31 December 2015


A hymn text to be sung during the Twelve Days of Christmas and at New Year's.


Now light your lamps, ye Christians wise
and gather 'neath Christ's Star.
The Light of lights, the Prince of Peace
has come here from afar.
No warrior he, the Word made flesh,
the servant of us all,
the Child whose breathing brings us peace,
whose heartbeat saves us all.

God's Mother's face reveals his light
as moon shines by the sun,
And Joseph's eyes filled full with joy
gleam bright with God's own Son.
O Christ our God, true face of God
now cradled in their arms,
O please accept what gifts we bring:
our hearts, our minds, our love.

Child Jesus, hear our fervent prayer
for peace to reign on earth,
for great and small, for rich and poor,
for each to know their worth.
Though fallen be the human race
and sin and hate abound
give peace to all for in each face
thy image still is found.

O sing, you blessed company
of faithful people. Sing
for God the Child whose very light
demands the darkness flee.
O Trinity of endless light,
with love our praise we bring
where Wisdom found a cave for house
to bring forth earth's true king.

Copyright © 2007 Vincent Uher
Suggested tune: Forest Green

26 December 2015



I pray for those who observe the Feast of the Holy Family, Sunday, 27 December, that they shall find it a time of especial blessing from Our Blessed Lord Jesus, the Divine Child.  May Our Lady and St. Joseph, pray for us.

If, dear Reader, you would like to view the following hymn of mine in larger form for reading or printing, please click or double click on it, and the hymn should open in a new window for viewing.  The tune is the well known one used for "Good King Wenceslas".

Lest I forget to do so, may God send you a blest New Year to come!


21 December 2015

From the Votive Office of All Holy Angels

                      Please pray the Holy Rosary every day 
                      in order to defeat ISIS, all terrorists, 
                      and those who support them in any fashion.

Many are familiar with the translation of the office hymn entitled Christ, the Fair Glory of the Holy Angels. The original Latin is Christe sanctorum decus angelorum and is generally ascribed to Rabanus Maurus.  As near as I can discern the following is Athelstan Riley's original version of his translation:
Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels,
thou who hast made us, thou who o'er us rulest,
grant of thy mercy unto us thy servants
steps up to heaven.

Send thine archangel Michael to our succour;
peacemaker blessèd, may he banish from us
striving and hatred, so that for the peaceful
all things may prosper.

Send thine archangel Gabriel, the mighty;
herald of heaven, may he, from us mortals,
spurn the old serpent, watching o'er the temples
where thou art worshiped.

Send thine archangel Raphael, the restorer
of the misguided ways of men who wander,
who at thy bidding strengthens soul and body
with thine anointing.

May the blest mother of our God and Saviour,
may the assembly of the saints in glory,
may the celestial companies of angels
ever assist us.

Father Almighty, Son, and Holy Spirit,
God ever blessèd, be thou our preserver;
thine is the glory which the angels worship,
veiling their faces.

By way of example, the text above is not the version one would find in two recent editions of the Episcopalian hymnals in the USA.  What one finds today is often a 'composite' translation that uses Riley's translation as a starting point, but even though a composite translation may be very successful in a parish when sung to Sarum plainsong or to the tune CŒLITES PLAUDANT (Rouen), translations rarely capture the fulness of the original hymn in Latin or Greek.  

If one cannot read the original, the best one can do is have several different translations to help one understand the depth of the original text.  

I think very few are familiar with the Copeland translation of Christe sanctorum decus angelorum which appeared in the Roman Breviary translated and edited by John, Marquess of Bute.   At the moment I am very taken with the Copeland translation and am praying it on behalf of the persecuted Church and Christians everywhere who are in need or dire circumstance:


CHRIST ! of the holy Angels light and gladness,
Maker and Saviour of the human race,
O may we reach the world unknown to sadness,
The blessed mansions where they see Thy Face !

Angel of peace, may Michael to our dwelling
Down from high Heaven in mighty calmness come,
Breathing serenest peace, wild war dispelling
With all her sorrows to the infernal gloom.

Angel of might, may Gabriel swift descending,
Far from our gates our ancient foes repel,
And his own triumphs o'er the world defending,
In temples dear to Heaven return and dwell.

Angel of health, may Raphael lighten o'er us,
To every sick-bed speed his healing flight,
In times of doubt direct the way before us,
And through life's mazes guide our steps aright.

The Virgin, harbinger of peace supernal,
Mother of Light, with all the Angelic train,
Heaven's glittering host, court of the King Eternal,
All Saints be with us, till that bliss we gain.

Be this by Thy thrice holy Godhead granted,
Father, and Son, and Spirit ever blest ;
Whose glory by the Angel host is chanted,
Whose Name by all the universe confest.

Rev. W.J. Copeland, translator

Office in Honour of All Holy Angels, for Mondays

20 December 2015

ADVENT IV: 'Lo! How She brings Life with Her'

The Visitation by Brigid Marlin


Lo! how she brings Life with her
Concealed beneath her heart,
Eve’s daughter, brave and chosen,
God’s partner to his art.
Her will knit with divine will
Desires his Word be done.
For God she weaves within her
The body of their Son.

Elisabeth her cousin
A child will bring to birth –
God’s answer to her longing,
A prophet for the Earth.
“Peace be with you,” said Mary.
Her cousin’s babe did dance
The merry steps of best man:
The Bridegroom’s here, at last.

Elisabeth cried out then,
“The child within me leapt!
When he heard your sweet greeting,
With joy my baby stepped.”
She spoke full of the Spirit,
With insight from the Lord,
“How is it you come to me
The Mother of my Lord?”

The Mother of her Lord, Yes!
Great Mary, Anna’s child,
A daughter born to Israel,
A virgin undefiled,
She sang out as a woman
Brought up on Hannah’s song,
“O praise, my soul, God’s greatness.
Rejoice, our Lord is strong.”

All ages call her blessed
Just as she once foretold.
Blest is she amongst women,
Her Child blest from of old.
Blest is she who believes God
Who carries God’s true Word.
Her Son both God and human
Fulfils great Gabriel’s word.

Our Saviour, God of mercy,
Remembers Abraham’s fold.
Praise God who casts down tyrants.
Rejoice! Our God is bold.
So sing we with blest Mary
To magnify the Lord
Who raised up his handmaiden.
Oh, holy is the Lord!

Copyright © 2006 by Vincent Uher


19 December 2015

"Once He Came in Blessing"

Johann Roh's hymn Gottes Sohn ist kommen has been known in several English translations as a traditional hymn of Advent and Christmastide. The following is the well known English translation by Catherine Winkworth that I believe first appeared in The Chorale Book for England, 1863, and it appears at No. 86 in the excellent Wartburg Hymnal: For Church, School, and Home published by the Wartburg Publishing House, Chicago in 1918 for  the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America:

Once He came in blessing,
all our ills redressing;
came in likeness lowly,
Son of God most holy;
bore the cross to save us,
hope and freedom gave us.

Still He comes within us,
still His voice would win us
from the sins that hurt us;
would to Truth convert us
from our foolish errors
ere He comes in terrors.

Thus, if thou hast known Him,
not ashamed to own Him,
but wilt trust Him boldly
nor dost love Him coldly,
He will then receive thee,
heal thee, and forgive thee.

He who thus endureth
bright reward secureth.
come, then, O Lord Jesus,
from our sins release us;
let us here confess Thee
till in heaven we bless Thee.
 Text: Jan Roh, 1544
Translation: Catherine Winkworth, 1863

This hymn and tune appear as No. 74 in The Lutheran Hymnal 1941 (an outstanding hymnal as sacred to some Lutherans as The Hymnal 1940 is sacrosanct for some Episcopalians).  Some newer hymnbooks have butchered the text or abandoned it, but the Editors of The Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church (USA) very gently retouched the text in a masterful way that kept the integrity of Winkworth's original poetic translation and which encouraged congregations to embrace it as a seasonal favourite:

                                    Once He came in blessing,
                                        All our ills redressing;
                                        Came in likeness lowly,
                                        Son of God most holy;
                                        Bore the cross to save us,
                                        Hope and freedom gave us.

                                     2  Still he comes within us,
                                         still his voice would win us
                                        from the sins that hurt us;
                                        would to Truth convert us:
                                        not in torment hold us,
                                        but in love enfold us.

                                      3  Thus if thou canst name him,
                                         not ashamed to claim him,
                                         but wilt trust him boldly,
                                         nor dost love him coldly,
                                         he will then receive thee,
                                         heal thee, and forgive thee.

                                     4   One who thus endureth
                                         bright reward secureth.
                                         Come then, O Lord Jesus,
                                         from our sins release us;
                                         let us here confess thee,
                                         Till in heaven we bless thee.

The video below is a splendid prelude setting of the tune Gottes Sohn ist kommen by the Silesian composer Michael Weiss(e) which as you listen will include the hymn tune of the this marvellous hymn:

Mark Peters, organ, Trinity Lutheran Church, Traverse City, Michigan, 2013
With travelling text at bottom of video from No. 333
in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod:
a new text loosely inspired by J. Roh's ,,Gottes Sohn ist kommen”

I would be remiss not to include the tune sometimes used in the Moravian Church in the USA.  The tune is found in an older Moravian hymn book, and for a number of generations the following tune was "the right tune" and still is "the right tune" according to a retired pastor friend of mine:


18 December 2015

This Advent reminder is brought to you by ...


O My Jesus, 
forgive us our sins, 
save us from the fires of hell, 
lead all souls to Heaven, 
especially those 
in most need 
of Thy Mercy. Amen.

Hayward & Parsons: "A song for commemorating All Souls, set to an old melody that inspired Vaughan Williams' hymn tune 'Be Thou My Vision'.  We had the privilege of performing this song in St. Leonard's Ossuary, Hythe, on 13 Nov 2014, to our largest audience yet: the 4000 dead who inhabit the place. No one knows where they came from." 

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray thee to set thy Passion, Cross, and Death, between thy Judgement and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give Mercy and Grace to the living, Pardon and Rest to the dead, to thy holy Church Peace and Concord, and to us sinners everlasting Life and Glory; who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


 Blow ye the trumpet, blow,
Sweet is Thy work, my God, my King.
I’ll praise my Maker with all my breath.
O happy is the man who hears.
Why should we start, and fear to die,
With songs and honours sounding loud.
Ah, lovely appearance of death.

'Blow Ye the Trumpet' by Kirke Mechem 
The Festival Singers of Florida Kevin Fenton, director

I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord;
he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord.
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;
even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours.

The Order for the Burial of the Dead
The Book of Common Prayer, 1979

Go to Jesus
Go to Church
Go to Jesus
Go to Confession
Go to Jesus

17 December 2015

Ruminating upon 'O Sapientia'

O Sapientia
16 December - Sarum
17 December - Roman

Antiphon "O Sapientia" / "O Wisdom" (Sirach 24) • Salisbury Cathedral, England

The Great O Antiphons begin for the modern Roman Church on the 17th December and are seven in number. A solid claim is made that these chants were first written in the 8th or 7th centuries taking titles from the Prophecy of Isaiah, other prophets, and Wisdom Literature and applying them to the Lord Jesus in anticipation of his birth.  These antiphons are sung with the Magnificat at Vespers which makes the Great O Antiphons a deeply Marian reflexion upon the  Lord's Advent and birth.

The tradition found in northern Europe is rather different, and modern folk like to belittle mediaeval textual evidence as unworthy intrusions into that vast august purity of the original forms ...  since of course we were all there to know exactly what that original was -- so by all means, ad fontes!  *cough*

Dear Reader, you may have surmised that my sympathies are with the Sarum tradition as part of the organic development of the liturgy ... or perhaps a more ancient memory of something we can no longer find in our limited texts of the past.  The Sarum number of antiphons is eight, and they begin on the 16th of December.  

For most Roman Catholics today, if the tradition isn't 20th c. Roman, then it isn't.  But that is not the way the Church in the West has been for most of her life.
One example of note: the custom was until recently that the O Antiphons were sung thrice. The antiphon would be sung prior to the Magnificat.  Then the same antiphon would be sung at the end of the Magnificat but before Gloria Patri, and then the antiphon would be sung again after the Gloria Patri for the third time.  I believe somewhere Dom Prosper Guéranger wrote of this trinitarian method and its relevance to the Great O Antiphons.

We should be mindful that with regard to the Eight O Antiphons of the Sarum Use the textual evidence is to be found throughout northern Europe all the way down to Switzerland.  This 8 O Antiphon custom was widely established and may have been the dominant pattern rather than the Roman method circa the Council of Trent.  (It is sad to see a book like the Church of England's Common Worship abandon something native and integral to worship in the British Isles and elsewhere and instead to suddenly go ultramontane and abandon the 8th Antiphon and start the O Antiphons on the 17th of December like any Roman Catholic.)

The first 7 antiphons are addressed to Christ with Isaiah, other Hebrew prophets and the Wisdom Literature as the wellspring for the pattern of titles and texts.  But the 8th antiphon concerning Our Lady ("O Virgo virginum") also has its heart in Isaiah and makes a textual connexion to that remarkable text "O Magnum Mysterium" (wherein we find a mystery of textual traditions regarding Habbakuk as partial source for the text and its variant forms).

Among the mediaeval texts we find some communities with 12 antiphons so that the sacred number be achieved with its reference to the 12 Tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles.  In Paris, at one point, there were nine antiphons.  The Marian character of the O Antiphons is consistent in every case as they clothe the singing of the Magnificat, Our Lady's Canticle.  The 7 Antiphons directed to Christ find their completion with the 8th directed to the Mother but also about her Son more than herself ... her Son  the 'mysterium' in Himself.  

Also in the 8 Antiphons is a mystical catechesis upon the Days of Creation.  As God made Adam and from Adam made Eve, so here God recreates the Days of Creation ... instead of man made first and then woman, we see God creates Woman first (Fiat Maria!) and then makes the Man from Her, even Jesus from Mary gaining his full humanity through her.  AND through this most sacred reversal of order and the setting out of Divine Recreation of Mankind,  the Creation is healed in a way that can only be called mysterion and sacrament, as we find in the textual variations of "O Magnum Mysterium".

(To underline ever so gently my theme, I note that "O Virgo virginum" still appears in the Graduale of the Premonstratensian Order, and I believe is still sung in some if not all of the Orders monasteries.  For this reason among others, I cherish my copies of all things Premonstratensian.)

Ah! But I am not even touching upon the most important matter to me which is the rich legacy of God Incarnate as both Word and Wisdom of God.  For now I will focus in a bit on the Roman Church's title for St. Mary as Sedes Sapientiae, the Seat of Wisdom.  But, dear Reader, there is so much more that has been set aside or overlooked which beholds Lady Wisdom not as divine, not as an expression of Jesus' identity, but rather Lady Wisdom is hymned as the very first creature of Creation who when the fulness of time arrived– would become Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God the Wisdom in the flesh.  

I am thinking especially of a French mystical poet of the last century whose most extraordinary Marian work remains untranslated or at least unavailable at the present time.  Not unlike Thomas Traherne, this poet enters into ecstasies of contemplation of the Blessed Mother and especially of her as Lady Wisdom.  (How the 'people of God' filled with the spirit of Vatican II would turn apoplectic over that...) What wondrous depths there are in the mystical experiences of the laity! (that are such a threat to the minions of bureaucracies wherever there is a cathedral).

Salvation does not depend upon such things as the number of antiphons or the dates when one must chant them, dear Reader, but it is my duty as perhaps one of the last of the Sarum-loving liturgical dinosaurs to do my part and 'splain it plain

In short, if you are on the side of the Child Jesus, St. Joseph of Arimathea, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Anne, and the Thorn Tree, then you know that there are 8 antiphons to be sung, and we began with O Sapientia on 16 December.  

If you are of those who see the world as having begun with twentieth century scholarship and Vatican II or if you see the world through the Council of Trent, then the O Antiphons began today, the 17th of December.  

Dominicans chanting O Sapientia for 17 December

Of course, be well-behaved and observe the custom of the house in which you reside, dear children, but in your own chambers you are Lord or Lady of your castle and its chapel ... and you may light your Advent Wreath and chant your Magnificat with 8 Antiphons for the love of Our Lord and Our Lady, and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

O Sapientia by Howard Skempton · Benjamin Nicholas · Choir of Merton College, Oxford

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).  Poems.  1918.

37. The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe

WILD air, world-mothering air,   
Nestling me everywhere,  

That each eyelash or hair  

Girdles; goes home betwixt   

The fleeciest, frailest-flixed            5

Snowflake; that ’s fairly mixed   

With, riddles, and is rife   

In every least thing’s life;   

This needful, never spent,   

And nursing element;            10

My more than meat and drink,   

My meal at every wink;   

This air, which, by life’s law,   

My lung must draw and draw   

Now but to breathe its praise,            15

Minds me in many ways   

Of her who not only   

Gave God’s infinity   

Dwindled to infancy   

Welcome in womb and breast,            20

Birth, milk, and all the rest   

But mothers each new grace   

That does now reach our race—   

Mary Immaculate,   

Merely a woman, yet            25

Whose presence, power is   

Great as no goddess’s   

Was deemèd, dreamèd; who   

This one work has to do—   

Let all God’s glory through,            30

God’s glory which would go   

Through her and from her flow   

Off, and no way but so.   

    I say that we are wound   

With mercy round and round            35

As if with air: the same   

Is Mary, more by name.   

She, wild web, wondrous robe,   

Mantles the guilty globe,   

Since God has let dispense            40

Her prayers his providence:   

Nay, more than almoner,   

The sweet alms’ self is her   

And men are meant to share   

Her life as life does air.            45

    If I have understood,   

She holds high motherhood   

Towards all our ghostly good   

And plays in grace her part   

About man’s beating heart,            50

Laying, like air’s fine flood,   

The deathdance in his blood;   

Yet no part but what will   

Be Christ our Saviour still.   

Of her flesh he took flesh:            55

He does take fresh and fresh,   

Though much the mystery how,   

Not flesh but spirit now   

And makes, O marvellous!   

New Nazareths in us,            60

Where she shall yet conceive   

Him, morning, noon, and eve;   

New Bethlems, and he born   

There, evening, noon, and morn—   

Bethlem or Nazareth,            65

Men here may draw like breath   

More Christ and baffle death;   

Who, born so, comes to be   

New self and nobler me   

In each one and each one            70

More makes, when all is done,   

Both God’s and Mary’s Son.   

    Again, look overhead   

How air is azurèd;   

O how! nay do but stand            75

Where you can lift your hand   

Skywards: rich, rich it laps   

Round the four fingergaps.   

Yet such a sapphire-shot,   

Charged, steepèd sky will not            80

Stain light. Yea, mark you this:   

It does no prejudice.   

The glass-blue days are those   

When every colour glows,   

Each shape and shadow shows.            85

Blue be it: this blue heaven   

The seven or seven times seven   

Hued sunbeam will transmit   

Perfect, not alter it.   

Or if there does some soft,            90

On things aloof, aloft,   

Bloom breathe, that one breath more   

Earth is the fairer for.   

Whereas did air not make   

This bath of blue and slake            95

His fire, the sun would shake,   

A blear and blinding ball   

With blackness bound, and all   

The thick stars round him roll   

Flashing like flecks of coal,            100

Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,   

In grimy vasty vault.   

    So God was god of old:   

A mother came to mould   

Those limbs like ours which are            105

What must make our daystar   

Much dearer to mankind;   

Whose glory bare would blind   

Or less would win man’s mind.   

Through her we may see him            110

Made sweeter, not made dim,   

And her hand leaves his light   

Sifted to suit our sight.   

    Be thou then, O thou dear   

Mother, my atmosphere;            115

My happier world, wherein   

To wend and meet no sin;   

Above me, round me lie   

Fronting my froward eye   

With sweet and scarless sky;            120

Stir in my ears, speak there   

Of God’s love, O live air,   

Of patience, penance, prayer:   

World-mothering air, air wild,   

Wound with thee, in thee isled,            125

Fold home, fast fold thy child.

NOTES: ‘Mary Mother of Divine Grace Compared to the Air we Breathe. Stonyhurst, May ’83.’ Autograph in A.—Text and title from later autograph in B. Taken by Dean Beeching into ‘A Book of Christmas Verse’ 1895 and thence, incorrectly, by Orby Shipley in ‘Carmina Mariana’. Stated in a letter to R. W. D. June 25, ’83, to have been written to ‘hang up among the verse compositions in the tongues.... I did a piece in the same metre as Blue in the mists all day.’ Note Chaucer’s account of the physical properties of the air, ‘House of Fame’, ii. 256, seq.

Salve Sedes Sapientiae by Matthew Martin · Benjamin Nicholas · Choir of Merton College, Oxford

From Arvo Pärt's Sieben Magnificat - Antiphonen for Choir (1991): 
I. O Weisheit (O Sapientia/O Wisdom) •  Jauna Muzika Choir, Vaclovas Augustinas

O Adonai
17 December - Sarum
18 December - Roman

Live recording from Advent Carols and Lessons (2002) • 
Vancouver's Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Rupert Lang, director

Healey Willan's 1957 setting of  "The Great O Antiphons of Advent" —once beloved by Anglicans and Lutherans alike— are available as sheet music from Concordia by clicking here.