Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Second Sunday of Advent: some notes
on this morning’s readings and hymns

Candles in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, for the Advent Procession last Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

I am presiding at the Community Eucharist in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute this morning [8 December 2013]. This is the Second Sunday of Advent, and the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are: Isaiah 11: 1-10; Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19; Romans 15: 4-13; and Matthew 3: 1-12.

These readings are reflected in this morning’s hymns:

Processional Hymn: ‘Lo! he comes, with clouds descending’ (Irish Church Hymnal, 132) can be attributed to three writers. The original text is by John Cennick (1718-1755), who founded the first Moravian congregation in Ireland in Dublin in 1749 – and this hymn, inspired by Revelation 1: 7, was first sung in the Moravian Chapel in Dublin in 1750. Charles Wesley (1707-1788) rewrote the hymn.

The version we sing this morning owes much to later revisions by Martin Madan (1726-1790). The tune Helmsley may have been written by Thomas Olivers (1725-1799), but takes its name from a parish in Yorkshire where one of the earliest hymnals in the Church of England was published in 1767.

Gradual: ‘On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry’ (136) was originally thought to be a mediaeval Latin hymn. But it was written by Charles Coffin, Rector of the University of Paris, and first appeared in the Paris Breviary in 1718. It was translated by the Revd John Chandler (1806-1876), Vicar of Witley.

Offertory: ‘Come, thou long-expected Jesus’ (119) was first published by Charles Wesley in 1745. The tune, Cross of Jesus, is from the cantata by Sir John Stainer (1840-1901), The Crucifixion, which was first performed in 1887. Stainer was the Organist and Master of the Choristers at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, and later Heather Professor of Music at Oxford. It was said of him that “he was one of the very few touched with the radiance of the inner life of sacred music.”

Communion Hymn: During the distribution and reception of Holy Communion, we sing ‘Jesus, remember me’ (617), by Jacques Berthier and the TaizĂ© Community.

Post-Communion Hymn: ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ (135) is based on the Advent Antiphons or ‘Great Os’ from the ninth century or earlier. The version we sing this morning was translated in 1851 by John Mason Neale (1818-1866). The tune Veni Emmanuel was first published in 1854 by Thomas Helmore (1811-1890), who claimed it was based on a melody in a 15th century French Franciscan processional that he found in a library in Lisbon.

The French missal was never found, and it was suggested often that Helmore had written the tune himself until the late Dr Mary Berry of Cambridge found the tune in a 15th century processional used by French nuns.


Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post-Communion Prayer:

here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College, Dublin. These notes appear in the booklet prepared for this morning’s Eucharist.

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