Sunday, November 03, 2013

Seen and heard today at Divine Service (November 3, 2013)

The White High Holy Day vestments, the beautiful All Saints' Day collect (see below) - and, happily (since the Book of Common Prayer lectionary is now permitted again), this wonderful reading for All Saints' Day:
Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14

1 Let us now sing the praises of famous men,    
          our ancestors in their generations.
2 The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
          his majesty from the beginning.
3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
          and made a name for themselves by their valour;
          those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
          those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
4 those who led the people by their counsels
          and by their knowledge of the people’s lore;
          they were wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes,
          or put verses in writing;
6 rich men endowed with resources,
          living peacefully in their homes—
7 all these were honoured in their generations,
          and were the pride of their times.
8 Some of them have left behind a name,
          so that others declare their praise.
9 But of others there is no memory;
          they have perished as though they had never existed;
          they have become as though they had never been born,
          they and their children after them.
10 But these also were godly men,
          whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
13 Their offspring will continue for ever,
          and their glory will never be blotted out.
14 Their bodies are buried in peace,
          but their name lives on generation after generation.

As far as I can tell, this was introduced for the first time in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as the Old Testament reading on All Saints' Day.  It was one of the first readings I ever heard in the church, and I found it exquisitely beautiful.

Instead of a Psalm - unusual - we sang hymn #560, "Blessèd are the poor in spirit."  It's a Richard Proulx arrangement of a Russian Orthodox chant; in the Orthodox liturgy, I'm learning, the Beatitudes are chanted as the Gospel Book is carried in procession to the sanctuary for the Gospel reading.  That's a wonderful liturgical practice!    (The Beatitudes are, of course, the Gospel reading for All Saints' Day every year.)

Here's the hymn, here sung at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Jacksonville Florida:

Here are the words, from
Remember your servants, Lord,
when you come in your kingly power.

1 Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2 Blessed are those who mourn;
for they shall be comforted.
3 Blessed are the meek;
for they shall inherit the earth.
4 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness;
for they shall be satisfied.
5 Blessed are the merciful;
for they shall obtain mercy.
6 Blessed are the pure in heart;
for they shall see God.
7 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the children of God.
8 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake;
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
9 Blessed are you when the world reviles you and persecutes you;
and utters all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake:
Rejoice and be exceeding glad;
for great is your reward in heaven.

Remember your servants, Lord,
when you come in your kingly power.

Source: Hymnal 1982: according to the use of the Episcopal Church #560
It's really a beautiful song, with terrific harmonies - and of course the text is superb.

This sounds like it may be the Russian version Proulx worked from, sung by a choir at Holy Trinity Church (OCA) in Yonkers, NY:

The YouTuber wrote there that:
The Beatitudes were pronounced by Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount and were recorded by St. Matthew. ........In the Gospel writings, the beatitudes introduce the teachings of Jesus and are traditionally considered to contain the most concise summary of the spiritual life of man. In the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the beatitudes are chanted when the Book of the Gospels is carried in solemn procession to the sanctuary to be proclaimed as the Word of God to the faithful. Thus it is the clear teaching of the Gospel and the Church that one enters into the mysteries of Christ and the Kingdom of God only by way of following the Lord's teachings in the beatitudes. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is great in heaven (Matthew 5:2-12; Cf Luke 6:20-26)

Here, BTW, is Arvo Pärt's setting of the Beatitudes; gorgeous as usual:

The preacher noted that All Saints' Day was the only feast of the year that could be celebrated twice - once on November 1, and again on the Sunday after November 1.  Quite interesting, really, that this is so; to me, this makes a powerful statement about the importance of this day - and I've felt that since the first time I ever attended an All Saints' Day service.  All Saints' is one of the four days on which baptism is "especially appropriate," too, according to the BCP; the first time I attended a service on this day, there were four baptisms.  All of that, and the readings and music, makes All Saints' a uniquely resonant experience; today, for the first time really, I truly got an understanding of the church as the mystical Body of Christ, and of all Christians, everywhere and from every era, as disciples, all living a common life and under a common vision.

I sort of like it that in Anglicanism, All Saints' and All Souls' Days have been collapsed into one thing; I like that idea, again, of that complete statement about "discipleship," and the notion that the whole church is celebrated.  (I'm also quite happy that many parishes offer a requiem mass on All Souls' Day, too, even though it's not an official Holy Day.   Nothing at all wrong with any of that.)

Here's the beautiful Collect for All Saints:
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Hatchett's Commentary says about this one that:
This collect was composed for the 1549 Book.  The 1662 revision substituted "blessed" for "holy," and "in all virtuous and godly living" for "in all virtues, and godly living."  The present revision replaces "unspeakable" with "ineffable" since "unspeakable" has so changed and negative a connotation in modern English.  The collect expresses in an admirable way Saint Paul's conception of the church as the Body of Christ.

I heard this song at my first All Saints' Day service, too, and again today:

Holy is the True Light,
and passing wonderful,
lending radiance to them that endured
in the heat of the conflict.
From Christ they inherit
a home of unfading splendour,
wherein they rejoice with gladness evermore.

Words from the Salisbury Diurnal by G.H. Palmer

For the last hymn, it was Ralph Vaughan Williams' "For All the Saints."  I used to cry when I sang this one; I don't really know why.  (I have a feeling it may partly be all that martial imagery, in combination with this majestic melody!)  I remember singing this one when I was a child, and it always moved me then - and whenever I heard it later on in life.  I was watching people in the choir as they came down the aisle singing, and saw some really blissful faces - so I know it still has that effect on people.  Not me, though; now I weep at other hymns, and not at this one anymore.

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