by David Ouzts, Minister of Music and Liturgy
Revised Common Lectionary is very rich and quite fun for a sacred musician when
searching for companion music, anthems and hymns most especially. The Advent
readings are similar each Lectionary Year ABC: the First Sunday of Advent is
the “wait and watch” theme, while the Second and Third Sundays are devoted to
John the Baptist crying in the wilderness. The Fourth Sunday, however, is most
definitely “Mary’s Sunday.”
Sunday of Advent gospel readings are the Annunciation, either Joseph in a dream
(Year A, Matthew) or to Mary directly (Year B, Luke). For this Sunday (Dec.
20), the gospel is the Visitation (Year C, Luke), Mary’s visit to her cousin
Elizabeth during which the baby “leaped in her womb.” The scene ends with
Mary’s proclamation that we now know as that great canticle the Magnificat.
Communion hymns at the 10:30 liturgy this Sunday morning are Mary-specific.
“The angel Gabriel from heaven came,” otherwise known as Gabriel’s Message
or The Basque Carol, will be followed by “Ye who claim the faith of
Jesus” by contemporary Episcopal composer David Hurd (b. 1950). This beautiful,
gently rocking tune ends with the English translation of the Magnificat
as stanza four while the Latin Magnificat is sung simultaneously over it
as a descant by the sopranos. Ingenious, in my opinion!
of another traditional carol, The Linden Tree Carol¸ is the anthem at
the Offertory, music arranged by contemporary British composer Malcolm Archer
(b. 1952). Sadly, not much is known about this German carol other than it was
translated by the Reverend George Ratcliff Woodward (1848-1934), a prolific
English poet, writer and editor who also gave us “Ding, dong, merrily on high”
and “This joyful Eastertide,” also Holy Communion parish favorites.
always intrigued when poetic verse includes direct quotations, and Woodward’s
translation of The Linden Tree Carol includes two:
Mary!” quoth the angel mild,
womankind the fairest:
Virgin ay shalt thou be styled,
although thou bearest.”
response in Verse 4 is Woodward’s nod to the Magnificat:
it!” God’s handmaiden cried,
to thy telling.”
the angel smartly hied
homeward to his dwelling.
Image: Leonardo da Vinci's The Annunciation.