Sunday, November 27, 2011

When Right Shall Triumph Over Wrong

It's a new beginning as we come 'round again to the opening of the church year and the First Sunday in Advent, a time of preparation for the coming Christmas season (four weeks to go!). As usual, we will not see any Christmas carols here until the season of Advent is over. It's our fourth Advent here at CWS, and we have not yet run out of material for the season.

On this first Sunday you may have noticed that the lessons and hymns in your church frequently refer not only to the prophesied birth of a Savior, but also to the Second Coming of Jesus, linking us to both the past and the future.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.

Not as of old, a little child,
To bear, and fight, and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun,
That lights that morning sky.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And earth’s long night is past;—
O, haste the rising of that morn,
That day that e'er shall last.

And let the endless bliss begin,
By weary saints foretold,
When right shall triumph over wrong,
And truth shall be extolled.

The King shall come when morning dawns,

And light and beauty brings;
Hail. Christ the Word! Thy people pray.
Come quickly, King of kings!

John Brownlie, 1907; alt.
Tune: ST. STEPHEN (C.M.)
William Jones, 1789

In many hymnals, this text is said to be originally from the Greek, and translated by John Brownlie, a Scottish Presbyterian. It was first published in his Hymns from the East (1907), a collection of translations. However, no Greek original has ever been identified, and some more modern sources believe that Brownlie wrote the text himself, perhaps using a concept from an older text.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Feast of All Souls

In some traditions, today is celebrated as All Souls Day, the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, or the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Prayers are offered in remembrance of those who have died.  While it is a separate occasion from All Saints' Day, the two days' proximity on the calendar has blurred their differences in the minds of many.  It's usually the celebration of All Saints that is transferred to the Sunday before or after.

My own church has an annual weekday service for All Souls, where a small choir sings portions of the plainsong chant service Missa pro defunctis and the names of the departed loved ones of the congregation are read.  This hymn is also usually a part of the service.

Jesus, Son of Mary, Fount of life alone, 
Here we hail thee present on thine altar throne. 
Humbly we adore thee, Lord of endless might, 
In the mystic symbols veiled from earthly sight. 

Think, dear Christ, in mercy on the souls of those
Who, in faith gone from us, now in death repose.
Here ’mid stress and conflict toils can never cease;
There, the warfare ended, bid them rest in peace.
Rest eternal grant unto them, after weary fight;
Shed on them the radiance of thy heavenly light.
Lead them onward, upward, to the holy place,
Where thy saints made perfect gaze upon thy face. 

Edmund S. Palmer, 1906; alt. 
Plainsong Mode V, 13th cent.

Anglican priest Edmund Stuart Palmer was for several years a missionary in Zanzibar.  He originally wrote this text in Swahili (Yesu, Bin Mariamu) and it was published in a hymnal for the Diocese of Zamzibar.  After returning to England, he translated it into English.