Thursday, December 20, 2012

The O Antiphons Illustrated

I have been putting illustrations of the O Antiphons on the St. Rafe's Facebook Page.  Here are the first few days:

December 17:  O Sapientia

December 18:  O Adonai

December 19:  O Radix Jesse

December 20:  O Clavis David

Hit like on the Facebook Page to keep up with the rest of the O Antiphons and for more frequent St.  Rafe's news updates.

Monday, December 17, 2012

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Today begin the O Antiphons at the Magnificat, which lead us into Christmas.  Each invokes the Savior under one of his biblical titles, bidding Him to come to his people.  The series begins with O Sapientia (O Wisdom):

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

In the Middle Ages, the O Antiphons were set as one hymn text, Veni, veni, Emmanuel,  translated in the 19th century by John Mason Neale into another of the great, if not the greatest, Advent hymns, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Most Highly Favored Lady: The Basque Carol

One of the great hymns of Advent, which is saying something.

Ecce Ancilla Domini, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow his eyes as flame
"All hail" said he "thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

"For know a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emanuel, by seers foretold
Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name."
Most highly favored lady. Gloria!

Of her, Emanuel, the Christ was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say:
"Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Principal Patroness of the Americas, seen here in her cold-climate shrine in near La Crosse, Wisconsin.

This morning's first responsory at Matins catches the tenor of the day with its texts from the Song of Songs:
R. I saw her fair as a dove, when she winged her flight above the rivers of waters. The savour of her perfume hung heavy on her garments. * About her, it was as the flower of roses in the spring of the year and the lillies of the valleys.

V. Who is this that comes out of the wilderness like a pillar of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense.

* About her, it was as the flower of roses in the spring of the year and lilies of the valleys.

V. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

* About her, it was as the flower of roses in the spring of the year and lilies of the valleys.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Sermon for Advent II

St. John the Baptist by Veneto (source).
Digging through some things yesterday, I found this old sermon for Advent II in lectionary Year C from 14 years ago.  I am not sure that it is quite what I would say today, but I think some of the ideas still hold up.

   Today’s collects and readings confront the reality of sin.  We prayed that we might heed the prophets warnings and forsake our sins.  I am not certain that as creatures of the age of psychology and self-esteem that we even know how to address the concept. 

    For John the Baptist, sin was very real.  He calls those who hear him a generation of vipers and trees who will be cast in the fire.  He tells them they should fear the one who will come after him.

    John stands in good company among the prophets whom the collect calls to our mind today.  As a group, the prophets were notoriously lacking in civility, scolds par excellance.  Worse, they seemed to enjoy their work.  Unfortunately, the lectionary gives us a skewed view of the prophetic role.  Today’s reading from Isaiah is typical of what we hear on a given Sunday—the lion lying down with the lamb and a little child shall lead them, a seemingly pleasant and benign vision of the Kingdom we seek shorn of the arduous nature of the journey it takes to get there.

    Typically, the prophets spent their time calling on the people and the state to repent from sin and to turn to God.  To sin was to risk bringing calamity on the individual and the nation.  But what was this thing that aroused prophetic ire and drove John’s ministry?

    The most common word for sin in the New Testament is the Greek word hamartia which means to miss the mark.  The word was used in archery to say that someone had missed the target and used to describe travelers who had missed their road.  To sin is to be misguided, to be off course, to get it wrong, but what is the criteria?  In both the Old and New Testaments, to sin is most often to commit and act that puts something in the place of God, usually one’s self.  To sin is to fail to recognize the majesty of God and the order of the universe.  Sin is failing to recognize our dependence on the creator.

    C. S. Lewis, born almost exactly 100 years ago, was perhaps the last great Anglican defender of the idea of sin.  For Lewis, sin was a loss of perspective that clouded all of life.  To be in sin was to forget one’s place in creation and consequently that of God.  Sin was to choose the self and to see things only in terms of the self.

    In the world of Lewis’ essays and fiction, heaven is the end of a deliberate journey toward God.  Heaven is where those who have longed for their creator find fulfillment and true joy.  Hell, on the other hand, is the end point of just as deliberate a journey.  In Lewis’ hell, there is no fire or demonic torment.  Instead, hell is the place of rest for those who can no longer see outside of themselves.  Hell is a solitary place of rest where there is nothing to distract the soul from its self-love, where at last there are no other people to challenge one’s status, no feelings of imperfection, no more nagging of conscience.  Hell is a self-imposed exile.

    Today’s gospel from Matthew gives us John the forerunner of Christ’s earthly ministry, but it serves equally well as a warning of the second advent for which we look in this season.  To prepare the way of the Lord we have to know the right road.  We have to know that the source of true joy and contentment lies outside of ourselves.  We have to long for a kingdom where we will neither rule nor burn with desire to at least stand on the dais. 

    As we anticipate Christ’s second advent, the importance of John’s proclamation is not so much that he called sinners to repent but that he could say “The one who is coming after me is greater than I; I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”  John calls us out of ourselves to see the glory of the one who is to come.  He calls us to see the folly of our self-aggrandizement and to see that our worth and honor come from being children of the creator, not from any transitory status that we can cobble together here.  John’s words in the wilderness of Judea call us out of our need for dominance and self-importance. 

    The seemingly pleasant vision in today’s reading from Isaiah is no comfort to those who have chosen otherwise, because to be happy in that peaceable kingdom is not just to be the babe that is safe from the asp and the calf that need not fear the lion. It is also to be the asp who has forgone the impulse to strike, the bear who is happy to graze, and the lion who no longer needs to be king because he is content to be subject to the shoot that has come up from the stump of Jesse. 

     In the name of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY GHOST.  AMEN.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Two Hymns for the Immaculate Conception

It is almost impossible to be too over the top for the Immaculate Conception.  After all, it's a Marian feast in honor of an abstract theological concept. If you're in, you might as well go all the way, ergo the gilt madonna to the right from Clermont Cathedral.

Another thing that tends to be wonderfully over the top on this day is the hymnody. The lyrics below were a favorite of mine in years past. They may seem a tad cloying, but the tune, Immaculate !Immaculate!, is quite jaunty and keeps things moving.

O Mother! I could weep for mirth,
Joy fills my heart so fast;
My soul today is heaven on earth,
Oh could the transport last!

I think of thee, and what thou art,
Thy majesty, thy state;
And I keep singing in my heart—
Immaculate! Immaculate!

2 When Jesus looks upon thy face,
His heart with rapture glows,
And in the Church, by his sweet grace,
Thy bless├Ęd worship grows.

3 The angels answer with their songs,
Bright choirs in gleaming rows;
And saints flock round thy feet in throngs,
And heaven with bliss o’erflows.

4 And I would rather, Mother dear!
Thou shouldst be what thou art,
Than sit where thou dost, oh, so near
Unto the Sacred Heart.

5 Yes, I would forfeit all for thee,
Rather than thou shouldst miss
One jewel from thy majesty,
One glory from thy bliss.

Score from
6 Conceived, conceived Immaculate!
Oh what a joy for thee!
Conceived, conceived Immaculate!
Oh greater joy for me!

7 Immaculate Conception! Far
Above all graces blest!
Thou shinest like a royal star
On God’s eternal breast!

8 It is this thought today that lifts
My happy heart to heaven:
That for our sakes thy choicest gifts
To thee, dear Queen, were given.

9 God prosper thee, my Mother dear;
God prosper thee, my Queen;
God prosper his own glory here
As it hath ever been!

If that’s a bit much, the Breviary Hymn for vigils is a bit more sober:

Fair Guardian of the Virgin choirs,
Chaste Mother of the Deity,
Thou gateway to the courts of heaven,
Our hope of heaven’s felicity.

A Lily grown among the thorns,
Of all pure doves the comliest,
Branch from life-giving root, the health
Of man by wounds of sin distrest,

From serpent’s sting the impervious tower,
For shipwrecked souls the friendly star,
Defending us from treachery,
Our light to guide us from afar.

Avert from us grim error’s shades,
Deceptive quicksands of dismay,
Among so many boisterous waves
In heavenly progress guide our way.

All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin born to Thee,
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

On the Feast of St. Ambrose: O Come Redeemer of the Earth

An Advent hymn by St. Ambrose on his feast day.

O COME, Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin-birth.
Let every age in wonder fall:
such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will
but of the Spirit, Thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.

The Virgin's womb that burden gained,
its virgin honor still unstained.
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.

Proceeding from His chamber free
that royal home of purity
a giant in twofold substance one,
rejoicing now His course to run.

O equal to the Father, Thou!
gird on Thy fleshly mantle now;
the weakness of our mortal state
with deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light
where endless faith shall shine serene
and twilight never intervene.

All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
whose advent sets Thy people free,
whom, with the Father, we adore,
and Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas Uncures Three Hams

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, patron of sailors and pawnbrokers, whose three golden balls are a reference to the saint's providing dowries for poor girls. 

The image to the right is from the reredos of the high altar of Sint-Niklaaskirk in Ghent. The boys in the tub at good St. Nick's feet refer to the story of St. Nicholas bringing three little boys back from the dead after an evil butcher had killed them and put them in a curing barrel to sell them for ham.

The Brothers Grimm have nothing on the lives of the saints.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Communion Hymn for Advent

Advent is a season of great hope and great music. The tune below is a childhood favorite written by the English Congregationalist, George Rawson, that was often sung as a communion hymn.

By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,
We keep the memory adored,
And shew the death of our dear Lord
Until He come.

His body given in our stead
Is made known in the broken bread,
By which our feeble love is fed
Until he come.

His fearful, untold agony,
His lifeblood shed for you and me,
The wine shall tell the mystery
Until he come.

And thus His dark betrayal night
We with His last advent we unite
By one bright chain of loving rite
Until He come.

Until the trump of God be heard.
Until the ancient graves be stirred,
And with the great commanding word,
The Lord shall come.

Oh! blessed hope! With this elate
Let not our hearts be desolate,
But, strong in faith and patience, wait
Until He come ! Amen.