Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Sun That Warms and Lights Us

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand he stands,
And brings us life from heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be,
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of Alleluia! Alleluia!

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life;
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever! Alleluia!

So let us keep the festival
Where to our God invites us;
Christ is himself the joy of all,
The sun that warms and lights us.
By his grace he doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of death is ended! Alleluia!

Then let us feast this Easter day
On the true Bread of heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old, forgotten leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed,
Who is our meat and drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other! Alleluia!

Martin Luther, 1524; tr. Richard Massie, 1854; alt.
Tune: CHRIST LAG IN TODESBANDEN ( with Alleluia)
Martin Luther, 1524; harm. J. S. Bach, 1724

Seven (Liturgical) Years Ago: Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Seven (Calendar) Years Ago: George Matheson

Six (Liturgical) Years Ago: The strife is o'er, the battle done

Six (Calendar) Years Ago: George Job Elvey

Five (Calendar) Years Ago: George Matheson

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: Jesus Christ is risen today

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: Lift your voice rejoicing, Mary

Another Birthday Today: Emma Ashford

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday

Resting from his work today
In the tomb the Savior lay;
Still he slept, from head to feet
Shrouded in the winding sheet,
Lying in the rock alone,
Hidden by the sealèd stone.

Late at even there was seen
Watching, Mary Magdalene;
Early, ere the break of day,
Sorrowful she took her way
To the holy garden glade,
Where her buried Friend was laid.

So with thee, till life shall end,
I would solemn vigil spend:
Let me hew thee, Christ, a shrine
In this rocky heart of mine,
Where in pure embalmèd cell,
None but thou may ever dwell.

Myrrh and spices will I bring,
True affection’s offering;
Close the doors from sight and sound
Of the busy world around;
And in patient watch remain
Until Christ appear again.

Thomas Whytehead, 1842; alt.
Richard Redhead, 1853

Eight (Liturgical) Years Ago: O sorrow deep

Seven (Liturgical) Years Ago: All the sacrifice is ended

Six (Liturgical) Years Ago: When Jesus was convicted

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Beneath the shadow of the cross,
As earthly hopes remove,
A new commandment Jesus gives -- 
The blessed word of love.

O bond of union, strong and deep!
O bond of perfect peace!
Not e'en the lifted cross can harm
If we but hold to this.

Then, Jesus, be thy Spirit ours,
And swift our feet shall move
To deeds that match your sacrifice
And the sweet tasks of love.

Samuel Longfellow, 1848; alt.
Herman Adolph Polack, 1910

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: On a hill far away

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: When I survey the wondrous cross

Six (Liturgical) Years Ago: Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended?

Six (Calendar) Years Ago: The Feast of the Annunciation

Seven (Liturgical) Years Ago: There is a green hill far away

Seven (Calendar) Years Ago: Godfrey Thring

Eight (Calendar) Years Ago: The Feast of the Annunciation

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday

According to thy gracious word,
In meek humility,
This will I do, my dying Lord,
I will remember thee.
Thy body, broken for my sake,
My bread from heav'n shall be;
The testamental cup I take,
And thus remember thee.
Gethsemane can I forget?
Or there thy conflict see,
Thine agony, and bloody sweat,
And not remember thee?
When to the cross I turn mine eyes,
And rest on Calvary,
O Lamb of God, my sacrifice,
I must remember thee;
Remember thee, and all thy pains
And all thy love to me;
Yea, while a breath, a pulse remains,
Will I remember thee.
   James Montgomery, 1825
   Tune: CAITHNESS (C.M.)
   Scottish Psalter, 1625

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: Love consecrates the humblest act

Four (Calendar) Years Ago: Fanny Crosby

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: Within an upper room they met

Five (Calendar) Years Ago: Fanny Crosby

Six (Liturgical) Years Ago: Thou, who at thy first Eucharist did pray

Six (Calendar) Years Ago: Fanny Crosby

Seven (Liturgical) Years Ago: "Remember me," the Savior said

Seven (Calendar) Years Ago: Fanny Crosby

Eight (Liturgical) Years Ago: 'Tis midnight, and on Olive's brow

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm or Passion?

Most churches will celebrate Palm Sunday today in some fashion. In some traditions, the celebration, perhaps beginning with All glory, laud, and honor in a procession, extends through the whole service, the Gospel reading tells of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and the final hymn is still something joyful like Hosanna, loud hosanna.

In other places, the reading of the Passion story occurs at some point during the service, changing the emphasis from celebration to suffering. The end of the service will be more somber, including something like O sacred head.  One argument for this seems to be that people today are less likely to come to church on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, so they should hear the story on a Sunday morning (and some churches don't even have services on both or either of those days, let alone on Holy Saturday). There is some resistance to the idea of leaving the palms aside for the Passion, though there also may well be those in the all-celebration mode who would like a little more of the upcoming suffering acknowledged. 

Today's hymn, perhaps more appropriate for the second sort of Palm/Passion Sunday, not only looks forward to the sadness of the coming week, but also to the final triumph of Easter. It's by John Mason Neale, first published in his Hymns for Children (1842) and one of his original texts (which are far outnumbered by his translations from older sources). 

O Christ, who through this holy week
Didst suffer for us all,
The sick to heal, the lost to seek,
To raise up them that fall;

We cannot tell the bitter woe
Thy love was pleased to bear;
O Lamb of God, we only know
That all our hopes are there.

Thy feet the path of suff'ring trod,
Thy hands the victory won;
What shall we render to our God
For all God's mercies done.

O grant us, Christ, at Easter day
With thee to rise anew;
Then at the last, to soar away,
And heav'nly life pursue.

To God, the blessed Three in One
All praise and glory be!
Crown, Lord, thy people who have won
Through thee, the victory.

John Mason Neale, 1842; alt.
Tune: ST. MAGNUS (C.M.)
Jeremiah Clarke, 1707; harm. William H. Monk, 1868

P.S. - Best hashtag seen for the day: #Special Fronds

Eight (Liturgical) Years Ago: Green Palms and Blossoms Gay

Seven (Liturgical) Years Ago: Hosanna, loud hosanna

Six (Liturgical) Years Ago: Ride on, ride on in majesty

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: Come, faithful people, come away

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: See what unbounded zeal and love

Five (Calendar) Years Ago: May Whittle Moody

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Christina Forsyth

English hymnwriter Christina Forsyth (1825-1859) died on this date; her birthday remains unknown. She was born in Liverpool, and a brief biographical sketch published in Lyra Britannica: A Collection of British Hymns (1867) claims that, from childhood on, 'she was deeply impressed with religious truth, and devoted to her Saviour.'  Like a number of other female hymnwriters of her day, she was in poor health and considered to be an invalid for most of her life.  All but forgotten today, Forsyth and her hymns may bear some re-examination today.

Some of her hymns were published in pamphlets during her lifetime, and after her death a collection was published as Hymns by C.F. (1861), her full name not appearing anywhere in the book.  Several of the forty-three texts included were based on specific passages from scripture, and some clearly reflected her own life, such as one titled Sabbath Hymn for One Confined to the House by Sickness.

This text is probably the one most often published in hymnals of the nineteenth century, though only four of the original nine stanzas were used.  I've changed the selection of stanzas a bit.

O Holy Spirit, now descend on me
As showers of rain upon the thirsty ground;
Cause me to flourish as a spreading tree;
May all thy precious fruits in me abound.

Be thou my Guide into all truth divine;
Give me increasing knowledge of my God.
Show me the glories that in Jesus shine,
And make my heart the place of thine abode.

Be thou my Comforter, when I'm distressed,
O gently soothe my sorrows, calm my grief;
Help me to find upon my Savior's breast
In every hour of trial a sure relief.

Be thou my Intercessor -- teach me how
To pray according to God's holy will;
Cause me with deep and strong desire to glow
And my whole soul with heavenly longings fill.

Be thou my Quickener, thy graces give;
Do for me more than I can ask or think;
Help me on Jesus day to day to live,
And daily deeper from thy fulness drink.

Christina Forsyth, 1861; alt.
Tune: ELLERS (
Edward J. Hopkins, 1869

Six Years Ago: William Henry Monk

Sunday, March 13, 2016

William Channing Gannett

William Channing Gannett was born today in Boston in 1840.  His father, Ezra Stiles Gannett, was one of the founders of the American Unitarian Association, which formalized the earlier separate Unitarian churches into a denominational structure,  His mother, Anna Tilden Gannett (who died when William was two years old), was a student of Ralph Waldo Emerson and a friend of Harriet Martineau.

He graduated from Harvard in 1860 and taught school for a year in Rhode Island, but did not believe that he was particularly good at it.  He was no more convinced that he could succeed in business or in the ministry, but he began studying at Harvard Divinity School.  He left before finishing to work with freed slaves on the Sea Islands of South Carolina, later describing this work as the most significant of his life. He returned to Boston a few years later because his father was in poor health, and eventually completed his studies at the Divinity School.  After graduation, he served churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and eventually Rochester, New York (his longest tenure: 1889-1908).  He was involved in the social causes of his time: including first abolition and later women's suffrage; Susan B. Anthony was on of his parishioners in Rochester.  Gannett and Anthony worked for years to have women admitted to the University of Rochester, and raised funds toward that campaign, which eventually succeeded.

Gannett wrote many hymns (some of which we have already seen here), and collaborated with Frederick Lucian Hosmer on two influential Unitarian collections: Unity Hymns and Chorals (1880) and The Thought of God in Hymns and Poems (1885).  Both collections were revised and updated by the pair in later years.

He clearly believed in an indwelling God that was accessible to every person; the basis for this hymn as well as some of his others.

O God within, so close to me
That every thought is plain,
Be Rock, be Friend, and Comfort still,
And in your heaven reign!

That heaven is mine -- my very soul!
Your words are sweet and strong;
They fill my inward silences
With music and with song.

They send me challenges to right
And loud rebuke my ill;
They ring my bells of victory,
They breathe my "peace, be still!'"

They ever seem to say "My child,
Why seek me so all day?
Now journey inward to yourself,
And listen on your way."

William Channing Gannett, 20th cent.; alt.
Tune: EXETER  (C.M.)
Lowell Mason, 1823

Gannett the 'poet-preacher,' as a colleague described him, died in Rochester in December 1923, having continued his connection to that congregation as pastor emeritus since his 1908 retirement.

Six Years Ago: William Channing Gannett

Five Years Ago: William Channing Gannett

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Phoebe Palmer Knapp

Phoebe Palmer Knapp (March 9, 1839 - July 10, 1908) is primarily remembered as the composer of the tune for Fanny Crosby's text Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. In the well-known story of the song's creation, the tune came first, and then Crosby knew exactly what the first line should be.

Much of the biographical information known about Knapp has been derived from her connection with the much-more famous Fanny Crosby.  The two women were close friends and Knapp and her husband often provided financial support to Fanny.  Phoebe believed that Fanny's publishers, Biglow & Main, had not dealt fairly with her as they paid her a flat sum for all rights to each song they published (some sources say as low as $3 apiece) rather than allowing her to copyright her material and receive royalties (as Knapp's husband did for Phoebe's tunes).  The people at Biglow & Main strongly objected to Knapp's assertions, and apparently described her as "interfering" and "overbearing" in private correspondence. At any rate, Crosby was eventually given more favorable terms from the publisher.

Phoebe Knapp was also a social activist for several charitable causes, which she supported from the family fortune.  She once claimed that she 'care(d) more for the active movements of the world of society than for spiritual abstraction.'

The text of today's gospel song is not by Crosby, but by Mary Dagworthy James, who was a colleague of Knapp's mother, Phoebe Worrall Palmer, in the Methodist Holiness movement.

Wondrous words! how rich in blessing!
Deeper than th’unfathomed sea;
Broader than its world of waters,
Boundless, infinite and free.
Higher than the heav’ns above,
Is that everlasting love!
Higher than the heav’ns above,
Is that everlasting love!

Weary spirits, sad with toiling,
’Mid the sorrows of life’s way -—
Feel their heavy burdens lightened,
As they journey day by day.
How with quickened steps they move,
Cheered by everlasting love;
How with quickened steps they move,
Cheered by everlasting love.

In that house of many mansions,
God prepares a place for thee,
Where there are no clouds or tempests,
Where God is, there thou shalt be—
All the untold bliss to prove,
Of that everlasting love;
All the untold bliss to prove,
Of that everlasting love.

Mary Dagworthy James, 1878; alt.
Phoebe Palmer Knapp, 1878

Phoebe Knapp died of a stroke in 1908 while staying at the Mansion House, a resort hotel in Poland Springs, Maine.

Seven Years Ago: Phoebe Palmer Knapp

Six Years Ago: Phoebe Palmer Knapp

Four Years Ago: Phoebe Palmer Knapp

Three Years Ago: Phoebe Palmer Knapp

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The True Heart's Friend

The Fourth Sunday in Lent has a number of other names in various churches.  Perhaps most traditionally it's known as Laetare Sunday, the Latin word meaning 'rejoice' (which is not a sentiment one usually thinks of during Lent).  In England it is sometimes known as Mothering Sunday, because laborers were given the day off to visit their families and their 'mother churches.'  This slackening of strict Lenten observance (combined with the 'rejoicing' concept) also led to the name Refreshment Sunday.  And it's sometimes called Rose Sunday because the clergy may wear rose-colored vestments.

Spring is coming too, to which many people look forward, so this hymn combines a number of these ideas for the day.

Lift up your heads, rejoice,
Redemption draweth nigh;
Now breathes a softer air,
Now shines a milder sky;
The early trees put forth
Their new and tender leaf;
Hushed is the moaning wind
That told of winter’s grief.

Lift up your heads, rejoice,
Redemption draweth nigh;
O note the varying signs
Of earth, and air, and sky;
The God of glory comes
In gentleness and might,
To comfort and alarm,
To succor and to smite.

God comes, the world to save,
God comes, the true heart’s friend,
New gladness to begin,
And ancient wrong to end;
God comes, to fill with light
The weary waiting eye;
Lift up your heads, rejoice,
Redemption draweth nigh.

Thomas Toke Lynch, 1856
Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1872

Five Years Ago: Alleluia, song of gladness

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

John Samuel Bewley Monsell

Irish clergyman,  poet, and hymnwriter John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875), born today in Londonderry, wrote approximately 300 hymns among his poetry, nearly a quarter of which were fairly well known during the nineteenth century.  

The first edition of the Dictionary of Hymnology (1892) by John Julian mentioned eleven volumes of poetry and hymns by Monsell, and that several of the hymns appeared in more than one of these collections.  In the revised edition of the work (1907) it is noted that another, twelfth volume (including some previously-uncounted hymns) was located that was previously unknown to Julian, Prayers and Litanies (1861), though most sources still attribute only eleven volumes to J.S.B. Monsell.  The note continues: "We can sincerely add that few hymn writers are so perplexing to the annotator as Dr. Monsell."

Today's hymn first appeared in his Hymns of Love and Praise for the Church Year (1866), a collection conceived in similar fashion to others we have seen by John Keble, Christopher Wordsworth, and Edward Henry Bickersteth.  

I hunger and I thirst!
Jesus, my manna be;
Ye living waters burst
Out of the Rock for me.

Thou bruised and broken Bread,
My life-long wants supply;
As living souls are fed,
So feed me or I die.

Thou true Life-giving Vine,
Let me thy sweetness prove;
Renew my life with thine,
Refresh my soul with love.

For still the desert lies
My thirsting soul before;
O living waters, rise
Within me evermore!

John Samuel Bewley Monsell, 1866; alt.
Maria Tiddeman, 1875

While this text appeared in Hymns of Love and Praise in the section for Holy Communion, I think it also makes an effective prayer hymn for the season of Lent.  It's now available on this blog's Facebook page: Conjubilant W. Song.

Four Years Ago: John Samuel Bewley Monsell

Six Years Ago: All beautiful the march of days