Wednesday, 16 January 2013

This evening’s service and hymns

El Greco, ‘The Baptism of Christ’ (ca 1598), the Prado Museum, Madrid … from this evening’s service sheet

Patrick Comerford

The readings at this evening’s Community Eucharist, along with the Collect and Post-Communion Prayer, are those for the First Sunday after the Epiphany: Isaiah 43: 1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8: 14-17; Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22.

The three great theme of Epiphany are: the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, and the Wedding at Cana. In each, we see Christ once hidden revealed in his glory as the King of Kings, the Lamb of God and the Saviour of the World.

In our response to the readings this evening we are drawing the prayers traditionally used in the Methodist Covenant Service at the beginning of the year. We will be reminded that “Christ has many services to be done,” and our response, like the visiting magi, is to lay all our treasures before him, and like John the Baptist to accept our own unworthiness.

And then we are invited to join in the feast of the kingdom.

Our hymns reflect the themes of Epiphany and covenant:

Our processional hymn is Charles Wesley’s ‘Christ, whose glory fills the skies’ (Irish Church Hymnal, No 52).

For a variation on the Canticle Gloria we are singing Christopher Idle’s ‘Glory in the highest heaven’ (Irish Church Hymnal, No 693). The tune, ‘Cuddesdon,’ by Canon William Henry Ferguson, is named after Cuddesdon Theological College, near Oxford, where the composer studied as an ordinand.

The Gradual, ‘When Jesus came to Jordan’ (Irish Church Hymnal, No 204), is by the great Methodist hymn writer of the last century, the Revd Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000), and calls on the Holy Spirit to “aid us to keep the vows we make.”

Our Offertory hymn, ‘Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness,’ is in the New English Hymnal (No 280) with a harmony by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The Post-Communion Hymn, ‘Bread of the world, in mercy broken’ (Irish Church Hymnal, 403), by Bishop Reginald Heber, has two settings in the Church Hymnal. The first was written by the Revd Charles John Dickinson while he was the Rector of Narraghmore, Co Kildare; the second is another harmonisation by Vaughan Williams, which he recommended singing twice, and which is based on a tune found in the French Genevan Psalter.

Bread of the world, in mercy broken,
wine of the soul, in mercy shed,
by whom the words of life were spoken,
and in whose death our sins are dead:
look on the heart by sorrow broken,
look on the tears by sinners shed;
and be your feast to us the token
that by your grace our souls are fed.

Ralph Vaughan Williams ... composer of the tunes for two of the hymns this evening

The Covenant Prayer:

And now, beloved, let us with all our heart renew our part in the covenant that God has made with his people, and take the yoke of Christ upon us.

This taking of his yoke means that we are heartily content that he should appoint us our place and work, and that he alone should be our reward.

Christ has many services to be done; some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, other are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is assuredly given us in Christ, who strengthens us.

Therefore let us make the covenant of God our own. Let us engage our heart to the Lord, and resolve in his strength never to go back.

Being thus prepared, let us now, in sincere dependence on his grace and trusting in his promises, yield ourselves anew to him:

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And this covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.


Eternal Father,
who at the baptism of Jesus
revealed him to be your Son,
anointing him with the Holy Spirit:
Grant to us, who are born of water and the Spirit,
that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer:
Refreshed by these holy gifts, Lord God,
we seek your mercy:
that by listening faithfully to your only Son,
and being obedient to the prompting of the Spirit,
we may be your children in name and in truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.