Advent 3: The Branch

Kingdoms fall from might; panelled houses cannot keep out the flood. The humblest stump brings forth the branch and a little child leads the animals’ dance. As the baby rests its head in the nest, the greenest hope turns to solid twig, and then as firm and fixed branch. Reach out: these arms reach outContinue reading “Advent 3: The Branch”

Isaiah and the Seraph

I shame at mine unworthiness, yet fain would be at one with Thee: Thou art a joy in heaviness, a succour in necessity. (Sir William Leighton, 1614) Shame and joy move in polyphonic sway: the vision delights, augments, and yet diminishes the confidence. How can I, with unclean lips, hymn praises without minor chords? MustContinue reading “Isaiah and the Seraph”

Christmas 7: Rejoice in your new clothes

2017 is almost over, and today we have two choral pieces to conclude our year with, one early, one modern, both settings of one of the readings for the first Sunday after Christmas, Isaiah 61:10-62:4. The first is the delightfully joyous “Gaudens Gaudebo in Domino” by the 16th century German composer Philip Dulchius. The textContinue reading “Christmas 7: Rejoice in your new clothes”

Christmas 4: Lully Lullay

Today is perhaps the hardest day of the Christmas season, the day that remembers the story found in Matthew 2 of Herod ordering the murder of all boys under the age of 2. While this is not an aspect of the Christmas story that is often told, it finds a home in an old andContinue reading “Christmas 4: Lully Lullay”

20 Contemplations #20: Enlighten

Arise, shine, for your light has come… (Isaiah 60:1a) Then the Glory opens up, and the exposition begins…after the sheaves of night, the spirals of anxiety, here the triumph of love and the tears of joy – all the passion of our arms around the Invisible!… (Olivier Messiaen) Do you see a star unlike theContinue reading “20 Contemplations #20: Enlighten”

Damascus Road: Midday

Indeed, my friends, let us not forget in our wakefulness… (Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Hymns of the Nativity) Do I assume this peace? Some peasants once, I am told, when they had had enough of false liberty, took cobblestones and made them missiles. And men of another age were warned that their panelled houses couldContinue reading “Damascus Road: Midday”