Worshipping in and planning music for the liturgical church
tradition is rich to say the least. The liturgical worship tradition forces us
to relive the events of Jesus’ life annually, which I believe is a good thing.
If Jesus lived through it all, then so can we… including the Resurrection!
Yes, all Christian traditions observe the “biggies”
(Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, etc.), but liturgical worship makes sure we do
not miss all the others (Epiphany, Good Friday, Ascension, Transfiguration, etc.). And we have the lectionary cycle of readings to lead us along the way.
When I read and attempt to digest our lectionary readings, I
am always reminded of the words of an Episcopalian sacred musician friend from
years ago, who just happened to grow up in a more conservative tradition: “I
was immediately drawn to the Anglican tradition because of the generous
portions of scripture that we read each Sunday. I grew up hearing 45-minute
sermons based upon two or three verses of scripture.”
I love different aspects about all of our liturgical
seasons, but Epiphany is one that catches me immediately. Throughout the season
our Gospel readings are examples of how Jesus manifests himself into our world.
That great hymn text of Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) says it all:
manifest at Jordan’s stream, manifest in power divine, manifest in gracious
will, manifest in making whole palsied limbs, manifest on mountain height,
manifest in valiant fight quelling all the devil’s might.
Each Sunday’s readings have a central theme or thread, which
is almost instantly recognizable to the reader or worshipper and the readings
for this Sunday are a stellar (pun intended)
example. In the Collect of the Day alone we find light, illumined, shine, radiance, glory. Throughout the other
readings we find such references as shines
like the dawn (Isaiah), shines like a
burning torch (Isaiah), in your light
we see your light (Psalm), and Jesus
revealed his glory (John).
The choir will shine
this Sunday as well by singing a beautiful 17th-century Johann
Franck poem translated by Catherine Winkworth in 1858 and set to music by the
German-turned-Brit master George Frideric Handel (1685-1759). “Jesus, sun of
life, my spelendor” is actually stanza seven of a nine-stanza poem, of which we also
have three stanzas in The Hymnal 1982 as
Hymn 339 “Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness,” one of our favorites in this
Jesu, meine Lebens-Sonne!
Jesu, meine Freud' und
Jesu, du mein gantz
Lebens-Quell und Licht
Hier fall ich zu
Laß mich würdiglich
Mir zum Heyl, und dir
(Johann Franck, 1647-53)
Jesus, Sun of Life, my Splendor,
Jesus, Thou, my Friend most tender,
Jesus, Joy of my desiring,
Fount of Life, my soul inspiring,
At Thy feet I cry, my Maker,
Let me be a fit partaker
Of this blessed food from heaven,
For our good, Thy glory given.
(Catherine Winkworth, tr. 1858)
Photo: "Sunride Aachen" by User:Lusitana - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons