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.
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”
- 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
The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came
One of the best-known Basque carols in England. It was collected by Charles Bordes and appeared at the beginning of his volume Douze Noëls populaires in the series Archives de la traditional basque (1895), to which he also contributed the volume Dix Cantiques populaires basques.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.
…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.”
Whatever the source, I am grateful that this most suitable Annunciation carol entered the repertoire in the latter half of the 20th century.