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  • 2015 January 18: A Prayer in the Still of the Night

    January 18, 2015 10:30

    In this morning's Scripture the Old Testament figure Samuel is a young man who grows into a full fledged prophet as his story unfolds. At this point in the story, young Samuel is apprenticed to the priest Eli, and one night he thinks he hears Eli calling. Samuel comes running, and Eli says, "It wasn't me, go back to bed." This happens again, and Eli tells him again to go back to bed. The third time, however, Eli is awake enough to realize that it is the Lord calling to Samuel, and Eli instructs him, "If he calls again, say: Speak! Your servant is listening!" Which is exactly what Samuel does — the Lord speaks, Samuel listens, and the rest, as they say, is history. (For example, it is Samuel who anoints David as King of Israel.) (more )

  • 2015 January 4: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

    January 04, 2015 10:30

    There have been various approaches to Advent/Christmas down through the ages: in our culture we more or less start Christmas on Black Friday (if not much earlier) — a month plus of too many gifts and too much food (I’m reminded of William Blake’s aphorism "You never know what’s enough until you know what’s more than enough!"), and then on December 26 it's OVER. In Bach's day, however, Advent was a mini-'Lent' — a time of prayer and fasting, and no music in church! Then, on Christmas Day all heaven broke loose, and they celebrated Christmas for Twelve Days. Thus, after the 'darkness' of Advent, Christmas would be big and dramatic — something rather like somber Lent leading up to glorious Easter. This also worked out for church composers like Bach as they had the four weeks of Advent to prepare the massive amount of music performed over the Twelve Days. And the Twelve days of Christmas takes you to the next holy-day in the Church year: Epiphany — the day when the Christ was manifested to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. (more )

  • 2016 December 18: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"

    December 18, 2014 10:30

    A few of the hymns in our hymnal have texts of truly ancient origin, and "Let All Mortal Flesh" is one of them. It is an ancient chant of Eucharistic [Communion] devotion based on words from Habakkuk 2:20, "Let all the earth keep silence before him". The original was composed in Greek as a Cherubic Hymn for the Offertory of the Divine Liturgy of St James; the "Let All Mortal Flesh" text is probably older than the rest of the liturgy and goes back at least to 275 AD, with local churches adopting arrangements in Syriac. The identity of the original author is long lost in the misty shadows of Time. (more )

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