Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hymns with power

I was listening to a rehearsal for Evensong at Cambridge several weeks ago and I heard them sing the William Byrd Nunc Dimittis from the Great Service. It came across to me as a shout of joy, the very response that is assumed in the Psalms for the greeting of God's Messiah and the triumph of the good.

They also sang words from this hymn - specifically I was impressed by Verse 3.  I do realize it can be interpreted traditionally as referring to a temple of stones. But for me at the time, it was the living singing stones and the living listening stone that I had in mind - these very fleshly bodies that the mystery of the Anointed in the Spirit choses to indwell. Long may these kinds of words be transformed in us - without imagination of what ought to be, rather the reality of the presence.

Christ is made the sure Foundation,
And the precious Corner-stone;
Who the two walls underlying,
Bound in each, binds both in one,
Holy Sion’s help for ever,
And her confidence alone.

In this case 'Christ' refers to Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:5). I wonder what Neale meant by the two walls? Any thoughts? It certainly illustrates the difficulty of Earthly Jerusalem - a city compacted together but not easily holding.

All that dedicated City,
Dearly loved of God on high,
In exultant jubilation,
Pours perpetual melody,
God the One, and God the Trinal,
Singing everlastingly.

There's the jubilation and melody

To this temple, where we call thee,
Come, O Lord of Hosts, today;
With thy wonted loving-kindness
Hear thy servants as they pray.
And thy fullest benediction
Shed within its walls for ay.

Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
What they supplicate to gain;
Here to have and hold for ever
Those good things their prayers obtain,
And hereafter in thy glory
With thy blessèd ones to reign.

Laud and honour to the Father,
Laud and honour to the Son,
Laud and honour to the Spirit,
Ever Three and ever One;
Consubstantial, co-eternal,
While unending ages run. Amen.
Latin c7th century
tr J. M. NEALE 1818-66