Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our
learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and
inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may
embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which
thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Written by Thomas Cranmer, it has that wonderful, Tudor Anglican sound. There is a hint of the rigor of the Puritans in its somberness and plainness, but only a hint. And only Cranmer could give us the justly famous phrase "hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them."
We sang Philipp Nicolai's wonderful hymn "Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying." The tune here is at least accurate though played too fast. If you can get the music, try to introduce it to your church. The Bach harmonizations, with the moving inner parts, are wonderful. It took me a while, but I finally found the translation used in the 1940 hymnal, much better than several other translations I've seen. It seems to me that this song should be sung in churches all over America, not just Anglican churches, and certainly not heretical Episcopalian churches, where they certainly aren't preparing like any virgins wise! But in Baptist, Bible churches, and evangelical churches, in Catholic churches, and in Methodist churches. Come on, let's get moving and get our lamps burning!
1. Wake, awake, for night is flying:
The watchmen on the heights are crying,
Awake, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight's solemn hour is tolling,
His chariot wheels are nearer rolling,
He comes; prepare, ye virgins wise.
Rise up, with willing feet,
Go forth, the Bridegroom meet:
Bear through the night your well-trimmed light,
Speed forth to join the marriage rite.
2. Sion hears the watchman singing,
Her heart with deep delight is springing,
She wakes, she rises from her gloom:
Forth her Bridegroom comes, all glorious,
In grace arrayed, by truth victorious;
Her Star is risen, her Light is come!
All hail, Incarnate Lord,
Our crown, and our reward!
We haste along, in pomp of song,
And gladsome join the marriage throng.
3. Lamb of God, the heavens adore thee,
And men and angels sing before thee,
With harp and cymbal's clearest tone.
By the pearly gates in wonder
We stand, and swell the voice of thunder,
That echoes round thy dazzling throne.
No vision ever brought,
No ear hath ever caught,
Such bliss and joy:
To raise the song, we swell the throng,
To praise thee ages all along.
By the way, I was just reading I Thessalonians 4 today. I saw someone say on-line a while ago--I forget if it was a Lutheran or a Catholic--"________s don't believe in the rapture." Well, it sure looks like St. Paul did!
Now, from the heights of Nicolai and Bach it's a little bit of a come-down to this far plainer tune, but the words...! I can never come to this verse without a stiffening of the spine.
But the slow watches of the night not less to God belong,/And for the
everlasting right the silent stars are strong.
Well, okay then, I guess we aren't allowed to despair, right?