28 August 2022

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Sunday 28 August 2022

‘Mary, Mother meek and mild, / Blessèd was she in her Child’ … the former High Altar and reredos in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity. Later this morning, I hope to attend the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Giles and Saint Mary in Stony Stratford.

But, before today gets busy, 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.’

‘When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (Luke 14: 13) … tables waiting for diners outside a restaurant in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 14: 1, 7-14 (NRSVA):

1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. 8 ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

12 He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

Today’s reflection: ‘Virgin born, we bow before thee’

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).

This morning, I invite you to join me in listening to the hymn ‘Virgin born, we bow before thee’ by Bishop Reginald Heber (1783-1826).

This hymn is found in both the New English Hymnal (187) and the Irish Church Hymnal (No 185). It is addressed to Christ, but praises his mother, the Virgin Mary.

In the New English Hymnal, this hymn is set to the melody Mon dieu, prête moi l’orielle by Louis Bourgeois (ca 1510-1561) in the French Psalter of 1542 (Psalm 86), and harmonised for the English Hymnal in 1906 by Vaughan Williams. However, this tune is the only second choice of setting for this hymn in the Irish Church Hymnal.

The same tune was also used by Gustav Holst in 1920 as the basis for his setting of Psalm 86 for chorus, string orchestra and organ.

Louis Bourgeois was the choirmaster of Saint Peter’s Church, Geneva. Under the patronage of the Reformer John Calvin, he was the music editor of successive versions of the Geneva Psalter from 1542 to 1551.

The author of this morning’s hymn, Bishop Reginald Heber, also wrote ‘God that madest earth and heaven’ (‘Ar Hyd Y Nos’), which we listened to last Thursday [25 August 2022].

Heber wrote this hymn with the Third Sunday in Lent or Mothering Sunday in mind, with lines 2 and 5 of Stanza 1 (‘blessed was the womb that bore thee’) echoing the closing words of the Gospel reading originally appointed for that Sunday in The Book of Common Prayer: ‘Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked’ (Luke 11: 27).

Today, this hymn is often used on the Feast of the Presentation (2 February), the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March), and Christmas Day (25 December), as well as being suitable on Mothering Sunday.

Virgin-born, we bow before thee:
Blessèd was the womb that bore thee;
Mary, Mother meek and mild,
Blessèd was she in her Child.
Blessèd was the breast that fed thee;
Blessèd was the hand that led thee;
Blessèd was the parent’s eye
That watched thy slumbering infancy.

Blessèd she by all creation,
Who brought forth the world’s salvation,
And blessèd they, for ever blest,
Who love thee most and serve thee best.
Virgin-born, we bow before thee;
Blessèd was the womb that bore thee;
Mary, Mother meek and mild,
Blessèd was she in her Child.

The Virgin Mary and the Christ Child … a statue at the West Door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer, Sunday 28 August 2022 (Trinity XI):

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
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:

Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated that one true sacrifice
which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace:
by our communion
keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel
and preserve us from all sin;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary all this week is ‘A New Province.’

The Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola (IAMA) was officially created on 24 September 2021 at the conclusion of the provincial synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

The new province is made up of the second and third largest Portuguese-speaking countries in the world and joins provinces in Brazil and Portugal as the only Lusophone provinces in the Anglican Communion.

IAMA is ‘a province standing on its own feet, steeped in evangelism and focused on sharing the love of God’, according to the Most Revd Carlos Simao Matsinhe, Acting Presiding Bishop of the province. He adds, ‘I hope this province is driven by discipleship and evangelism. Part of our plan is to build a provincial theological college so that we can equip our clergy and lay people. Communities in Mozambique and Angola face issues such as climate change, political unrest and income inequality, and we hope our new province will be able to practically serve these communities’.

The Right Revd Vicente Msosa, Bishop of the Diocese of Niassa in the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola, shares his prayer requests in the USPG Prayer Diary throughout this week.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Giving God,
May we prioritise people over profit.
Lead us not to pursue worthless things,
but to truly value each other.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Bishop Vicente Msosa of Niassa speaking on the formation of the new Anglican Province of Mozambique and Angola at the USPG conference in High Leigh last month (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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

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