13 September 2022
Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Tuesday 13 September 2022
Today, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship (13 September) commemorates Saint John Chrysostom (407), Bishop of Constantinople, Teacher of the Faith, with a Lesser Festival.
I was able to leave the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, yesterday rather than this morning, following what is known as ‘gamma knife’ or stereotactic radiosurgery as a follow-up to my stroke (AVM) six months ago (18 March 2022).
Having stayed overnight in the patient accommodation beside the hospital, I hope to leave Sheffield later this morniong. But, before today begins, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:
1, One of the readings for the morning;
2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’
Saint John Chrysostom was born in Antioch ca 347. He was a brilliant preacher which earned him in the sixth century the surname ‘Chrysostom’, literally ‘golden-mouthed’. He is honoured as one of the four Greek Doctors of the Church. Against his wish, he was made Patriarch of Constantinople in 398. He set about reforming the Church and exposing corruption amongst the clergy and in the imperial administration. ‘Mules bear fortunes and Christ dies of hunger at your gate,’ he is alleged to have cried out.
He fell foul of the Empress Eudoxia and, in spite of the support of Pope Innocent I of Rome, was sent into exile twice, finally dying of exhaustion and starvation in September 407, with the words ‘Glory be to God for everything’ on his lips.
Matthew 5: 13-19 (NRSVA):
[Jesus said:] 13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’
‘Dona nobis pacem’ with the Eastman-Rochester Chorus, the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra and Michaela Anthony, soprano
Today’s reflection: ‘Beat! beat! drums!’ (Whitman)
For my reflections and devotions each day these few weeks, I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).
For these six days this week, I am listening to Dona nobis pacem, a cantata for soprano and baritone soli, chorus and orchestra.
The oratorio falls into the six continuous sections or movements, and I am listening to these movements one-by-one in sequence each morning.
I am posting a full recording of the cantata each day, so each movement can be listened to in context, but each morning I am listening to the movements in sequence, listening to one movement after another over these six days of Holy Week.
The six sections or movements are:
1, Agnus Dei
2, Beat! beat! drums! (Whitman)
3, Reconciliation (Whitman)
4, Dirge for Two Veterans (Whitman)
5, The Angel of Death (John Bright)
6, Dona nobis pacem (the Books of Jeremiah, Daniel, Haggai, Micah, and Leviticus, the Psalms, the Book of Isaiah, and Saint Luke’s Gospel)
This morning [13 September 2022] I am listening to the second movement, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’
2, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’
The second movement is a violent depiction of war and a furious setting of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Beat! beat! drums!’
The words this movement are based on a poem in Drum Taps written by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892). This poem was written after he had served as a volunteer nurse in the American Civil War. He was stunned by the death toll of over 600,000 in that war over the space of four years.
Whitman’s words describe the drums and bugles of war bursting through doors and windows. When war erupts, nothing and nobody is inviolate. Peaceful lives in schools and churches, of brides, farmers and sleepers, of old men and children are in turn swept aside by the warring sounds.
The setting of this movement is for choir, heralded by volleys of brass and rattling percussion. In the use of the bass drum and its key shifts by thirds, Vaughan Williams here recalls Verdi’s Dies irae.
The movement erupts with articulate fear, depicting a violence that destroys peaceful daily lives. In the examples – merchants and scholars disappearing while others pray, weep, and entreat – we sense the numbers of people being swept into war’s unremitting violence once again in the 1930s.
Beat! beat! drums!
Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows – through the doors – burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field, or gathering in his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.
Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses?
No sleepers must sleep in those beds;
No bargainers bargains by day – [no brokers or speculators] – would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
[Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?]
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums – you bugles wilder blow.
Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley – stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid – mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums – so loud you bugles blow.
Today’s Prayer (Tuesday 13 September 2022):
God of truth and love,
who gave to your servant John Chrysostom
eloquence to declare your righteousness
in the great congregation
and courage to bear reproach for the honour of your name:
mercifully grant to those who minister your word
such excellence in preaching,
that all people may share with them
in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Post Communion Prayer:
God of truth, whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with your servant John Chrysostom
to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘Holy Cross Day,’ and was introduced on Sunday with a prayer written by Naw Kyi Win, a final year undergraduate student at Holy Cross Theological College in the Church of Province of Myanmar.
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
We pray for the Church of the Province of Myanmar. May they be protected and blessed by God in all they do.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
Posted by Patrick Comerford at 06:30
Labels: Arkadi, Crete, Hospitals, Lichfield Cathedral, Mission, Music, Myanmar, Patristics, Penkridge, Prayer, Saint Matthew's Gospel, Saints, Sheffield, Stony Stratford, USPG, Vaughan Williams, War and peace
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