Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spring Ember Days

From the Daily Offices for the Week of the First Sunday in Lent in the Book of Divine Worship.

Collect for the First Sunday in Lent.
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Make speed to help thy servants who are assaulted by manifold temptations; and, as thou knowest their several infirmities, let each one find thee mighty to save; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week are the traditional spring Ember Days on which one or more of these collects are read at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer:

I. For those to be ordained.
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed various orders in thy Church: Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are [now] called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

II. For the choice of fit persons for the ministry.
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

III. For all Christians in their vocation.
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Show Me the Way to Go Home...

This past Sunday, First Sunday in Lent, at my local Novus Ordo parish we started and ended with beautiful old Anglican hymns. For the processional it was Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days by Claudia F. Hernaman (1873), set to the tune St. Flavian, and for the recessional Forty Days and Forty Nights by George H. Smyttan (1856), set to the tune Heinlein. They were especially moving sung in that order. The first has a simple upbeat tune that invites us to join in the experience of Jesus in the desert while marking the transition from the outside secular "hubbub" to the reflective sacred space of the temple of God. The second repeats the theme, but to a more somber tune, sending us out in a mood to keep a holy lent in spite of the many distractions we shall face through the week.

At the offertory is was a contemporary hymn, "Hosea" by Gregory Norbet, OSB, published by the Benedictine Monks of Weston Priory in Vermont. Can't say that I remember anything from it, however I made a note at the time -- "Not bad."

The post communion hymn, "Save Your People" by Jim Farrell, was based on the Psalm Dominus illuminatio (Ps 27; 26 in the Vulgate). The refrain, with it's line "show us the way to come home," is set to a simple pleasant melody and reminds me ever so much of--
Show me the way to go home.
I'm tired and I want to go to bed.
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it went right to my head.

There's a verse too, not that it has much of a melody to sing it to.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sen. Brown Calls For Protection Of Religious Liberty

Res Publica
Sen. Brown Calls For Protection Of Religious Liberty
by David Trumbull -- February 24, 2012

U.S. Senator Scott Brown (Republican, Massachusetts) has issued the following statement on the Department of Health and Human Services mandate under the 2010 health care law that religious organizations either participate in health care plans that violate their religious beliefs or face punitive fines:
"One of our most cherished liberties is freedom of religion. Like Ted Kennedy before me, I support a conscience exemption for religious organizations in health care. No one should be forced by government to violate the teachings of their faith. I encourage President Obama to re-examine his health care law and make sure no one is being forced to do something that is contrary to their religious beliefs."
Recently The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston reported that Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York said that President Barack Obama's revision to the contraceptive mandate in the health reform law did nothing to change the U.S. bishops' opposition to what they regard as an unconstitutional infringement on religious liberty.

The Obama Administration has posted a set of false and misleading claims that the President has compromised with the Catholic Church. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded, pointing out that --
  • The original rule that violated our religious liberty so severely has not been changed, but finalized.
  • HHS has promised some kind of “accommodation,” but only after the election.
  • The promised “accommodation”—even at its best—would still force our institutions to violate their beliefs.
  • There is no exemption for objecting insurers, secular employers, for-profit religious employers, or individuals.
Speaking of the Obama Administration's attack on the Catholic Church, Cardinal Dolan said: "Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights."

Cardinal Dolan also said that some very prominent attorneys, some of them non-Catholic and even nonreligious, had already volunteered to represent the bishops. This is the central issue. If Obama can force Catholic hospitals to pay for something they believe to be morally impermissible, then any President, liberal or conservative can force anyone to do anything he wants. Liberals who think this through should be as afraid of the precedent as are conservatives.

Now it sits with Congress and the Courts to thwart the President's power grab. Will they act to protect freedom of religion in America? Or will our children and grandchildren see come to pass the prediction of Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago? Cardinal George, in 2010, said: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy Bissextile Day

Our calendars which number the days of the month sequentially from the first day of the month result in a 29th day added to the end of February in the "leap" year, however this is not strictly correct. The "leap" day is in fact, added before the 24th. The 24th day of February is in roman usage ante diem sextum calendas martii (A.D. VI KAL. MAR.), the sixth day before the Kalends of March, every fourth year the calendar adds a second February 24, or bis, meaning twice, sextum, meaning sixth, day before March. For more about the Julian/Gregorian calendar click here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nun Dunket Alle Gott

This morning I again attended Mass at the local Novus Ordo parish and made notes regarding the hymns, which were considerably improved over the past couple of weeks.

At the processional we sang Be Thou My Vision, a traditional Irish hymn, translated by Eleanor H. Hull and versified by Mary Elizabeth Byrne. It was set to the moving tune Slane, to which the hymn Lord of All Hopefulness has also been set.

The offertory hymn, the so-called "Prayer of St. Francis," set to music by Sebastian Temple, is an example of how "contemporary" hymnody, even when it is good -- and "Prayer of St. Francis" is very good, being both theologically sound and musically pleasing -- nevertheless fails as a congregational hymn. "Prayer of St. Francis" sung by a choir at communion could serve very well to assist in putting the communicants in the proper mood to receive their Lord, but it is not something that a congregation of non-trained singers can pull off.

The post-communion and recessional hymns offer an interesting contrast.

"Taste and See," by James E. Moore, Jr. is based on the Psalm Benedicam Dominum (Ps. 34; 35 in the vulgate). The refrain, "Taste and See the goodness of the Lord. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord," (yes, it repeats) sung, as it is, four times, certainly brings home the message of the first half of the eighth verse of the Psalm. The three hymn verses consist of 88 words chopped into eight sentences. Now, it is true that Hebrew poetry employs short (by English standards) sentences, so I suppose one could argue that Moore is being faithful to the original. However, even a translation, let alone a paraphrase, ought to follow at least some English language conventions. "Taste and See," aside from the eminently forgettable melody, fails stylistically as English poetry.

Now compare that to the magnificent Lutheran hymn we ended with. Now Thank We All Our God, words by Martin Rinkart (1586–1649); music by Johann Crüger (1598-1662), in the familiar translation by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) arranges 126 words into three well-crafted sentences.
1. Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

2. O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

3. All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Wisdom from Washington
by David Trumbull
February 17, 2012

Wednesday is the 280th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. Since 1971 Washington's Birthday has been observed, as a public holiday, on the third Monday in February. The day is commonly called "Presidents Day," but the legal name remains, "Washington's Birthday."
"First in war—first in peace—and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and enduring scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting. To his equals he was condescending, to his inferiors kind, and to the dear object of his affections exemplarily tender; correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence, and virtue always felt his fostering hand; the purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues. His last scene comported with the whole tenor of his life—although in extreme pain, not a sigh, not a groan escaped him; and with undisturbed serenity he closed his well-spent life. Such was the man America has lost—such was the man for whom our nation mourns." -- Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee
We could do no better, in reflecting on the life and influence of President Washington, than to consult his 1796 Farewell Address to the nation written as he prepared to retire from public life. It was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers across the country and later in pamphlet form.

In the address Washington argues that the Union of the States "ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty: and that "there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands." He warns against sectionalism: North versus South, or Atlantic versus West. He praises the Constitution, which he declares, "improved upon [the Articles of Confederation]" and "better calculated than [the Articles] for an intimate union." The Constitution, he says, "till changed by an explicit and authentic at of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all." As every schoolboy knows, he then goes on to warn against factions and "the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally."

Washington stresses the need for religion and morality if the republic is to be preserved. And he exhorts to maintain good public credit and to be careful with regard to public debt "not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear." Finally Washington warns against foreign alliances.

The full text of the Address is available at libraries and online. It's just a pity someone can't feed it into President Obama's teleprompter!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus

This evening I again attended the vigil Mass at the local Novus Ordo parish and made notes regarding the hymns.

We started with "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy" by Catholic convert from Anglicanism, Frederick William Faber (1814-1863) set, to the 18th century Dutch hymn tune In Babilone. The music is beautiful and the words moving.

The offertory hymn, "All My Days," was written by Dan Schutte and is based on the Psalm Domine, Dominus noster (Ps. 8). With the first line of the first verse a "red flag" went up. Schuette's text was "You have made me a little less than a god," which he must have intended as some sort of paraphrase of verses four and five:
"4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? * and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 Thou madest him lower than the angels, * to crown him with glory and worship."
or in the Vulgate:
"5 quid est homo quod memor es eius aut filius hominis quoniam visitas eum
6 minuisti eum paulo minus ab angelis gloria et honore coronasti eum"
Schutte's text employs the word "god" where "angels" is more conventional, and although it is true that the Hebrew text has "elohim" (i.e., "gods") it is equally true that "elohim" can mean "angels" and was so translated into the Greek of the Septuagint; "angels" is also the word the Vulgate picked up, as have most English translations.

More troublesome is Schutte putting the Psalm into the first person. Christian tradition, following the Epistle to the Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5 through 9, usually interprets the "Son of man" in Psalm 8 as the Christ --
"2:5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. 2:6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? 2:7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: 2:8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."

The post-communion hymn, "Seed, Scattered and Sown, was written by Dan Feiten and is based on the Didcahe 9, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, and Mark 4:3-6. Published in the 1980s, I found it one of the most theologically sound and musically pleasant of "contemporary" hymns.

St. Joseph's Parish saved the best for last at this Mass. "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus," by William Chatterton Dix (1837–1898), insurance executive and part-time hymn-writer, is one of the greatest of 19th century English praises to our Lord. It was set to that grand old Welsh hymn tune -- a tune to which many hymns have been set -- Hyfrydol by Rowland Huw Prichard (1811-1887). It is one of my favorites. When, last year I started learning to play the piano, I picked it out as the first "real music" (as opposed to exercise) that I had my instructress show me how to play. Co-incidentally, I passed the time walking to Mass today by humming Hyfrydol, little thinking that I'd be singing it at the end of Mass.

30 Years Ago in Cass City, Michigan

Thirty years ago, Friday, February 12, 1982, this photo was taken on Green Road, just south of state highway 81. The trees on the right were a bit more than half-way to the house I grew up in, which was a quarter-of-a-mile off the highway and the only house for two miles on Green Road.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Obama to Catholics, "To Hell with You"

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
Obama to Catholics, "To Hell with You"
by David Trumbull
February 10, 2012

The harsh words that head this column paraphrase the words of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik. The subject was the determination of the Obama Administration to force Catholic hospitals to pay for abortions, something that they cannot do and remain Catholic.

Bishop Zubik wrote: "It comes like a slap in the face. The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, 'To Hell with you!'"

Bishop Slattery of Tulsa wrote: "As your bishop, I want to make it clear that I consider this mandate unconstitutional, unjust and evil.

"Because this mandate is unconstitutional, we will refuse to comply with it.

"This mandate is evil, because not only does it require that all Catholics cooperate in sin by providing for and paying for coverage for gravely immoral actions which have as their final end the destruction of human life, but also by requiring that Catholics who do not cooperate in this should be punished. Were we to comply with this law, we would offend God and imperil our souls. We will not comply.

"This mandate is unjust because it imposes a secular definition of religious freedom that makes it a crime to practice our faith in the public square... In this matter, President Obama’s administration has overstepped its authority. This is what Pope Leo XIII cautioned against when he wrote over a hundred years ago: 'if the will of rulers is opposed to the will and the laws of God, then those rulers exceed the bounds of their own power and pervert justice. Nor can their authority be valid, since authority without justice is null.' From the founding of our nation, we Catholic have always obeyed the laws. But this law, we cannot obey."

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said:

"The Catholic Church defends religious liberty, including freedom of conscience, for everyone. The Amish do not carry health insurance. The government respects their principles. Christian Scientists want to heal by prayer alone, and the new health-care reform law respects that. Quakers and others object to killing even in wartime, and the government respects that principle for conscientious objectors. By its decision, the Obama administration has failed to show the same respect for the consciences of Catholics and others who object to treating pregnancy as a disease."

* * *

I don't know what motivated Obama to pick a fight with the Catholic Church. Perhaps he believes it will please his liberal base which is disappointed in his failure to keep his campaign promises. Whatever the reason, he has made it clear he wants a fight with the Church. Well, then, BRING IT ON!

Our Lady of Lourdes, Feb. 11th

For February 11th, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, an except from LE PELERINAGE DE LOURDES, the encyclical of Pope Pius XII Warning Against Materialism on the Centerary of the Appartions at Lourdes:
35. In a society which is barely conscious of the ills which assail it, which conceals its miseries and injustices beneath a prosperous, glittering, and trouble-free exterior, the Immaculate Virgin, whom sin has never touched, manifests herself to an innocent child. With a mother's compassion she looks upon this world redeemed by her Son's blood, where sin accomplishes so much ruin daily, and three times makes her urgent appeal: "Penance, penance, penance!" She even appeals for outward expressions: "Go kiss the earth in penance for sinners." And to this gesture must be added a prayer: "Pray to God for sinners."...

43. But however important it may be, the conversion of the individual pilgrim is not enough. We exhort you in this jubilee year, Beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, to inspire among the faithful entrusted to your care a common effort for the Christian renewal of society in answer to Mary's appeal.

44. "May blind spirits . . . be illumined by the light of truth and
justice," Pius XI asked during the Marian feasts of the Jubilee of the Redemption, "so that those who have gone astray into error may be brought back to the straight path, that a just liberty may be granted the Church everywhere, and that an era of peace and true prosperity may come upon all the nations."

45. But the world, which today affords so many justifiable reasons for pride and hope, is also undergoing a terrible temptation to materialism which has been denounced by Our Predecessors and Ourselves on many occasions.

46. This materialism is not confined to that condemned philosophy which dictates the policies and economy of a large segment of mankind. It rages also in a love of money which creates ever greater havoc as modern enterprises expand, and which, unfortunately, determines many of the decisions which weigh heavy on the life of the people. It finds expression in the cult of the body, in excessive desire for comforts, and in flight from all the austerities of life. It encourages scorn for human life, even for life which is destroyed before seeing the light of day.

47. This materialism is present in the unrestrained search for pleasure, which flaunts itself shamelessly and tries, through reading matter and entertainments, to seduce souls which are still pure. It shows itself in lack of interest in one's brother, in selfishness which crushes him, in justice which deprives him of his rights - in a word, in that concept of life which regulates everything exclusively in terms of material prosperity and earthly satisfactions.

48. "And I will say to my soul. the rich man said, Soul, thou hast many good things laid up for many years; take thy ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said to him, Thou fool, this night do they demand thy soul of thee."

49. To a society which in its public life often contests the supreme rights of God, to a society which would gain the whole world at the expense of its own soul and thus hasten to its own destruction, the Virgin Mother has sent a cry of alarm.

50. May priests be attentive to her appeal and have the courage to preach the great truths of salvation fearlessly. The only lasting renewal, in fact, will be one based on the changeless principles of faith, and it is the duty of priests to form the consciences of Christian people.

51. Just as the Immaculate, compassionate of our miseries, but discerning our real needs, came to men to remind them of the essential and austere steps of religious conversion, so the ministers of the Word of God should, with supernatural confidence, point out to souls the narrow road which leads to life. They will do this without forgetting the spirit of kindness and patience which they profess, but also without concealing anything of the Gospel's demands. In the school of Mary they will learn to live not only that they may give Christ to the world, but also, if need be, to await with faith the hour of Jesus and to remain at the foot of the cross.

52. Assembled around their priests, the faithful must cooperate in this effort for renewal. Wherever Providence has placed a man, there is always more to be done for God's cause. Our thoughts turn first to the host of consecrated souls who, within the framework of the Church, devote themselves to innumerable good works. Their religious vows dedicate them more than others to fight victoriously under Mary's banner against the onslaught which inordinate lust for freedom, riches, and pleasure makes on the world. In response to the Immaculate, they will resolve to oppose the attacks of evil with the weapons of prayer and penance and by triumphs of charity.

53. Our thoughts turn also to Christian families. to ask them to remain faithful to their vital mission in society. May they consecrate themselves in this jubilee year to the Immaculate Heart of Mary! For married couples this act of piety will be a valuable aid in performing their conjugal duties of chastity and faithfulness. It will keep pure the atmosphere in which their children grow up. Even more, it will make the family, inspired by its devotion to Mary, a living center of social rebirth and apostolic influence.

54. Beyond the family circle, professional and civic affairs offer a vast field of action for Christians who desire to work for the renewal of society. Gathered about the Virgin's feet, docile to her exhortations, they will first take a searching look at themselves and will try to uproot from their consciences any false judgments and selfish impulses, fearing the falsehood of a love for God which does not translate itself into effective love for their brothers.

55. Christians of every class and every nation will try to be of one mind in truth and charity, and to banish misunderstanding and suspicion. Without doubt, social structures and economic pressures of enormous weight burden the good will of men and often paralyze it. But if it is true, as Our predecessors and We Ourselves have insistently stressed, that the quest for social and political peace among men is, above all, a moral problem, then no reform can bear fruit, no agreement can be lasting without a conversion and cleansing of heart. In this jubilee year the Virgin of Lourdes reminds all men of this truth! ...

Given at Rome, from Saint Peter's, on the feast of the Visitation of the Most Holy Virgin, July 2, 1957, the nineteenth year of Our Pontificate.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Letter from Cardinal Sean Regarding Obama Administration Ruling

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Allow me this opportunity to share with you important information concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people — the Catholic population — and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies. The Church has had to struggle against regulations like those now proposed by HHS in several states. This HHS ruling would expand and intensify a situation which is already very harmful.

In its ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled and must be prepared either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

We cannot simply accept this unjust law now proposed at the federal level. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

In order that we make every effort to respond to this proposed restriction on religious liberty I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I recommend that you visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website,, to learn more about this assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.

With the assurance of my prayers for you and all your loved ones, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Cardinal Seán O’Malley , OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Boston

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Of Thee I Sing

This evening I attended the vigil Mass at the local Novus Ordo parish and once again thought, No wonder Catholics don't sing if this is what they are given as hymn tunes.

The first hymn, "Let Us Go to the Altar" was based on the Psalm Judica me, Deus (Psalm 43, 42 in the Vulgate) and, surprising for a composition by Daniel L. Schutte, had a singable melody in three-quarter time. However, the musical phrasing and the text were not well matched, and there is little likelihood that anyone will hum the tune while doing chores. It wasn't exactly bad just not all that good.

For the offertory we sang "Seek Ye First" by Karen Lafferty. The words were a paraphrase of Matthew 6:33. I enjoyed the simple, pleasant melody, which far surpassed the typical "contemporary" hymn tune. By simple, I do mean simple; it reminded me of the hymns that the 1940 Episcopal Church hymnal classified as "for children." Still, a good choice given the limited choices in the hymnal (the name of which I must remember to write down next time) used at St. Joseph's.

Well, if "Seek Ye First" had lulled me into a false sense that maybe the music was improving, the post communion hymn jolted me back to the unpleasant reality of bad Catholic hymnody. "On Eagle's Wings" by Michael Jonas, has to be one of the worst hymns ever written. It is based on the Psalm Domine, refugium (Psalm 90, 89 in the Vulgate) and the words are a prose paraphrase of the original, and therein lies the first problem: what is point of setting a prose paraphrase to music when there exist many good rendering of the Psalm into English poetry? Then there is the music! Possibly someone who has studied voice seriously for several years could sing "On Eagle's Wings," I don't know. What I do know is that the typical congregation cannot possibly join in something with no clear time signature, an irregular meter, and an ever-changing melody time and tempo.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Poems on the Putting Away of the Last of the Seasonal Greenery on Candlemas

Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas hall;
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.


Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve

Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box, for show.

The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter-day,
Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.


The Ceremonies for Candlemas Day

Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn;
Which quench'd, then lay it up again,
Till Christmas next return.

Part must be kept, wherewith to teend
The Christmas log next year;
And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.

--Robert Herrick, 1591-1674.