Friday, December 13, 2013

The Advent 3 Alleluia: Excita, Domine

This rather famous text comes from Psalm (79/80), Qui Regis Israel:
 Stir up your might, O Lord, and come to save us.

It's "Gaudete" - "Rejoice!" - Sunday, so named for the first word of today's Introit, Gaudete in Domino.  The text for the Introit comes from the famous Philippians passage:
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.  Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.   Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
"Gaudete Sunday" is meant to be a day of lighter mood - "moderation" - when the "Last Things" theme of Advent gives way a bit to this calm assurance of the nearness of the Lord's presence.  The liturgical color changes from purple to pink (if a church has a pink set of vestments).

Interesting, then, that the Epistle is not that reading from Philippians!  It is a nice one, though:  James 5:7-10, and is quite similar in theme:
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

The James, BTW, is not the "Historic Lectionary" epistle either; that one came from 1 Corinthians 4.

The Gospel, Matthew 11:2-11, though, has been in use at Advent 3 for a long time - at least since the 16th Century continuously (and in every BCP, as far as I can tell):
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
`See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.'
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

And as usual, I'm thrilled at the wondrous Advent reading from Isaiah; it, too, resonates with the Gaudete theme:

Isaiah 35:1-10
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you."
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God's people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The collect for this week also contains the famous "stir up" text; as per the FHD and Hatchett's Commentary citations below, it has apparently  moved around the calendar quite a bit: from the Last Sunday in Advent to the Last Sunday before Advent, and ultimately back to this day (where it fits so well with this chant proper!):
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

The following is from Commentary on the American Prayer Book, by Marion Hatchett:
The Gelasian sacramentary is the source for this collect which is included in the first of the propers for Advent (no. 1121), and is addressed to the Son. In the Gregorian it is changed to a prayer addressed to the Father in a proper for a Sunday, included after the provisions for a winter ember vigil (no. 805). The Gallican Bobbio missal provides it as a second prayer in the first of the three Masses for Advent (no. 38). In the Sarum missal it was appointed for the fourth Sunday in Advent. Cranmer retained it in that version with slight changes, adding the phrase "among us" and, at the end of the petition, "through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord." Revisers in 1662 added the phrase "in running the race that is set before us," and expanded "deliver us" to "help and deliver us." Cranmer's second phrase was deleted in the 1928 revision and the first of the additions of the 1662 edition has been dropped in the present revision, thus restoring the prayer to a form close to its original. The prayer echoes Psalm 80:2 and Hebrews 12:1. The one remnant of a series of four prayers which began with "excita" (stir up) used on four of the last five Sundays before Christmas in the Sarum missal, this prayer sets forth better than the others the themes of the two advents: the first in which He came in humility, and the second in which He comes in power; the first in which He came to save, and the second in which He comes to help and relieve.

The rubric following is a reminder that the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week are the traditional winter ember days, though these may now be transferred to a time related to local or diocesan occasions for ordination.

Here's Full Homely Divinity on "Stir Up Sunday" - and some of its culinary associations:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The traditional Collect for the Sunday next before Advent was echoed in a popular rhyme on the way home from church:
Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot;
And when we get home, we'll eat the lot.

...though, technically, the agenda for the day was not eating the pudding, but making it. On the Sunday before the beginning of Advent, it has always been customary to make the Christmas pudding (a type of fruit cake) so that the flavors could blend and age properly for the pudding to be at its best when eaten at Christmas dinner. Everyone shares in the making of the pudding, taking turns stirring it (east to west, the direction the wise men traveled) and each person making a wish while taking her or his turn at stirring. Often the cake also has tokens baked into it: a coin to signify that the finder would have a prosperous year, a ring to foretell a coming marriage or a button or thimble to predict another year of bachelorhood or spinsterhood. In the full homeliest manner, the making of the pudding renews a sense that the presence and purposes of God are never far removed from quotidian life. The sweetness of the pudding is a sign that God always desires the peace and happiness of his people. The contents of the pudding are a subtle reminder of a principal object of the Christian life: the fruit of good works, referred to in the collect. Sadly, the traditional collect has been replaced in many revisions of the Book of Common Prayer, but in the Church of England it has found new life as the prayer after Communion.

With or without the traditional collect in the Church's liturgy, there is no reason why Christian families cannot continue this tradition and use the old collect at home. After all, the Christmas pudding does need to be prepared in advance if it is to rise to the occasion on which it is eaten. The traditional English Christmas pudding is a steamed plum pudding. Click here for a website with a typical recipe. The American fruit cake is a variation on the same theme. We note that fruit cake has gotten a bad reputation, due to poorly made commercial versions that are dry and tasteless. When made in advance (to a good recipe, of course) and cured with regular infusions of quality spirits (wine, brandy, or bourbon are all suitable), a fruit cake is, in our humble opinion, one of the noblest confections ever created, and easily on a par with the best plum puddings.

Here is a list of all the chant propers for Advent 3, sung by the Sao Paolo Benedictines:

Hebdomada tertia adventus
Introitus: Phil. 4, 4.5; Ps. 84 Gaudete in Domino (cum Gloria Patri)(6m13.5s - 5839 kb) score
Graduale: Ps. 79, 2.3. V. 2 Qui sedes, Domine (2m24.8s - 2265 kb) score
(anno B) Io. 1, 6. V. 7 et Lc. 1, 17 Fuit homo (2m09.3s - 1011 kb)
Alleluia: Ps. 79, 3 Excita, Domine (1m58.4s - 1853 kb) score
Offertorium: Ps. 84, 2 Benedixisti, Domine (1m18.4s - 1226 kb) score
Communio: Cf. Is. 35, 4 Dicite: Pusillanimes (56.9s - 891 kb) score

Here are other posts on Chantblog about the propers for this day:

To celebrate the day, here's a very nice recording of Purcell's "Rejoice in the Lord Alway," sung by the Choir of King's College Cambridge:

Ant this is a fresco "in der Kirche von Gracanica, Szene" of John the Baptist from around 1235, by "Meister von Gracanica."

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