Sunday, December 01, 2013

Seen and heard today at Divine Service, Advent 1 (12/1/13)

Ah!    It's come around again:  one of the most wonderful Sundays of the year.  And here's how it started:

I was thinking just before the Litany began that it might be good to write a new set of words; the litany sounds too 1662, maybe, and its concerns are not our concerns, mostly, I thought.  While singing it, though, I realized that - in spite of "the world, the flesh, and the devil" and the old-fashioned language - most of it is pretty good stuff, standard intercessory and penitential prayer, which we do all the time.   So even though it's a bit Tudor, it still works, mostly.  You can get all the words here.

Then, one of the best of all hymns, Sleepers wake.  You can listen to St. Peter's Chicago sing it, starting at around 7:45 in the video below:

What a fantastic text!  This one's from the 16th Century, too, written by Philip Nicolai (20th C. English translation by Carl P. Daw, Jr., though):
"Sleepers, wake!" A voice astounds us,
the shout of rampart-guards surrounds us:
"Awake, Jerusalem, arise!"
Midnight's peace their cry has broken,
their urgent summons clearly spoken:
"The time has come, O maidens wise!
Rise up, and give us light;
the Bridegroom is in sight.
Your lamps prepare and hasten there,
that you the wedding feast may share."

Zion hears the watchman singing;
her heart with joyful hope is springing,
she wakes and hurries through the night.
Forth he comes, her bridegroom glorious
in strength of grace, in truth victorious:
her star is risen, her light grows bright.
Now come, most worthy Lord,
God's Son, Incarnate Word,
We follow all and heed your call
to come into the banquet hall.

Lamb of God, the heavens adore you;
let saints and angels sing before you,
as harps and cymbals swell the sound.
Twelve great pearls, the city's portals:
through them we stream to join the immortals
as we with joy your throne surround.
No eye has known the sight,
no ear heard such delight:
Therefore we sing to greet our King;
for ever let our praises ring.

The organ prelude in the video above comes from Bach's Cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140; he used this hymn chorale by Philip Nicolai in that piece, too:

This different set of words may be how they sing it in England; here the Trinity College Cambridge Choir does it up nicely:

We had Lo, he comes with clouds descending last, and at a really crazy fast pace.  I can understand that, though, and I approve; this hymn can sound absolutely funereal if you drag it.  (Perhaps the choirmaster hates the hymn; it could have been that, too!)

In the video below, from Atonement in Chicago, it's the entrance hymn, though, and sung slowly and majestically.  It works fine to sing it more slowly here.

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone!

And the collect is this truly splendid one - my favorite of the year:
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

A wonderful piece of religious rhetoric there, with all its resonances:  mystical allusions to light and dark, to weakness and power, to the mortal and the immortal, the temporal and eternal, the earthly and the cosmic.  Wow.

Advent 1 may be the only day of the year on which the hymnody completely blows away the readings!

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