The above quote, from this Sunday’s appointed psalm, could be considered representative of the entire Epiphany season. When thinking of waiting for God, the season of Advent comes to mind. However, in this time before Lent when we think of Christ’s personhood and the beginning of his earthly ministry, there is nothing more appropriate than to exercise the discipline of spiritual silence. We practice the art of listening during this season so that, as has been said quite a bit, we might hear God’s voice as we discern our own epiphanies. In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus calls Simon (Peter) and Andrew away from their fishing boat and into a divine drama that will change their hearts and the course of history. We celebrate our calling as disciples in manifold ways this week at Christ Church. During our service we will celebrate the sacrament of Holy Baptism and install our new Vestry members. Both of these events, in a very real way, affirm discipleship in our community as members of the body of Christ. After the Eucharist, we will have our annual parish meeting and will hear of things both from the past year and plans for our future together. Finally, the music ministry will offer a concert Sunday afternoon at 4:00 P. M. featuring favorite musical selections from our faith tradition.
Musically, the theme of discipleship is highlighted most in our Communion music. Soloists from the choir will sing The Call by Ralph (pronounced “Rayfe”) Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), a piece that speaks directly on the Gospel reading. Vaughan Williams was perhaps the most visible and greatest English composer of his time. Born in Gloucestershire and the son of an Anglican clergyman, Vaughan Williams’ musical talent eventually led him to attend the Royal College of Music along with such iconic musical figures as Gustav Holst (1874-1934), composer of The Planets, and Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977), the famous conductor who adapted Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d minor for orchestra (later used in Disney’s Fantasia in 1940). Vaughan Williams composed classical music for many different combinations of instruments including a number of pieces for choir and organ. You may be familiar with several of his hymn tunes! The Hymnal 1982 contains 27 hymns composed or arranged by Vaughan Williams. This means that his work is represented more in our hymnal than that of any other composer. Most of all, however, Vaughan Williams was drawn to the folk music of his native England as well as the music of early English composers such as Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and Thomas Tallis (1505-1585). This Sunday, as we present one of Vaughan Williams’ simple hymn tunes, listen to the beautiful folk-influenced melody coupled with lyrics by George Herbert (1593-1633). Herbert was an Anglican priest and poet who is widely considered the most influential and important English devotional writer of his era. Verse one Is quoted below.
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife;
Such a life as killeth death.
During the offertory, the choir will sing My Soul in Stillness Waits by Marty Haugen (b. 1950), a contemporary and sometimes controversial composer of church music. Among many traditionally trained church musicians, Haugen’s music is avoided due to its simplicity and allegedly more secular compositional style. On the other hand, many less traditional musicians play his music constantly. Regardless of these opinions, My Soul in Stillness Waits is a pleasant, simple piece that is set in a style easily adapted to nearly any form of worship. The lyrical melody is of a similar lilting nature to many folk-inspired pieces by other composers. It is important to note that, when speaking academically, folk music refers to the often ancient music from a particular cultural heritage rather than the folk movement of the mid-to-late 20th century. The text is adapted from what are known as the “O Antiphons”, special texts that are recited or sung during the last week of Advent. They are commonly called the “O Antiphons” because they all begin with the interjection, “O”. Another setting of these antiphons is O come, O come, Emmanuel. While our offertory piece was originally intended for Advent, the spirit of waiting in silence for God is profoundly articulated in Sunday’s psalm, and it is worthy of emphasis. As the choir presents this quiet offertory piece with its Advent overtones, you are invited to meditate on what we have heard since our Advent and Christmas observances and how that still, small voice speaks in our Epiphany season.
In closing, I would like to invite you once more to this Sunday’s concert, Cathedral Pops: Sacred Favorites. This concert will mark the end of this year’s Epiphany Concert Series. Our overriding theme has been that of discovering new and even educational pieces in keeping with the Epiphany spirit. This last concert focuses on the familiar which can be equally poignant. Sometimes, when revisiting old favorites, we can hear them in a new way and discover new things within them. We hope you will join us as we rediscover timeless meaning and worth in our “sacred favorites”.