Monday, April 17, 2017

Belated thoughts on Good Friday and Easter

It is now the Easter season, a glorious one, and in my part of the world the weather is cooperating for once. Astonishing to see new green leaves and blue skies in Michigan at Eastertide. Alleluia! He is risen!

Later, I hope to have some thoughts on ecumenism and Easter, but those are not coming together very well in writing, so for the moment I'll just go on trying to exemplify what I think is a fruitful form of ecumenism related to music. More on that in a moment.

Meanwhile, here is a rather solemn thought concerning Good Friday. As Jesus was dying, He must have known that there would be some for whom He died who would still reject Him, who would not accept His sacrifice on their behalf. What a painful thought! And yet, Scripture says, "Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross...," and we know that Jesus is rejoicing with the Father now, despite the hard hearts of so many men towards Him. As the Easter hymn says, "All his woes are over now. And the passion that he bore, sin and pain can vex no more." We know, too, that our own joy in heaven will not be undermined by the knowledge that there are those who have rejected God's mercy.

Ultimately, the continued rejection of man cannot undermine Jesus' joy. Yet at the same time, as long as this world lasts, He stretches out His nail-pierced hands all day long, and by many for whom He died He is still scorned.

Truly it is all a great mystery beyond my comprehension. I'm just humbled beyond words that He died for me.

This year, I learned a new Passion hymn. It's astonishing that I've missed it all these years. It's truly lovely, but it seems to have fallen out of use even in the Anglican church. I never heard it in the high Anglican church I attended in Nashville nearly thirty years ago and have not heard of it at St. Patrick's here in the twenty-two years I've been here. I'll probably see if I can introduce it during Passiontide next year. I stumbled across it while singing hymns with my family on the evening of Good Friday. Here are the words.

His are the thousand sparkling rills 
That from a thousand fountains burst, 
And fill with music all the hills;
And yet he saith, "I thirst." 

All fiery pangs on battlefields, 
On fever beds where sick men toss, 
Are in that human cry he yields 
To anguish on the cross.

But more than pains that racked him then 
Was the deep longing thirst divine 
That thirsted for the souls of men; 
Dear Lord! and one was mine. 

O Love most patient, give me grace; 
Make all my soul athirst for thee; 
That parched dry lip, that fading face, 
That thirst, were all for me. 

This text is by Cecil Frances Alexander. She was a 19th-century poet and hymn-writer who wrote such famous hymn texts as "Once in Royal David's City" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful." The tune, Isleworth, was written by an organist and composer named Samuel Howard (1700s) about whom I can so far find out relatively little. The tune is beautiful and really "makes" the hymn. 



I'd first run into this sort of meditation on Jesus' thirst in a completely different musical context--Southern gospel music. The Cathedrals' song "I Thirst" says the very same thing: "He said, 'I thirst,' yet he made the rivers. He said, 'I thirst,' yet he made the sea. 'I thirst,' said the King of creation. In his great thirst, He brought water to me."



We are so blessed to have musical riches from so many different traditions.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
here would I touch and handle things unseen;
here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the Bread of God,
here drink with thee the royal Wine of heaven;
here would I lay aside each earthly load,
here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.
I have no help but thine; nor do I need
another arm save thine to lean upon;
it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed;
my strength is in thy might, thy might alone.
Mine is the sin, but thine the righteousness;
mine is the guilt, but thine the cleansing blood;
here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace;
thy Blood, thy righteousness, O Lord my God!

Here is an old post on the Real Presence, rather brief. A few repetitions from it:

As creatures of flesh and blood, we crave the ability to give and receive tangibly and physically. The Book of Common Prayer says of the Sacrament that Christ has "ordained holy mysteries as pledges of his love." A side note, or maybe not such a side note: Edmund Spenser, when he portrays the lady Charity as married and surrounded by her babies, calls them "pledges" of her husband's love.

Here is the prayer of thanksgiving after receiving the Sacrament. It was, to add to the head-shaking, convoluted uniqueness of Anglican history, apparently written (rather than translated) by Thomas Cranmer, who died because he was unwilling to return to Rome and accept the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of his most precious death and passion. And we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
He "assures us thereby of his favor and goodness towards us." By giving us these gifts and coming to us in them, by deigning thus to condescend to us, He continually assures us, week by week, of His favor and goodness towards us.

And here is my apologia for the doctrine of the spiritual Real Presence.

Even though it is almost over, I wish a nearly-belated blessed and joyous Maundy Thursday to my readers.