Monday, April 27, 2009

Peter Toon, 1939-2009

The Rev. Dr. Peter Toon died Saturday in San Diego, as the consequence of a degenerative disease called amyloidosis.

Toon was the president of the Prayer book Society of the USA, and probably this country’s leading expert on the book of Common Prayer. Last year, he prepared a modern language version of the 1662 BCP for the Evangelical wing of the Continuing Anglican community.

Toon’s skills would be greatly in demand during this period of Anglican realignment. We will certainly miss his talents, although our loss pales compared to that of his wife and daughter.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Unamerican Church of North America

One of the big question marks for me has been why ACNA is not uniting all the Schism I and Schism II churches. I thought that perhaps it’s just a matter of time or perhaps it’s a matter of personalities and egos (the “purple shirt” problem oft-remarked in Continuing Anglican circles). But now I’m wondering if there’s something more.

Robert Jordan has a fascinating analysis of the proposed ACNA constitution in his blog Anglicans Ablaze. While I encourage Anglicans to read the entire story, there is one part that I found particularly troubling. By vesting all significant power in the provincial council and making the provincial assembly mostly an advisory polity, the ACNA adopts an undemocratic view of polity that violates all the norms of 230 years of American Anglicanism. (Apparently this is adopted from the sponsoring Nigerian church).

He is also right in noting that ACNA is (falsely) claiming supremacy among Continuing Anglicans in North America.
The Province will seek to represent orthodox North American Anglicans in the councils of the Anglican Communion.
The absence of many (although not all) Schism I churches suggests that there will be other orthodox Anglicans who will not be represented by ACNA.

On the other hand, I don’t agree with Jordan in his concern about a statement of episcopacy. It demonstrates (as in his previous criticism of the 1928 BCP) his bias towards the Reformed and against the Anglo-Catholic theological side of disuptes going back to the 16th century Church of England. He devotes a long criticism to
We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.
Jordan is certainly correct that the 17 day public comment period is inadequate for a document of this importance.

I encourage all Anglicans (ACNA or not) to read the proposed Canons, Jordan’s annotated critique and to send comments by the April 20 deadline (tomorrow):
The principal time for suggesting changes to the draft canons is between now and the April meeting of Council. Comments and suggestions should be given to the jurisdictional representatives who compose the Common Cause Leadership Council by April 24th or sent to the chair of the Governance Task Force, Mr. Hugo Blankingship (, no later than noon on Monday, April 20th.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter music: It’s about the Resurrection!

From nearly 20 centuries of Christian music, we have Gregorian chants going back 1400 years, and 900 years for the Sarum Rite from the cathedral of Salisbury. We have sacred classical music such as the great chorales, masses and oratorios. We also have the newer folk- and rock-inspired religious music.

Still, today is the one day where nearly all of that music should be set aside, whether in church, Christian radio or even in Christian households. We take it for granted that Christmas Day (and Christmas Eve and even December or the 12 Days of Christmas) are set aside for music for Christmas music: why not also agree to reserve Easter Day (and perhaps Easter Even) for Easter music?

Easter is the highest of high feasts of the Christian year. Without the Resurrection there is no redemption, no eternal life and (from a practical matter) no Christians spreading the faith. The author of a definitive 800 page study of the Resurrection, theologian N.T. Wright, said:
It is only with the bodily resurrection of Jesus, demonstrating that His death dealt a decisive blow to evil, that we could find the proper grounds for calling the kingdoms of earth to submit to the Kingdom of God.
So I firmly believe that any Easter worship service — even for those that do not follow a liturgical calendar — should use only hymns and anthems that celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Here I don’t mean to exclude a sung Kyrie, Sanctus etc.) We are Christians because Christ arose, and on this Sunday we should celebrate this unequivocally with heart and soul and voice. Save the rest of the music for the other 51 Sundays.

Today, I tried to get as much Easter music as possible, both during and after church. After church, I put on the greateast English-language oratorio of all time, the Messiah. (I am partial to my Christopher Hogwood recording with the Christ Church choir and the Academy of Ancient Music, but Amazon has dozens of alternatives).

There are three ACN (Anglican) parishes with four Rite I (1928 BCP) services near our home. Today I attended two of those parishes; we went to the third a couple of years ago on Easter. The results were disappointing.

If Easter is about the Resurrection, then Easter hymns should be about the risen Lord — not just about the general promise made to Christians, but the specific act of Christ triumphing over death as told by the Gospels.

At both church services, there was only one hymn directly mentioned that act. In fact, it was the same hymn, and I heard it three times on Sunday. In addition to the church services, when I was driving between services I heard it on EWTN radio, sung by the choir of the English College of Rome at the Vatican’s Easter services.

That hymn? #85 in my favorite hymnal, appropriately named Easter Hymn:
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
I did not hear the great Vaughan Williams processional, Salve Festa Dies, and its timely refrain so familiar from my childhood days as a choirboy:
Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day that art hallowed forever;
day wherein Christ arose,
breaking the kingdom of death.
When woven appropriately into a church service, hymns reinforce the message of the lessons, collects and sermon. Both of these hymns make the immediate point: Easter is about the risen Christ.

It appears that while the hymns are preserved in our hymnbook, the knowledge of how and when to use these hymns is being lost. This suggests a need for identifying and preserving the canon of important Easter hymns, just as we have a widely accepted canon of Christmas music. More later.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bernard, Paul and Bob

Due to work commitments, I couldn’t go to my regular parish for our noontime Good Friday service. So I ended Lent where I started it, at the LCMS parish where I have numerous friends.

The main hymn was one of those recommended by The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) for Good Friday, “O sacred Head, now wounded,” based on a 1656 text by Paulus Gerhardt for the 1601 tune Passion Chorale by Hans Leo Hassler.

TLH (#172) has 10 verses translated by various sources, but this is also listed as a Passiontide, Holy Week or Lenten hymn in all my Anglican hymnals:
  • The 19th century Hymns Ancient & Modern (#97, #111 depending on the edition) has three verses of “O Sacred Head, Surrounded” translated by H.W. Baker
  • The English Hymnal, 1906 (#102) has 5 verses translated by “Y.H.”
  • Hymnal 1940 (#75) has four verses translated by Robert (Seymour) Bridges
  • Hymnal 1982 (#168) has these four verses, plus an (altered) translation of the fifth verse by James Waddell Alexander
  • New English Hymnal, 1986 (#90) has five verses translated by Bridges
TLH and A&M have their own harmonizations, while the others use the harmonization by J.S. Bach.

The Cyberhymnal has 11 verses translated by Alexander (plus the MIDI). With the Bridges translation, Oremus follows the four verses of Hymnal 1940, starting with the words I recall from my childhood:
O sacred head, sore wounded,
defiled and put to scorn;
O kingly head surrounded
with mocking crown of thorn:
What sorrow mars thy grandeur?
Can death thy bloom deflower?
O countenance whose splendor
the hosts of heaven adore!
This is a pretty influential and popular hymn, but it’s more than just that. TLH credits this as
Based on the Latin
Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, asc.
Bernard (1091-1153) was a monk in the Cistercians order (the order that brought us the Trappists.) There are brief biographies in CCEL and Wikipedia, and a longer biography in the New Advent Encyclopedia; STEM quotes the biography from Julian's Hymnology.

The Center for Church Music has a brief discussion of the hymn, which begins:
"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" is based on a long medieval poem attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 'Salve mundi salutare'. This poem talks about Christ's body, as he suffered and hung on the cross. It has seven sections, each addressing a part of Jesus' body-his feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and head. Our hymn is a translation of the seventh section 'Salve caput cruentatum', focused on Jesus' head.
The original Latin text can be found in the 1874 book Sacred Latin Poetry, as published online by Google Books. I haven’t checked Gerhardt’s translation, but clearly there is some disagreement of the English translation of the German translation of the Latin text, even before the “improvements” in late 20th century.

Still, as with other timeless hymns, there’s something magical about thinking that today’s observance of Good Friday was tied across the generations to earlier Christians, all through a 850-year-old text and 400-year-old tune. I pray that it remains in the worship into the 4th millennium.

Note: the hymn is also the subject of a commentary by the blog “Hyfrydol. Discuss.” (Love that title) and Mia Himnareto.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Remembering today the 12 Apostates

Maundy Thursday is the day that liturgical Christians remember the Last Supper, marking when Jesus and his disciples broke bread marking the first Holy Communion.

Thus, this funny story about the BYU student paper (by the BYU student paper via GetReligion) seems particularly timely:
The Daily Universe took the extraordinary step Monday of re-calling all its 18,500 copies from newsstands around campus and the community to reprint the entire 14-page issue due to a typographical error on the front page.

A spelling error appeared in a photo caption in which the word “apostle” was rendered as “apostate.” In referring to activities at the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last weekend, the caption read in part, “Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostates and other general authorities raise their hands in a sustaining vote. . . .”

Once the mistake was noticed, all available copies of the newspaper were removed from the racks and replaced with a sign directing students to view the paper online, said Brad Rawlins, chair of the Department of Communications.

“We are reprinting the paper and we will have the corrected version back on the racks by mid-afternoon,” Rawlins said. “This shows the deep concern we have on the matter. We don’t think this error is glib or cute or humorous. We understand people will take offense to the error. We ourselves are offended as a department for this error. We have a deep regret that it appeared in today’s paper.”
Apparently for a misspelled word, the spell checker suggested “apostate” instead of “apostle.” Close, right?

The Online Etymology Dictionary says
1340, "one who forsakes his religion or faith," from L.L. apostata, from Gk. apostasia "defection, desertion, rebellion," from apostenai "to defect," lit. "to stand off," from apo- "away from" (see apo-) + stenai "to stand." Used in non-religious situations (politics, etc.) from 1362.

O.E. apostol "messenger," but esp. of the 12 witnesses sent forth by Jesus to preach his Gospel, from L.L. apostolus, from Gk. apostolos "messenger, person sent forth," from apostellein "send away, send forth," from apo- "away" (see apo-) + stellein "to send" (cf. epistle). The current form of the word, predominant since 16c., is infl. by O.Fr. apostle (12c.), from the same L.L. source. Fig. sense of "chief advocate of a new principle or system" is from 1810. Apostles, short for "The Acts and Epistles of the Apostles," is attested from c.1400.
So apparently in Middle English, apostates came before Apostles. It’s good that the paper didn’t try to get away with their mistake.

Kinda reminds me of from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s days writing Christian-inspired rock opera, specifically the song called (appropriately) “The Last Supper”:
Look at all my trials and tribulations
Sinking in a gentle pool of wine
Don't disturb me now I can see the answers
Till this evening is this morning life is fine

Always hoped that I'd be an apostle
Knew that I would make it if I tried
Then when we retire we can write the gospels
So they'll still talk about us when we've died
Somehow, it wouldn’t roll off the tongue quite as well if they sang “apostate.”

Note: Yes I know what day it is. No more humor until after Sunday.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Light from darkness

Holy Week is the high point of the liturgical year, reminding us of the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his passion and resurrection. In only a few days, the Virgin Mary and the disciples went from the darkest moment of his death to the miracle of the first Easter.

Our entrance hymn this morning at church was the standard Palm Sunday processional:
All glory, laud, and honor
to thee, Redeemer, King!
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
It’s hymn #62 in Hymnal 1940, #154 in Hymnal 1982, #86 in Hymns Ancient & Modern. As with most hymns about the historic Jesus, the focus is on our God and Savior, not on our emotions or selfish desires.

The hymn text was composed in the early 9th century: Hymnal 1940 says 820 but the Catholic New Advent Encyclopedia says 810. We owe our English translation of the Latin (as with so many other timeless hymns) to John Mason Neale. The 17th century tune is credited to Melchior Teschner, a German Protestant (i.e. Lutheran) pastor.

The text was written Theodulf of Orléans, the Spanish-born cleric appointed Bishop of Orléans by Charlemagne. This is what the New Advent Encyclopedia says about Theodulf and his hymn:
A hymn composed by St. Theodulph of Orléans in 810, in Latin elegiacs, of which the Roman Missal takes the first six for the hymn following the procession on Palm Sunday (the use to which the hymn was always dedicated). The first couplet,
Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit Rex Christe, Redemptor,
Cui puerile decus prompsit hosanna pium,
is sung by chanters inside of the church (the door having been closed), and is repeated by the processional chorus outside of the church. The chanters then sing the second couplet, the chorus responding with the refrain of the first couplet, and so on for the remaining couplets until the subdeacon strikes the door with the staff of the cross, whereupon the door is opened, the hymn ceases, and the procession enters the church. The words of the refrain ("puerile decus") suggested the assignment of the hymn in the Middle Ages to boy chanters (thus at Salisbury, York, Hereford, Rouen, etc.). The hymn is founded on Psalm 23:7-10 (Vulgate); Psalm 117:26; Matthew 21:1-16; Luke 19:37-38.
In addition to providing a prologue to the darkest day for Jesus’ followers, this hymn is a gift to the faithful from the Dark Ages, that period after the fall of Rome when the church and monastic learning provided continuity between the Roman era and the eventual return of civilization in our modern era.

There are about 30 video performances available now on Google Video/YouTube. So if your church didn’t perform it this morning, a virtual version is available on the web. (Probably not an option anticipated by Theodulf, Teschner or even Neale.)