Sunday, February 24, 2008

Water from a stone

And the LORD said to Moses ... “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” Exodus 17:6 [ESV]
When I was a kid, the phrase “you can’t get water from a stone” was the definition of impossibility. (Today, “blood from a turnip” seems more common). The metaphor was obviously informed by if not drawn from the story of Moses leading the Israelites in the desert, and finding water at Meribah.

This is the reference to water that was quoted by Augustus Toplady in his famous hymn:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
The linkage was explained to me in a wonderful article by Christopher Howse in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph (via Titus OneNine). Howse (or his editors) titled the article “Rock of Ages and the rebel pilgrims.” Howse explains how this hymn appears across a wide range of Christian hymnals:
Toplady was a thoroughgoing Calvinist. In an article for the Gospel Magazine he calculated that the number of sins committed during the average lifetime amounted to 2,522,880,000. Later stanzas of the hymn make it clear that neither the work of his hands nor his tears, even if they flowed for ever, could atone for sin - and with this opinion, his great doctrinal opponent John Wesley would have agreed, as far as it went, as would any Christian, from St Augustine to the Pope of Rome.

... what Toplady was referring to, as any of his Bible-reading congregation would have known, was the striking of the rock by Moses in the desert, when the people were grumbling that they were thirsty, "and the water came out abundantly".

More importantly, for Toplady's verses, the water flowing from the rock was a type or foreshadowing of the water that flowed, together with blood, from the side of Christ when he was pierced by a spear as he hung on the cross.
This is the hymn that Dr. John Julian (in Vol. 2 of his 1898 Dictionary of Hymnology) praised by saying
No other English hymn can be named which has laid so broad and firm a grasp upon the English-speaking world
The song has enduring popularity — even to the modern generation of praise music — having been recorded by (among others) soul singer Al Green, ex-gospel singer Amy Grant in a duet with husband Vince Gill, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

However, over the past centuries there have been considerable variations in the treatment of the words and music, even for the famous first stanza. The version listed above is #150 from the 1870 Hymns and Ancient and Modern, the oldest source I have, but still almost a hundred years after Toplady published his poem at the end of a March 1776 article in The Gospel Magazine, of which he was the editor — the same article that Howse references.

Since Toplady was an English Calvinist, perhaps a more relevant version would be #406 of 1900 The Church Hymnary, created by the Church of Scotland and other Presbyterian churches of the British Isles. It turns out that these words exactly match The English Hymnal (#477), the 1906 hymnal fondly remembered by two generations of English worshipers (and Prof. Osborne’s blog). This is also the version quoted by Howse.

In 1940, the editors of my favorite hymnal chose these words for hymn #471:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy side, a healing flood,
Be of sin the double cure;
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
which adopts the same closing phrase as TEH, but tries to make a better rhyme with “blood”. (In one of its rare redeeming choices, Hymnal 1982 restores the TEH wording.)

Across these same four editions — two English, one Scottish, one American — the last stanza has many small variations, but the meaning seems more similar (”mine eyelids close in death” vs. “mine eyes are closed in death.”)

Its lasting popularity has meant it has been set to at least six different hymn tunes:
  • Petra aka Gethesemane aka Redhead No. 76 (1853). By Richard Redhead, the only tune listed in all four hymnals and apparently the most popular in British Isles.
  • Toplady (1830). Listed as the final choice in the 1900 Scottish and 1940 Episcopal hymnals — and the only choice in Hymnal 1982 — this tune by the American Thomas Hastings is the one familiar to all of us on this side of the pond.
  • Pascal (c. 1780) From the Katholisches Gesangbuch of Vienna, it’s listed as the 2nd tune in the companion to the 1927 (Presbyterian) The Church Hymnary.
  • Pressburg (1714) The tune attributed to Freylinghausen is listed as the alternate tune in TEH.
  • Rousseau’s Dream. After Petra and Toplady, the third tune mentioned by Dr. Ian Bradley in his wonderful Book of Hymns — apparently the tune popular during an 1875 British revival movement. As best I can tell, the same tune known as Greenville (1752) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
  • Cuyler (1907) by John H. Brewer, listed as the third choice in the CyberHymnal. and apparently popular in its home parish in Brooklyn for nearly a century.
Some might consider the hymn too popular — to the point of being cliché. I recall a funeral (perhaps my uncle’s) where it was rejected for this reason. However, the CyberHymnal says it was sung at Gladstone’s funeral, while Julian says it gave great comfort to a dying Prince Albert (Victoria’s consort).

That’s good enough for me: I have it listed as the sequence hymn for my funeral (hopefully not any time soon). That’s where it was sung at the 2006 funeral of my wife’s aunt. My mom also wants it played at her funeral — one of the few cases where we agree about something involving Anglican worship.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

(Anglo) Catholic

Most Anglo-Catholics have mixed feelings about the word Catholic. On the one hand, we love many of the forms and rituals that we took with us in 1533 when Henry VIII created a new church because he wanted a divorce. On the other hand, like Cardinal Newman, we tend to assume that “Catholic” (without modifiers) is synonymous with “Roman Catholic Church.”

Christians since 381 have been saying
εἰς μίαν, ἁγίαν, καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν
which in Latin became
Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam.
In 1549 Anglicans translated this as
And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church.
(In 1549, the “clerk” recites the creed, so it’s not clear when the laity began the regular recitation. Of course communion and the Nicene Creed were not weekly events in the 16th or 17th centuries).

Anglican blogger Rev. Robert Hart has a great posting about how "Catholic" is really a generic term referring to Christ’s church, and how the RCC has unduly claimed a monopoly on it. One excerpt:
From the usage of the word "Catholic" in ancient times we see that it speaks, above all, of the Church and of the Faith of that Church (namely, its doctrine). This word is used by everybody in Christianity, and is the property of no one denomination.
The whole post is well worth reading by any (Anglo) Catholic.

At the other extreme, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod seems to think the word “Catholic” smacks of papism. Unlike the 1549 BCP, 1662 BCP, 1928 BCP or even the 1979 prayer book, in the LCMS liturgy the “C” word has been censored:
And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
and I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What's the smudge?

GodspellWhen I was in college I acquired two albums of Christian musicals. Godspell was better Gospel and (IMHO) better music. The more successful (but less enjoyable) musical succeeded as spectacle — but today Jesus Christ Superstar is perhaps best remembered as the third work (and first megahit) of the 20th century genius, Baron Lloyd-Webber. One of his more bombastic songs was “What’s the buzz”.

I was reminded of the song when three times this afternoon I was asked (in effect) “what’s the smudge” on my forehead. I decided beforehand to just say “Ash Wednesday”. I would have been unprepared to answer, if I hadn’t read (LCMS member) Mollie Hemingway’s post last night:
At my last newspaper job, my colleagues loved celebrating Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, last day before (Western) Lent). A favorite co-worker, from New Orleans, of course, would bring in a King Cake and we would feast. Some people would wear beads, etc. And then the next day when I came to work with ashes on my forehead, dozens of people would ask me what that was for. I never quite understood celebrating Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday without Ash Wednesday being the next day.
Among those who didn’t ask (and so presumably knew what was going on) were those with Italian or Irish names, who I thus assume either were Catholic or had Catholic relatives. This got me to thinking.

I’ve gone to Ash Wednesday services at Catholic, Episcopal and Lutheran churches. (Of course, it’s also observed at continuing Anglican parishes). My Orthodox friends, of course, observe Ash Wednesday — even if not on the same calendar.

But who else observes the day? The fasting? The imposition of ashes? Among liturgical Christians (as Mrs. Hemingway calls us), there may not be that many others. It’s controversial among Presbyterians. Ironically, after being part of the 1662 BCP praised by John Wesley was restored to (U.S.) Methodist liturgy through their postmodern prayer book.

Will Ash Wednesday survive in Protestant worship? It’s clearly there in the 1662 BCP and thus presumably in AMiA’s 21st century update. But interestingly, it makes not mention of the imposition of ashes (because it’s assumed, or because it’s a rejection of the Catholic church)?

Still, ashes and midweek devotionals seem like an Anglo-Catholic thing. I guess next year I need to got to an AMiA or other “low church” Anglican to see what they do.

We didn’t have hymns at today’s noontime service. But one of those called out for today is my favorite Lent hymn — the first Lenten hymn in the 1940 Hymnal, #55:
Forty days and forty nights
Thou wast fasting in the wild;
Forty days and forty nights
Tempted, and yet undefiled
The 17th century tune from Nürnbergisches Gesangbuch is even better than the 19th century words.

BTW: Easter is early this year (March 23); according my 1928 BCP (p. liii), only one year in the past 200 years had an earlier Easter: March 22, 1818. However, Ash Wednesday that year was Feb. 4 (because Ash Wednesday is a day later on Leap Years).

Update: On Wednesday, the LCMS radio show Issues Etc. had a very interesting discussion in the last half of the first hour of the show. Host Todd Wilken talked about the origins of Lent, Ash Wednesday and the imposition of ashes with Dr. Paul Grime, a new faculty member at the LCMS seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

An extended (but parallel) exposition of the meaning of Ash Wednesday can be found in Touchstone magazine, which reprints a March 2004 column by editor David Mills. (H/T: The Continuum).