Epiphany hymn is a jewel box

If last week’s Parish Choir and Choristers anthem, “Jesus Christ the apple tree,” was an all-purpose, multi-seasonal anthem, then Hymn 135 in The Hymnal 1982 is the all-purpose Epiphany hymn.

Aside from the fact that this hymn is one of the top 50 most beloved and well known in this parish, the hymn text, “Songs of thankfulness and praise,” really does trace the Epiphany miracles of Jesus throughout its stanzas.

With our three-year lectionary cycle, each of these miracles of Jesus is not found in our readings each year. However, this text included a number of every-year staples: the Magi following the star (Epiphany, January 6), the prophetic promise of David’s line (Advent), the Christ child’s birth in Bethlehem (Christmas, December 25) amd the Baptism of Christ (Epiphany II every year).

The last stanza, added to this Christopher Wadsworth (1807-1885) text by F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984) especially for The Hymnal 1982, documents the Transfiguration, part of the lectionary each year on the last Sunday of the Epiphany. This final stanza also foreshadows the triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), along with the Crucifixion (Good Friday) and Resurrection (Easter Day).

Many of the other Epiphany miracles are there: The changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana and the numerous miracles of healing by Jesus, namely physical healings, casting out demons, healings of spirit, “ever bring good from ill.”

Hymn 135 may be one of the most concise, densely packed, image-loaded texts in the entire book. On top of its fullness in tracing Jesus’ life, the text possesses litany-like elements, each stanza ending with the phrase “God in man made manifest.” And, by the way, how is that for a prime example of alliteration?

Finally, set to a German melody harmonized by the master himself, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), this hymn may be one of the most successful in all of Christian hymnody.

So, come to church Sunday, get a good grip on your hymnal and sing out vociferously!

Songs of thankfulness and praise, Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise, 
manifested by the star to the sages from afar; 
branch of royal David’s stem in thy birth at Bethlehem;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;

and at Cana, wedding-guest, in thy Godhead manifest;
manifest in power divine, changing water into wine;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest in making whole palsied limbs and fainting soul;
manifest in valiant fight, quelling all the devil’s might;
manifest in gracious will, ever bringing good from ill;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest on mountain height, shining in resplendent light,
where disciples filled with awe thy transfigured glory saw.
When from there thou leddest them steadfast to Jerusalem,
cross and Easter Day attest
God in man made manifest.

Christopher Wadsworth (1807-1885)
alt. F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984)

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 10:28 AM
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