Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Feast of the Presentation

Forty days after Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas, an occasion described in Luke 2:22-40. Mary and Joseph have brought the infant Jesus to the temple to carry out the required rituals, and there they meet Simeon and Anna, two faithful servants of God who have been waiting for the fulfillment of God's promise.

This hymn by James Montgomery is probably most often sung at Christmas, but in fact it encompasses these whole forty days, moving on to Epiphany in stanza three and this feast day in stanza four. I must admit that I had sung this hymn for many years before realizing that the saints mentioned in the last stanza were actually Anna and Simeon.

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Shepherds, in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant Light:

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen his natal star.

Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Christ, descending,
In the temple shall appear.

James Montgomery, 1816; alt.
Henry T. Smart, 1867

REGENT SQUARE is probably the most well-known tune by Victorian composer Henry Smart (though LANCASHIRE would be a close second). In the course of writing this blog I have discovered that I like several other tunes by Smart which are no longer sung often, and have presented some of them here on the site (click Smart's tag below).

P.S. - The illustration above is detail from The Presentation in the Temple by Philippe de Champaigne (1648) done for the high altar of the Church of Saint-Honore in Paris.

Eight Years Ago: O Zion, open wide thy gates

Seven Years Ago: Hail to the Lord who comes

Six Years Ago: O Jerusalem beloved (now on Facebook)

Five Years Ago: In peace and joy I now depart

Three Years Ago: In the temple now behold him

Two Years Ago: Joy! joy! the Mother comes

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