The Collect for the Day for the Second Sunday of Lent (Feb.
21) liturgically and wonderfully calls us on the carpet: “O God, whose
glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from
your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to
embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word.”
We are the ones “who have gone astray,” and God knows it and
loves us still. Actually, it was the old prophet Isaiah who was perhaps one of
the first to call us on the carpet, made musically famous by the Handel Messiah chorus:
All we like sheep have gone
astray; we have turned everyone to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6-7)
Lent is a welcomed confirmation that God does not and will
not forsake us. Try as we might to live blameless, blemish-free lives, we will
always fall short. Lent is a time when we may self-examine and try yet once
again to follow the One who was blameless and yet crucified.
When we turn away from the Lord, the Psalmist reminds us to
continually seek the Lord as he seeks us:
You speak in my heart
and say, "Seek my face. Your face, Lord, will I seek. (Psalm
And upon our behalf, the Psalmist goes even further:
Hide not your face
from me, nor turn away your servant in displeasure. (Psalm 27:12)
Sixteenth-century composer Richard Farrant (c. 1520 –
1585) was inspired by this last verse as he penned one of the absolute gems of
Renaissance English choral literature, “Hide not thou thy face from us, O Lord.”
Not much is known about Farrant’s early life, but we do know that he sang in
the Chapel Royal, wrote and furthered English dramas, founded the first
Blackfriars Theater in London and wrote the first English verse anthems.
He began his work at the Chapel Royal under Edward VI. He
participated in the coronations of Mary I and Elizabeth I and in the funerals
of Edward VI and Mary I. Under Elizabeth I, he became organist of St. George’s
Chapel at Windsor, where he remained for the rest of his life, later being also
appointed Master of the Chapel Royal. Having both of these choirs at his disposal
gave Farrant numerous opportunities to exhibit his compositions and dramas.
Farrant’s “Hide not thou face” is often paired with another
of his choral gems, “Call to remembrance, O Lord.” However, each gem stands
alone on its own.