Sunday, November 20, 2016

Year-end hymn specials

Today is ”stir up Sunday” or Christ the King Sunday, depending on your lectionary. Either way it’s the last Sunday before Advent, and thus the last day of the liturgical year as well as the last day of the long season after (depending on your prayer book) Trinity or Pentecost. It is also the end of “ordinary time” (which for some includes only these Sundays and for others also includes the time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday).

In the US, it’s also the Sunday before Thanksgiving — and thus at my church this morning the hymn choices reflected that secular reality. (But that’s another season and another story).

Traditional Prayer Bookes: “Stir Up” Sunday

In the 1928 BCP, the appointed collect for the last Sunday before Advent gives this date the nickname “Stir Up” Sunday:
STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This was derived from the same collect written for the 25th Sunday after Trinity In 1549 (and the 1662) BCP:
STIERE up we beseche thee, O Lord, the wylles of thy faythfull people, that they, plenteously bringing furth the fruite of good workes; may of thee, be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christe our Lorde.
The collect was abandoned in the 1979 prayer book, but in the ACNA trial use liturgy, a heavily modified version is scheduled for the penultimate Sunday of ordinary time (i.e. a week ago):
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people; that they may plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works, as they await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to restore all things to their original perfection; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen
Whenever it is scheduled, there is an obvious hymn to go with it: “Stand up, stand up for Jesus” (H40: 562; H82: 561); in fact, this is the recessional hymn recommended by H40 for this Sunday with the “Stir up” colleect. The tune is by George Webb, combined with a text by George Duffield Jr. This is the last remaining text in common use by the 19th century U.S. Presbyterian pastor and abolitionist.

Of the original text, H40 keeps verses 1,3,4 and 6. H82 keeps the same verses, but (as expected) censors the M-word (“men”).

Contemporary Lectionaries: Christ the King Sunday

This weekend I saw questions on a church music group from a Catholic organist about an appropriate hymn for today, which is Christ the King Sunday. As the Episcopal Dictionary of the Church on the ECUSA website helpfully explains:
Christ the King Sunday

Feast celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church on the last Sunday of the liturgical year. It celebrates Christ's messianic kingship and sovereign rule over all creation. The feast is unofficially celebrated in some Episcopal parishes, but it is not mentioned in the Episcopal calendar of the church year. Marion Hatchett notes that the Prayer Book collect for Proper 29, the last Sunday of the church year, is a "somewhat free" translation of the collect of the Feast of Christ the King in the Roman Missal. This collect prays that God, "whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords," will "Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule" (BCP, p. 236). The feast was originally instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and celebrated on the last Sunday in Oct. It has been observed on the last Sunday before Advent since 1970.
However, today many Episcopalian (and formerly Episcopalian) parishes are using the Revised Common Lectionary, and the Vanderbilt site lists this Sunday as the “Reign of Christ”. This seems to be the term used by progressive mainline Protestants, although some use both terms.

For Christ the King Sunday, there are several obvious hymn choices, including
  • Alleluia Sing to Jesus (H40: 347.2; H82: 460)
  • At the Name of Jesus (H40: 356; H82: 435)
  • Crown Him with Many Crowns (H40: 352; H82: 494)
  • Hail to the Lord’s Anointed (H40: 545; H82: 616)
  • Praise my Soul the King of Heaven (H40: 282; H82: 410)
While all touch on the CTK theme, I think the support (and thus congregational reinforcement) of this theme is greatest for 347 (“Alleluia Sing to Jesus”), 352 (“Crown Him with Many Crowns”) and 545 (“Hail to the Lord’s Anointed”). In fact, it’s impossible to beat #352, which makes the point in every verse in this hybrid of 19th century Catholic and Anglican hymnwriters:
Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.

Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.
For the CoE, The English Hymnal (#381) uses different verses and a different tune, while the New English Hymnal (#352) keeps the same 1906 choice of text but adopts the stirring tune of the American hymnals, Diademata by Sir George Job Elvey (1816-1893).

I am hard-pressed to think of a more majestic recessional for any portion of ordinary time. The descant (in H82) and the retard on the final verse really drive home the reality of His kingship and our obedience and worship of our heavenly King.

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