Thursday, 20 June 2013

‘Hallelujah for the heart of God,
and from the hand of the artist inimitable’

‘Hallelujah for the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable, / and from the echo of the heavenly harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty’ (Benjamin Britten / Christopher Smart) … street art outside Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

After Choral Evensong in Christ Church Cathedral this evening [20 June 2013], we hosted a special prayer vigil in association with the South African Embassy to pray for the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

As people, communities and organisations throughout the world are coming together to pray for this great personality who has been a torchlight for freedom and the father of his nation, we came together to sing, speak, light candles and pray collectively.

There was diplomatic representation from many embassies, including South Africa, the US, Ethiopia and Kenya. The hymn singing was led by both the group ‘No Limits’ and Nono Madolo.

Our closing song was the great African ordination hymn that has been become the national anthem of South Africa: Nkosi sikele’ iAfrika.

At another time, it may be more appropriate to write about how I was in South Africa in the weeks immediately before Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island in 1990, and how I met him at press conferences, receptions and a special dinner in Dublin.

Earlier this evening, at Choral Evensong, we welcomed the members of the Cathedral Libraries and Archives Association, who are holding their conference in Christ Church Cathedral.

As an anthem, the choir sang ‘Rejoice in Lamb,’ a cantata by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) set to words from a poem, Jubilato Agno, by Christopher Smart (1722-1770).

Smart was deeply religious but often unbalanced in mind. Yet his poem shows many flashes of genius and is a reminder of how all creation is called to worship God.

As we are celebrating the centenary of Britten’s birth, I thought it was worth quoting this delightful cantata in full:

Rejoice in the Lamb

Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues; give the glory to the Lord, and the Lamb.
Nations, and languages, and every Creature In which is the breath of Life.

Let man and beast appear before him, and magnify his name together.
Let Nimrod, the mighty hunter, bind a leopard to the altar and consecrate his spear to the Lord.
Let Ishmail dedicate a tyger, And give praise for the liberty in which the Lord has let him at large.
Let Balaam appear with an ass, and bless the Lord his people and his creatures for a reward eternal.
Let Daniel come forth with a lion, and praise God with all his might through faith in Christ Jesus.
Let Ithamar minister with a chamois, and bless the name of Him that cloatheth the naked.
Let Jakim with the satyr bless God in the dance.
Let David bless with the Bear – The beginning of victory to the Lord –
to the Lord the perfection of excellence.

Hallelujah for the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable,
and from the echo of the heavenly harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty.

For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For he knows that God is his saviour.
For God has bless’d him in the variety of his movements.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty,
From whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God.

For the Mouse is a creature of great personal valour.
For – this is a true case – Cat takes female mouse,
Male mouse will not depart, but stands threat’ning and daring.
… If you will let her go, I will engage you, as prodigious a creature as you are.
For the Mouse is a creature of great personal valour.
For the Mouse is of an hospitable disposition.

For the flowers are great blessings.
For the flowers have their angels,
Even the words of God’s creation.
For the flower glorifies God
And the root parries the adversary.
For there is a language of flowers.
For the flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.

For I am under the same accusation with my Saviour,
For they said, He is besides himself.
For the officers of the peace are at variance with me,
And the watchman smites me with his staff.
For Silly fellow! Silly fellow! is against me,
And belongeth neither to me nor to my family.

For I am in twelve hardships,
But he that was born of a virgin shall deliver me out of all.

For H is a spirit and therefore he is God.
For K is king and therefore he is God.
For L is love and therefore he is God.
For M is musick and therefore he is God.

For the instruments are by their rhimes,
For the shawm rhimes are lawn fawn and the like.
For the shawm rhimes are moon boon and the like.
For the harp rhimes are sing ring and the like.
For the harp rhimes are ring string and the like.
For the cymbal rhimes are bell well and the like.
For the cymbal rhimes are toll soul and the like.
For the flute rhimes are tooth youth and the like.
For the flute rhimes are suit mute and the like.
For the bassoon rhimes are pass class and the like.
For the dulcimer rhimes are grace place and the like.
For the clarinet rhimes are clean seen and the like.
For the trumpet rhimes are sound bound and the like.
For the trumpet of God is a blessed intelligence and so are all the instruments in Heaven.
For God the Father Almighty plays upon the harp of stupendous magnitude and melody.
For at that time malignity ceases and the devils themselves are at peace.
For this time is perceptible to man by a remarkable stillness and serenity of soul.

Hallelujah for the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable,
and from the echo of the heavenly harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty.


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