or Malachi; who, though, could resist the gorgeous Baruch reading, which comes from Chapter 5, verses 1-9:
Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
"Righteous Peace, Godly Glory."
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God's command.
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

I even like the NRSV translation of this reading! I'm going to check a few others, but this one certainly must do it justice, I'd think.  I've come to notice that I really am a huge Old Testament fan; there is so much I love in the Hebrew Bible.  Psalms, the Prophets, the Apocrypha - all the really old, ecstatic and mystical poetry that so appeals to me.  I think I'm going to try to learn Hebrew, in fact; I'd like to read these things in the original.

And as usual, I checked the chant propers for this coming Sunday (this more recent version, too) - and lo and behold, I find the lovely "stand upon the height" verse embedded in the Communio for Advent 2 (mp3):

Jerusalem surge, et sta in excelso, et vide
jucunditatem quae veniet tibi a Deo tuo.
Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high, and behold
the joy that comes to thee from thy God!

Giovanni Battista Martini and Heinrich Isaac have both apparently written settings of this song, says CPDL (which BTW is now a registration-required site). I believe this must be the Heinrich Isaac piece, and it is very beautiful indeed:

Here's another version, not mentioned above, by one Giacomo Mezzalira. Nice, too!

Interestingly, there is another version of "Jerusalem, Surge," one used in Holy Week - it's the Responsory II of the Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday - which does exactly the reverse of what the reading above does!  Here's the chant (sung by Benedictines from Solesmes) with score, and the Latin text and English translations from CPDL below; CPDL says the texts come from Jonah 3:6 and Lamentations of Jeremiah 2:18:

Jerusalem, surge, et exue te vestibus
jucunditatis; induere te cinere et cilicio:
quia in te occisus est Salvator Israel.
Deduc quasi torrentem lacrimas per diem et noctem,
et non taceat pupilla oculi tui.
Arise, O Jerusalem, and put off thy garments
of joy; put on ashes and sackcloth:
For in thee was slain the Saviour of Israel.
Shed thy tears like a torrent, day and night,
and let not the apple of thine eye be dry.

And Gesualdo and Benedetto Pesenti have written settings of this one. Here's the Gesualdo, sung by the Hilliard Ensemble (sorry for the mournful Holy Week-ishness of this, but I can't resist Gesualdo):

So here's what must have happened:  the author of the responsory (I'm sure this must be the correct scenario) used the Jonah passage to respond directly to the author of the Communion Song/Baruch, using the converse of the image.  Isn't that wonderful?   And of course, this is done throughout the Scriptures, too; everybody is constantly responding to somebody else across time and space through their writings.

And this is what I love - more and more, actually - about the Scriptures of late. There are long drawn-out conversations and discussions going on throughout them - poets speaking in rhymes and rhythms to one another, and ideas picked up centuries later and elaborated upon - and we get to watch from this distant country. It's really beautiful.

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