Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Baptism of Christ

The Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany sometimes commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by his cousin John, as told in Matthew 3: 13-16.  Infant or adult baptisms are often performed today in churches which mark this day, but even if there are no such celebrations the people of the congregation may renew their baptismal vows together.

O God, our strength in weakness,
We pray to you for grace,
Patience to trust your promise,
And speed to run the race;
When your baptismal waters
Were poured upon our brow,
We then were made your children
And pledged our earliest vow.

So we on earth are bless├Ęd
For we shall see the Lord,
Forever and forever,
By seraphim adored;
And we shall drink the pleasure
Such as no tongue can tell
From heav'ns clear crystal river,
And life’s eternal well.

Then sing to our Creator,
Who formed us with great love;
And sing to God the Savior
Who leads to realms above;
Sing we with saints and angels
Before the heavenly throne,
To God the Holy Spirit,
Sing to the Three in One.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1881; alt.
Tune: STOKE (
Mrs. G. E. Cole, 1889

Christopher Wordsworth wrote this text toward the end of his life, long after his major collection The Holy Year (1862).  He was Bishop of Lincoln from 1868 until his death in 1885, and apparently wrote this hymn for the handbook of the Lincoln Girls' Friendly Society.   Many of his other hymns have already appeared here (click on the tag below).

I am unable to find anything more about Mrs. G. E. Cole, whose tune first appeared in the 1889 supplement of Hymns Ancient and Modern (not even her name!).  It's likely that the initials belong to her husband.

Five Years Ago: 'I come,' the great Redeemer cries

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Feast of the Epiphany

Twelve days after Christmas we come again to the Feast of the Epiphany, marked by the familiar story of three royal visitors to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).  

Many churches probably celebrated this occasion yesterday but there will be some service today in various places.

Lo! the pilgrim magi
Leave their royal halls,
And with eager footsteps
Speed to Bethlehem's walls;
As they onward journey,
Faith, which firmly rests,
Built on hope unswerving,
Triumphs in their breasts.

Praise to the Creator,
Fount of Life alone;
who unto the nations,
made Christ's glory known.

O what joy and gladness
Filled each heart, from far
When, to guide their footsteps,
Shone that radiant star;
O'er that home so holy,
Pouring down its ray,
Where the cradled infant
With his mother lay.


Costly pomp and splendor
Earthly kings array;
Christ, a mightier Monarch,
Hath a nobler sway;
Straw may be his pallet,
Mean his garb may be,
Yet with power transcendent
He all hearts can free.


At his crib they worship,
Kneeling on the floor,
And their God there present,
In that babe adore;
To our God and Savior
We, as seekers true,
Give our hearts o'erflowing,
Give our tribute due.


Charles Coffin, 1736;
tr, John David Chambers, 1857; alt.
Tune: ARMAGEDDON ( with refrain)

Luise Richardt, 19th cent.;
adapt. John Goss, 1871 

The Roman Catholic Charles Coffin wrote his hymns in Latin, most for the Paris Breviary (1736).  We saw a much more familiar Epiphany hymn by Coffin a few years ago.

Luise Reichardt (1779-1826), born in Berlin, was the daughter of two composers, Juliane Reichardt and Johann Friedrich Reichardt.  One of her grandfathers had been concert master in the court of Frederick the Great.  Her earliest published songs appeared in 1800 in a collection of her father's work.  This particular melody was adapted into a hymn tune by John Goss, and has been used most often with the text Who is on the Lord's side.

Five Years Ago: Saw you never, in the twilight

Four Years Ago:  Earth has many a noble city

Three Years Ago: What star is this, with beams so bright

Two Years Ago: As with gladness those of old

One Year Ago:  O thou, who by a star didst guide