Monday, March 12, 2007

Hymn-of-the-Month (x2): March Madness edition

A long time ago, I proposed to do a Hymn-of-the-Month each month, with a sacramental theme naturally, and really wanted to get others involved in the process of choosing a hymn to highlight. However, after one measly effort, I let it drop, much to my embarrassment - odd, too, since this is an easy way to toss up a new post without major time investment.
So anyway, here's an effort to revive the Hymn-of-the-Month. To welcome back feature that was never even given the chance to become a feature, you get a 2-for-1 deal because it's March, the month of my birth, and my first-born's birth as well (any day now)! If you've got a good hymn, "sacramental" or otherwise - or anything, for that matter: reviews of books, albums, liturgies, worship services you've attended, etc - that you'd like to share in a future month, by all means, post it. "The more, the merrier" around here.
And to be clear, this is in no way to be confused with the "March Gladness" promotional that has recently been brought to my attention. [gags self]
The common theme of "(un)veiling" struck me when considering these two eucharistic hymns: that Christ is somehow simultaneously both concealed and revealed, both hidden and known, in the Church's celebration of the Supper. Rather than go too far with my own exposition of these two texts - and inevitably get caught up in questions about whether it is Christ in the bread and wine, or Christ in the ecclesial, liturgical performance, etc (the correct answer, by the way, is both) - I'll shut-up and let Saints Thomas and Wesley speak for themselves to provoke and inspire you as they might.
Thee we adore, O hidden Savior, thee,
Who in thy sacrament dost deign to be;
Both flesh and spirit at thy presence fail,
Yet here thy presence we devoutly hail.

O blest memorial of our dying Lord,
Who living bread to men doth here afford!
O may our souls for ever feed on thee,
And thou, O Christ, for ever precious be.

Fountain of goodness, Jesus, Lord and God,
Cleanse us, unclean, with thy most cleansing blood;
Increase our faith and love, that we may know
The hope and peace which from thy presence flow.

O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see,
May what we thirst for soon our portion be,
To gaze on thee unveiled, and see thy face,
The vision of thy glory and thy grace.
St. Thomas Aquinas (13th century); translated by James Woodford (1852)
Meter: 10 10 10 10
Music: Plainsong, Mode v (Adoro te, devote) (Solemnes)

* * * * *
Author of life divine, who hast a table spread,
Furnished with mystic wine and everlasting bread,
Preserve the life thyself hast given,
And feed and train us up for heaven.

Our needy souls sustain with fresh supplies of love,
Till all thy life we gain, and all thy fullness prove,
And, strengthened by thy perfect grace,
Behold without a veil thy face.
John (or Charles?) Wesley (1745)
Meter: 66 66 88
Music: Author of Life (John Stainer, 1875)
Oh, and while we're on the topic of sacred music, as I type this I'm listening to the new Wilco album (due out in May - please don't ask how I came into possession of it...), and it is really good. So's the new Arcade Fire album, Neon Bible, which begs for theological engagement.

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