Liturgy: A Mathematical Approach

Symbolism, numbers and a little mathematics are required for a thorough understanding of the scriptures, the liturgical year and the feast days of the Church. Some in the Protestant world will disagree with me, and I’m sure this was not all directly dictated by God. It just adds up this way.

And Christians who worship in the liturgical tradition prefer things to make sense. As an extreme J-type on the Myers-Briggs test, I certainly do.

Looking slightly back, 40 days comprise the season of Lent. Not to be outdone, Eastertide is 50 days, also known as The Great Fifty Days of Easter. The Day of Pentecost (penta = five) conveniently occurs 50 days after Easter Day. However, the Ascension occurs just before Pentecost on the 40th day after Easter Day, which by the weekly calendar is, therefore, always a Thursday. 

(Perhaps at this point in this blog I should insert a flow chart for explanation.)

Some feast days of the Church, namely All Saints’ and Ascension Day, may traditionally be celebrated on the Sunday following, which brings us to this Sunday (May 8), the Sunday after the Ascension. In the lessons for this Sunday, we will find heavens, clouds, angels and lots of glory, all appropriate to the Ascension of the Lord.

As a planned-ahead choir director, I often joke about hitting the nail on the head liturgically, and this Sunday’s 10:30 anthem is one of those occasions. Our worship tradition is, indeed, so very rich, and the interplay of themes, readings, and music makes it so. I am convinced that God speaks to us always, if not a little more poignantly when the readings and music are tightly wired together. 

The text of Henry Purcell’s (1659-1695) anthem “O God, the King of glory” is the Collect for the Sunday after the Ascension verbatim. At the beginning of the liturgy, you will hear the Celebrant pray this collect in a contemporary form, and the Parish Choir will sing these very words in their historic form:

O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph into heaven: We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless, but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place where our Saviour Christ is gone before us. Amen.

Image from The Dilettante Curator.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 11:53 AM
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