Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Feast of the Epiphany

Twelve days after Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, marked by the visitation of the Magi to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12), and beginning a season in the church year that commemorates the revelation of Jesus as the child of God to the people of the world.  The painting above, Adoration of the Magi by Jacopo Pontormo (c.1520), shows those strangers paying homage to the child, but behind them there streams a long procession of pilgrims waiting to do the same thing, illustrating the broader meaning of the season..

Hail, O source of every blessing,
Sovereign God of humankind!
Nations now, your truth possessing,
To your courts admission find.

Once revealed to Eastern sages,
See the star of mercy shine;
Mystery hid in former ages,
Mystery great of love divine.

Gratefully we come before you,
In your church obtain a place,
Now by faith behold your glory,
Praise your Name, and taste your grace.

Once far off, but now invited,
We approach your sacred throne;
In your covenant united,
Reconciled, redeemed, made one.

May we, body, soul, and spirit,
Live devoted to your praise,
Glorious realms of bliss inherit,
Grateful anthems ever raise!

Basil Woodd, 1810; alt.
Emily Swan Perkins, 1921

The Reverend Basil Woodd (1760-1831) prepared a collection of psalm and scriptural paraphrases with a very long title: New Metrical Version of the Psalms of David; With an Appendix of Select Psalms and Hymns; Adapted to the Service of the United Church of England and Ireland: For Every Sunday in the Year, Festival Days, Saints' Days, &c. (1794).

Composer Emily Swan Perkins (1866-1941) was a founding member of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada and also for many years its corresponding secretary.

Seven Years Ago: Saw you never, in the twilight

Six Years Ago: Earth has many a noble city

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

Four Years Ago: As with gladness those of old

Three Years Ago: O thou, who by a star didst guide

Two Years Ago: Lo! the pilgrim Magi

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