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    Second Sunday after Easter (May 5, 2019)

    On every Sunday between Easter and Ascension Day, the Psalm texts chosen for use in the Introit (and often on other propers) refer to singing God’s praises. Last week the Introit enjoined us: “Sing we merrily unto God our helper!” Next week: “Sing praises unto the honor of his name!” The following week: “O sing unto the Lord a new song!” On the fifth Sunday after Easter: “With a voice of singing declare ye this and let it be heard . . .” And on Ascension Day: “O sing unto God with the voice of melody.” Today’s Introit is not quite as explicit as those others, but we are enjoined to…

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    First Sunday after Easter “Low Sunday” (April 28, 2019)

    The first Sunday after Easter has many “aliases.” Within the Anglican Communion, this day is traditionally called Low Sunday; the origins of that name are at best obscure. It is often suggested that the name suggests the inferiority of this Sunday to the Great Sunday that we celebrated last week, the Sunday our Prayerbook designates “Easter Day.” The term “Octave of Easter” is used to designate the eight-day period that starts on Easter Sunday, so the “Octave Day of Easter” can also be used to name Easter’s eighth day. Among Eastern Christians, it is sometimes called St. Thomas Sunday, with reference to the appearance of Jesus to his doubting —…

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    Easter Sunday (April 21, 2019)

    Our processional hymn on Easter Sunday — “Christ the Lord is risen today” — has been sung in one form or another for many centuries. The original Latin carol (Christmas is not the only feast with carols) comes to us from a 14th-century manuscript. It was first published in an English translation in 1708, a time when churches in England were just beginning to break away from the practice of only singing Psalms during worship. The tune to which we sing the hymn — known variously as EASTER HYMN, EASTER MORN, or SALISBURY — has been linked with this text since it first appeared in English in 1708. The plentiful…

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    Good Friday (April 19, 2019)

    On this dark day, our service begins with a triumphant Processional hymn: “Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle.” This hymn reminds us that the Victim on the Cross was finally triumphant. Tongues and battles are both referenced in the Tract proper for this day, which is taken from Psalm 140. The psalmist is acutely aware of threats from evil and wicked men: “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent: adder’s poison is under their lips.” They are described as those who “imagine mischief in their hearts.” The word “mischief” has lost much of its power today, suggesting childish waywardness. The word’s etymology suggests things that end very badly, like…

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    Maundy Thursday (April 18, 2019)

    This service’s Processional hymn — “Go to dark Gethsemane” — invites us to meditate on, vicariously experience, and so learn from the physical and emotional sufferings that Christ endured in the hours culminating on the cross. The point-of-view enjoined in the hymn moves from that of an observer  (“Your Redeemer’s conflict see,” “View the Lord of life arraigned,” “Mark the miracle of time”) to that of an imitator (“Learn of Jesus Christ to pray,” etc.). 1. Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter’s power; your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with him one bitter hour; turn not from his griefs away, learn of Jesus Christ to pray. 2. Follow…

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    Passion Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent (April 7, 2019)

    The term “Passiontide” traditionally refers to the two weeks preceding Easter, so the fifth Sunday in Lent has commonly been known as Passion Sunday. During the coming days, our meditation on the redemptive passion (that is, the suffering) of Christ becomes even more focused, aided by many allusive elements in today’s service. The Epistle reading from the letter to the Hebrews explains the superiority of the blood of Christ to that of bulls and goats used in Temple sacrifices; the shedding of his blood has the power to “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” The final verse in the Gospel reading depicts an outright attempt to…

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    Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 31, 2019)

    Portions of Psalm 122 are heard in the Preface, Gradual, and Communion propers for this Sunday. In the middle of Lent, we are reminded of the joy of being in the Church. “I was glad when the said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord.” This refers to more than being in a building; it is an affirmation of the Church as our Mother. Hence, the verse from Isaiah 66, also heard in the Introit: “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem: and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: that ye may suck, and be…

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    Third Sunday in Lent (March 24, 2019)

    Our opening hymn —“We sing the praise of him who died” — is frequently sung during Passiontide, but its confidence in the mercy effected by the cross is anticipates the plea for mercy from Psalm 25 which is uttered in today’s Introit: “Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me: for I am desolate and in misery.” Another theme that recurs throughout the service is the desire for God’s protection. In the Introit, trust in that protection is affirmed: “he shall pluck my feet out of the net.” In today’s Collect, we pray that God will “stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defense against all…

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    Second Sunday in Lent (March 17, 2019)

    The Epistle and Gospel readings for this Sunday present an exhortation toward sanctification and an account of a healing miracle. The Collect speaks of both themes, in asking that God would “keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls.” The Introit also echoes the idea of being kept from dangers by God with phrases from Psalm 25: “Let not our enemies triumph over us: deliver us, O God of Israel, out of all our troubles.” Our opening hymn — “Spread, O spread, thou mighty word” — is a call to convey the Gospel’s message of deliverance from sin and death, and of the possibility of holy…

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    First Sunday in Lent (March 10, 2019)

    The Propers chanted by the choir on this first Sunday in Lent are dominated by verses taken from Psalm 91. It is rare for one biblical passage to be so prominent throughout the service, but this Sunday is exceptional. On this Sunday we enter a liturgical season in which Christ’s forty days in the wilderness (narrated in today’s Gospel reading) is remembered. That experience is marked preeminently by the Son’s faithfulness and trust in the Father’s protection, the theme of Psalm 91. Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner writes that Psalm 91 “is a psalm for danger: for times of exposure and encirclement or of challenging the power of evil.” As we…