Saturday, March 25, 2017

The world’s favorite Annunciation hymn

Today’s date, March 25, is nine months before Christmas, and thus the traditional date the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is controversy (between the most Catholic and Reformed extremes) over the role of Mary in the church, nonetheless creedal Christians acknowledge the saviour who “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.” Our knowledge of the Annunciation comes from the Gospel of St. Luke, as one of the events Mary pondered in her heart and later recounted to Luke.

Issues Etc. on Friday presented the Luther perspective on the Annunciation, in an interview with the LCMS Director of Worship, Pastor Will Weedon. In honor of the day, the LCMS radio station (Lutheran Public Radio) is playing Christmas music all day today.

As Pastor Weedon points out, it’s hard for the church to celebrate a joyous feast when it falls in the middle of Lent or especially — as in 2016 — when it falls on Good Friday. As he also notes, this is a case when it’s fortunate if a church’s midweek service lands on this feast, since (under both Anglican and Lutheran liturgical calendars) no feasts are transferred to the Sundays of Lent.

The Annunciation is called out in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as one of 25 major feasts of the CoE, and remains on the shorter list in the current CoE liturgical calendar. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer retains the same list of 25 fixed Holy Days. The new ACNA liturgical calendar seems clearer than the 1662 in that it distinguishes between seven principal feasts (Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, All Saints’, Christmas) that take precedence over 16 Holy Days (including the Annunciation).

Today’s collect in the 1662 (and 1928) BCP links the Annunciation to the incarnation, passion and resurrection of our Lord:
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymns for The Annunciation

Hymnal 1940 lists two hymns for this date and recommends three others
  • 117 “Sing of Mary, pure and lowly”
  • 118 “Praise we the Lord this day”
  • 317 “A message came to a maiden young”
  • 418 “Blest are the pure in heart”
  • 599 “Ye watchers and you holy ones”
Hymnal 1982 has a longer list
  • 263, 264 “The Word whom earth and sea and sky adore” (from Hymns Ancient & Modern)
  • 265 “The angel Gabriel from heaven came,” the famous Basque carol that was also featured in the Issues Etc broadcast (and is #356 in the current Lutheran Service Book)
  • 266 “Gabriel of high degree,” a new hymn translation by Carl Daw
  • 267 “Praise we the Lord this day, from an 1846 CoE hymnal
  • 268, 269 “Ye who claim the faith of Jesus,” an early 20th century text; the first with a new tune by David Hurd
  • 270 “Gabriel's message does away,” a translation of a Latin text from J.M. Neale’s 1853 Carols for Christmastide
Despite my frequent criticisms of Hymnal 1982, it has consistently done a better job of making available hymns for these Holy Days. In this case, it corrects the omission by Hymnal 1940 of the world’s best known Annunciation/Christmas carol.

The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came

The text is a paraphrase of a Basque text by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), a Cambridge grad, choral director and later Anglican churchman. His best known hymn is “Onward, Christian soldiers.”

Because it has only recently (late 20th century) entered into the standard repertory and hymnals, I have not been able to find mention of the hymn in a reliable hymnal companion such as Ian Bradley’s Book of Hymns or those for the Lutheran Book of Worship or Lutheran Worship. (The explanation in the 1990s Presbyterian Hymnal companion is characteristically sketchy).

Wikipedia — that source of eternal truth — credits the Basque original to Charles Bordes (but doesn’t list an original publication date). It also says the current arrangement was first published “by Edgar Pettman in his 1892 book Modern Christmas Carols.” However, there is no mention of this carol in the version of the book archived by Google Scholar. CPDL has various Basque and English versions, appearing to rely on the Wikipedia explanation. The wonderful YouTube performance of the carol by King’s College Cambridge credits Pettman (1866-1943) as the arranger. 

I finally found it explained in The New Oxford Book of Carols (1992), an indispensable resource alongside the original The Oxford Book of Carols (1928). I quote from the former (pp. 641-642):
One of the best-known Basque carols in England. It was collected by Charles Bordes and appeared at the beginning of his volume Douze NoĆ«ls populaires in the series Archives de la traditional basque (1895), to which he also contributed the volume Dix Cantiques populaires basques.

…His publication stands head and shoulder above similar collections, and remains a primary source. The melodies are unharmonized, and the texts are edited by J.F. Larrien, who also provided French prose translations.

Whatever the provenance of ‘Birjina gaztettobat zegoen’ and ‘Oi Betleem!’, the texts are sophisticated literary productions, presumably by a Basque cleric. Perhaps they are from a publication (of the eighteenth century?) which caught the public imagination, and came to be sung to folk tunes; or, as in the usual French tradition, perhaps the texts were written to fit existing folk-song melodies. …

… R.R Terry set a number of items (including the present one and ‘Oi Betleem’), and George Oldroyd set the entire volume, both composers using English translations. But it was Pettman’s settings of ‘Birjina’ and ‘Oi Betleem!’ that caught the public’s fancy, and they have remained extremely popular.

The other great merits of Pettman’s settings of this carol and ‘Oi Betleem’ is their texts, which do not attempt to mirror the Basque, a spacious language which has English translators searching for words to fill up the long lines. In this case, Baring-Gold conveys the gist of the original eight stanzas in four of great refinement.”
While Pettman presumably finished the work before his death in 1943, the original publication date and title are still unclear. Clearly texts published by Bordes in 1895 would not appear in a Pettman book of 1892. The oldest reference I find in Google Books is from a 1961 list of new publications at the Library of Congress, listing sheet music they received in June 1961. In general, a Google search of the web produces pages that replicate the (seemingly inaccurate) Wikipedia provenance.

Whatever the source, I am grateful that this most suitable Annunciation carol entered the repertoire in the latter half of the 20th century.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Planning a funeral

My father-in-law died suddenly a month ago, and last weekend was his memorial service. I ended up planning the service — as I had for my father back in 1995 — and learned a little more about funeral liturgy and service planning. In particular, 22 years ago I was one of the two decision makers while this time I was a consultant to my mother-in-law and her five adult children.

Both men had their services conducted by the longtime rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Parish in San Diego. While my dad’s service was held at the same site they’d had since 1921, the rector and 95% of his congregation walked away from the site ten years after losing their court case with ECUSA. Our service was held in the LCMS church they have called home since then.

Know the Decedent

I had asked my father-in-law for his hymn list in 2007, and reconfirmed in the summer of 2015. So we had four hymns that he wanted — Battle Hymn of the Republic, Faith of our Fathers, O God Our Help in Ages Past and Eternal Father.. To this, his widow added Amazing Grace. Both Faith of our Fathers and Amazing Grace were part of his sister’s 2006 memorial mass. I asked the rector to find a place in the service to sing all five hymns.

As at my father’s funeral, the multi-service version of the Navy Hymn (H40: 513) was a non-brainer for an Army vet. (WW II for my dad, Korea for my father-in-law). The only downside is that (to distinguish the two hymns), the hymnal begins “Almighty Father” rather than the more familiar “Eternal Father.”

My father-in-law had grown up in the most high church Episcopal parish in San Diego — now the cathedral — and was married at that church with an organ his parents helped fund. His boys had been in their chorister program (one overlapping with me), so we had an organist and I recruited a four-voice choir from among my friends. (It didn’t hurt that the bass is a member of the church choir, and all of the choir were Anglicans who’d worshipped at Holy Trinity).

Finally, I was told quite firmly that the service would begin on time. I guess this should not have been a surprise: my father-in-law was quite punctual, a source of tension during that phase when my wife and I were constantly late coming to family gatherings.

Know the Family

As at their aunt’s service, the children wanted a bagpiper. As at that service, we did it with Amazing Grace: in this case, the bagpiper played a stanza, and then we modulated into new key for five verses of organ, choir and congregation. (The bagpiper explained apologetically that he doesn’t get much choice of key on his instrument).

However, in preparing the order of service, I recommended that we end the service with Amazing Grace rather than begin it. If we started with the bagpipe, I feared there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house — or at least in the family pews. It turns out those fears were misplaced. The loved ones are going to cry during the service, but that’s a normal and healthy thing, and it’s something to be encouraged (as long as they don’t happen to be doing a reading at the podium).

Know the Audience

Who will be in the congregation is more predictable if the departed is an active member of the congregation. But that was not the case.

Still, we more than 150 packed into the service, which my own pastor says is unusual for someone in his 80s. He was active in 3 clubs, and had about 20 members of his boating safety association present. From various parts of the liturgy — the creed, the responsive sentences — it was clear that many in the audience (his generation, not mine) were current or former active church members.

It appeared that not all the congregation were regular singers, and some hymns clearly were more popular than others. Both are a topic for another time.

Planning the Service

The first choice that had to be made was the liturgical rite. Holy Trinity is a longtime Anglo-Catholic parish that is switching from Rite I to the ACNA liturgy. However, all their funerals have been Rite I, so we used that. (My father in law worshipped the greatest portion of his life using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, but Rite I from the 1979 prayer book is what he'd used most recently).

I did some comparisons of the texts later on. The 1928 and the 1979 Rite I are very different liturgies, even though the wording of some prayers are the same. Meanwhile, portions of the February 2017 ACNA liturgy are identical to Rite II, including the Apostle’s Creed and many of the prayers. (Rite I and II seem to have the same structure but different language).

We then had to decide whether to include the Mass; in the end we did not. We weren’t sure how many would take Communion: however, we had a big crowd and I think we would have had more participants than at my aunt’s service — probably a majority. Without including Communion, 3 of the 5 hymns were before/between/after the Gospel and homily.

As with most American funeral or memorial services, we used the Authorized Version of Psalm 23 (said responsively this month; sung at my father’s service). To include all five hymns, the second psalm of the 1979 prayer book was replaced with a sequence hymn. The final reading was from John 14, which begins with the “many mansions” passage and concludes with the great statement of faith: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

The family discussed who would do the three readings: OT, psalm, Epistle. As in a Sunday Rite I service, we elected to have a fourth lay reader (rather than the priest) read the intercessory prayers. Some of the likely nominees (e.g. people who did readings at our wedding) declined out of concern that they might break into tears.

For a service that primarily serves Anglican churchgoers, a simple leaflet (with pointers to the prayer book and hymnal) would have sufficed. We elected to go with a service booklet — full prayers, readings and hymn text — with nine 8.5" x 5.5" pages printed on letter paper (plus a cover and other material). Three of the hymns were in the hymnal, but I don’t know if any hymnals were opened by anyone other than the choir or me.

I found one gotcha on booklet preparation. If I had to do over again, I would have typed the hymn text straight from the hymnal (and proofread it three times) rather than copy and paste from Hymnary.org or Oremus.org. Those sites have the text from one particular hymnal, and that text is unlikely to exactly match that of H40 (or whatever the preferred hymnal is). If I were in the habit of running church services, I would make a database of the exact text of all the hymns from my hymnal, no matter how many hours that would take.

Final Thoughts

In my current lay ministry class, one of my classmates is a part-time volunteer wedding planner at our church. After this, my family joked I had a future as a funeral planner.

Planning a funeral — like a wedding or a baptism — is not something that we do often in our lives. Absent written instructions from the grave, it is also made more complex by having one (or more) family members trying to discern the decedent’s wishes so that they can be honored, while at the same time sensitive to those of the survivors.

To allow for out-of-town travel, we had four weeks to plan this memorial service, while another recent funeral (elsewhere in the family) was scheduled in nine days. From the standpoint of logistics (not bereavement), two weeks is a reasonable interval. Anything less than that requires an immediate meeting with all the relevant family members to understand their wishes (rather than waiting for the next weekend as we did). It might also require someone taking a day off of work to pull together a complete service in a day or two, rather than over a week or two. (I don’t know how much work it was to plan the reception because I merely showed up).

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I value tradition, order and doing things properly — as did my father-in-law. Even without that, it really helped to have a prayer book and rector who (with clear pastoral sensibilities) set clear limits on what was and was not acceptable. With all the planning and other activities of that day, it was tempting at times to forget the real purpose of the service, as captured by the penultimate prayer of the service:
Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant B. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

39 years of Continuing Anglicanism

On this day in 1977 was the consecration of the four former ECUSA priests as the founding bishops of the Continuing Anglican movement in Denver. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it changed American — and global — Anglicanism forever.

Fast forward 39 years. The Anglo-Catholics who stayed behind in ECUSA would have to admit the ones who left were right about how ECUSA would turn out. Those who joined ACNA on or after 2009 have now separated from ECUSA (most at great cost), and they have a liturgy that’s more like the 1928 in substance even if it’s more like Rite II in language.

But instead of a single jurisdiction — they chose the name “Anglican Church of North America” — the Continuing movement fractured again and again: the lesson of 500 years of Protestantism seems to be that once you’ve done schism – placing your own personal theological convictions over ecclesial authority — it’s easy to keep doing so. The issues that divided the Continuing churches seemed to be authority and a desire to keep purple shirt, rather than actual doctrine.

The one piece of good news is that four of the alphabet soup are having a joint synod in October. The synod will bring together (at least for a week) the Anglican Church in America, Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of America, and the Diocese of the Holy Cross. As a Californian, I’d like to see the Anglican Province of Christ the King participate, but it’s been in turmoil since the resignation and death of its founder, Bp. Robert Morse — one of the Denver four.

Today's Newest Clergy

Clergy at end of Saturday’s ordination service
Source: Diocese of the Holy Trinity Twitter feed
Today I attended an ordination for a former classmate of mine, the newest clergy member in the Anglican Catholic Church. Sean Patrick Michael Cochran became be a bivocational deacon, the first deacon for St. Mary Magdalene in Orange, California, assisting its rector, Fr. Neil Edlin. In honor of Deacon Cochran’s heritage, at the recessional we sang all seven verses of “I bind unto myself today” (H40: 268) while the organist played preludes and postludes on Irish melodies by Charles Villiers Stanford.

The consecrations were done by Bp. Stephen Scarlett, whose see is at the Denver cathedral that was the home of Bp. James Mote; Scarlett was consecrated in 2013 by Bp. Mark Haverland (today the head of the ACC), who in 1998 was consecrated by Mote. (Today’s service was in the pro-cathedral in Newport Beach, Calif. where Scarlett spends most of his Sundays).

After Bp. Scarlett read the opening part of the 1928 BCP ordination service, he noted that the prayer book had assumed a stable church. Left unsaid was that the nature of belief, the role of the church, and the role of the Episcopal (or Anglican) church is fundamentally different than 90 years ago.

Instead, he argued, each deacon — like others in the church — needs to be a missionary. He listed three specific ways:
  1. Christian witness. The customary evangelical conception is that witness is going to tell a non-believer. However, today’s Anglican cleric needs to model a deeper spiritual life of prayer that will potentially transform the life of those who find it. “As we grow in our spiritual life, that is our witness ...and evangelism is inviting others into that life of prayer"
  2. Seeking out the lost sheep. Again, we think of seeking the sheep as being those who wandered off — or never set foot in the church; but, Scarlett argued, the lost may already be in the pews, but alienated. Implicitly referencing Mark 2:17, he cited Jesus’ admonition that the physician has come to heal the sick; the clergy need to look inside and outside the church to find new avenues to reach the lost.
  3. Discerning one’s own spiritual gifts. Even if two people have the same order, they have differing gifts (1 Corr. 12). To be effective, clergy and laity need to honestly understand their talents so they can apply them to support the mission of the church.

The music and liturgy were great, but too often Anglo-Catholic churches are organized as museums to historic worship rather than something relevant to potential members. I hope that the path laid out by Bp. Scarlett will be effective in growing the church. Even in places where it doesn’t give us more Christians, it should give us stronger Christians — strengthening the faith of the Remnant that we have in the pews — which certainly has to be numbered among our goals even this is less exciting than attracting more “butts in seats.”

Friday, January 13, 2017

Favorite Lutheran Epiphany hymns

Last Tuesday, the listeners of Issues Etc. answered an open call for their favorite Epiphany hymns. Host Todd Wilken hosted a 56 minute session with the various listener comments.

As Pastor Wilken noted, Epiphany has three roles in the liturgical year
  • The eponymous feast, commemorating the visitation of the Magi, representing more broadly the expansion of the mission of the Church to reach the Gentiles.
  • The transition between Christmas and Lent (which IMHO is more about Christmas at the beginning and explicitly pre-Lent at the end)
  • The home of specific feasts, such as the Baptism of our Lord and (for Lutherans) the Feast of the Transfiguration
As with other shows, the audience was primarily (if not entirely) Lutheran — and thus the votes represent a LCMS audience (presumably picking their hymns from the Lutheran Service Book or The Lutheran Hymnal).

The two most popular choices (with four votes each) were the first two Epiphany hymns in the LSB:
  • “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” (LSB: 394; TLH: 134; H40: 53): text by Christopher Wordsworth. In the LCMS hymnals they use a St. George by 19th century English organist George Elvey. However, the Anglicans (ironically) use Salzburg, written by 17th century German Protestant composer Jacob Hintze (working for the Calvinist Great Elector of Brandenburg) and harmonized the great Lutheran Kapellmeister — J.S. Bach himself.
  • “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (LSB: 395), with text and tune by 16th century Lutheran pastor Philip Nicolai. The earlier translations were “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” (TLH: 343) and "How Bright Appears the Morning Star” (H40: 329),
Other hymns from the Epiphany section of the LSB that were mentioned (and would be familiar to Anglicans) were As with Gladness Men of Old (LSB: 397, TLH: 127; H40: 52), Hail to the Lord's Anointed (LSB: 398; TLH: 59; H40: 545) and Brightest and Best of the Sons* of the Morning (LSB: 400, TLH: 128; H40: 46).

Note that for the latest hymnal for the “conservative” LCMS, the title phrase “Sons of the Morning” in Reginald Heber’s 1811 text was inexplicably changed to politically correct "Stars of the Morning" in the LSB.

As was true seven years earlier, the German Lutherans (and their hymnals) omit two of our favorite Anglican hymns for the season: “What star is this, with beams so bright” (H40 #47) and “Earth has many a noble city” (H40 #48).

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Celebrating the Circumcision

Today is the feast that has been known since the 6th century as the Feast of the Circumcision. In the Book of Common Prayer, from Cranmer's original 1549 to the 1928 American edition, it’s called the Circumcision of Christ.

Feast Day

What we know of the circumcision comes from one verse in Luke’s gospel: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21, ESV). This makes reference to his parents learning of his name in the Annunciation (Luke 1:31) and the dream of Joseph (Matthew 1:21). The Bible doesn’t say much about the ceremony, nor about that of his cousin John (Luke 1:59-79), but the nature of the ceremony of circumcising and naming Jesus was as expected for the male child of line of Abraham (Matthew 1:1-16).

The theological issues of the Circumcision are discussed in a December 2014 episode of Issues Etc. featuring Dr. Arthur Just, which was rebroadcast a week ago. As they note, the Circumcision of Jesus is obedience to the Old Covenant, while it is meaningless for the New Covenant (Colossians 3:11).

The 1549 BCP acknowledged this history with its collect (in modernized spelling) that persisted through 1928:
Almighty God, which madest thy blessed son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of thy spirit, that our hearts, and all our membres, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy son Jesus Christ our Lord. 
In the 1979 prayer book, the feast has been renamed The Holy Name and the collect drops all reference to the Circumcision. Marion Hatchett, in one of his more partisan apologies for the ’79 revisionism, quotes someone else as saying Cranmer et al “turned the day into a commemoration of circumcision, rather than of the Circumcision of our Lord” (Commentary on the American Prayer Book, 169) — without explaining why the book drops all reference to circumcision rather than trying to shift the emphasis to The Circumcision.

In the ACNA trial liturgy, it’s called The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but the collect puts more effort into explaining the theological significance of the feast:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was circumcised for our sake in obedience to the Covenant of Moses, and given the Name that is above every name: give us the grace to faithfully bear his Name, to worship him in the Spirit given in the New Covenant, and to proclaim him as the Savior of the world; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Festal Hymns

In Hymnal 1940, there is one hymn (#113) for “The Circumcision” and 10 alternate hymns that focus on the holy name. In Hymnal 1982, there are five hymns (#248-252) listed for “Holy Name”, and the one circumcision hymn is gone. One hymn in common between the two is “Jesus, Name of wondrous love!” (H40: 323; H82: 252). However, as you might expect, the list of alternate hymns in H40 includes a variety of hymns about the name of Jesus that are sung at other times (e.g. what’s now called Christ the King Sunday) such as “At the Name of Jesus” (H40: 356; H82: 435).

The English Hymnal (1906) has two hymns (#36-37) for “The Circumcision of Christ” and my copy of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1868 edition) lists three hymns (#55-57). The common thread is “The ancient law departs” (A&M: 55, H40: 113), with the familiar tune St. Michael from the Genevan Psalter by 16th century composer Louis Bougeois. The hymn was dropped from The English Hymnal (1906) and Hymnal 1982.

The Hymnal 1940 Companion credits the original French text to Sebastian Besnault, as published in 1736. The 1860 translation of five verses is credited to the first edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern:
The ancient law departs,
And all its terrors cease;
For Jesus makes with faithful hearts
A covenant of peace.

The light of light divine,
True brightness undefiled,
He bears for us the shame of sin,
A holy, spotless child.

His infant body now
Begins our pains to feel;
Those precious drops of blood that flow
For death the victim seal.

Today the name is Thine,
At which we bend the knee;
They call Thee Jesus, child divine!
Our Jesus deign to be.

All praise, Eternal Son,
For Thy redeeming love,
With Father, Spirit, ever One,
In glorious might above.
It immediately entered the American hymnody with Hymnal 1874, but by 1940 retained only three of the five verses (1,2,4). The missing third verse is an important one in explaining the Circumcision as the first time that Christ shed his blood for mankind, when he (with the help of his earthly parents) fulfilled the Mosaic covenant so that it might be abolished.

Still, this very familiar tune (what’s not to like about a Genevan Psalter tune?) and the text that matches the festal day seem like one that should be embraced (not ignored) whenever the appropriate collect and/or readings are scheduled for church.

Update: Former Anglo-Catholic (now Ordinariate Priest) Fr. John Hunwicke defends the recent decision of the RCC to de-emphasize the Circumcision in this feast, and instead emphasize the BVM and the Incarnation.