This Sunday: It's About Light

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 parish.

Jesu, meine Lebens-Sonne! 
Jesu, meine Freud' und Wonne!
Jesu, du mein gantz Beginnen,
Lebens-Quell und Licht der Sinnen!
Hier fall ich zu deinen Füssen!
Laß mich würdiglich gemessen
Dieser deiner Himmels-Speise,
Mir zum Heyl, und dir zum Preise!

(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

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 16:45