Sacred Music Friday: We Three Kings of Orient Are

Today is Epiphany. We Three Kings of Orient Are, Angel City Chorale and audience sing-along.


Epiphany: an ambivalent perspective

So much has changed in the last year. The world looks very different, and not in a good way.

One thing that has not changed between now and then is my ambivalent perspective on Epiphany, which we celebrate tomorrow, 6 January. I felt that way last year and I feel that way this year.

Part of me identifies with the cynicism of W.H. Auden:

quoteOnce again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.

Read the whole passage here.

The other part of me wants to identify with the optimism of Howard Thurman:

quoteWhen the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost, ….
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.

Read the whole passage here.

I think, however, that these times require us to reach deep inside and muster the strength to follow Thurman’s path.

I’ll give it my best.


Epiphany, part 2

Today I am ready to try, at least, to leave behind the cynical realism of W.H. Auden, and embrace  the hopeful optimism of Howard Thurman.

quoteWhen the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.
—Howard Thurman

Epiphany blessings!


Epiphany, part 1

There are two passages I have used at Epiphany in the past. One is the optimistic, hopeful vision of Howard Thurman. The other is the somewhat cynical, but to my mind very realistic and accurate perspective of W.H. Auden. This year I am vacillating between the cynical and the hopeful, so I am bringing you both. Today the cynical realism of W.H. Auden. Tomorrow, on the actual day of Epiphany, the hopeful optimism of Howard Thurman.

quoteWell, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken — and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted — quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.
—W.H. Auden, from For the Time Being

And this year Lent is indeed not very far off. Ash Wednesday is early this year. It falls on 10 February.

And so we continue our journey.


Epiphany

Here is the classic carol for Epiphany. Of course the book of Matthew, the only gospel in which the story appears, does not use the word “kings” in Greek , but rather “magi.” The word is variously translated wise men, magicians, and sometimes astrologers. And Matthew makes no mention as to how many of them there were.

Nonetheless, enjoy this beautiful performance from Kings College, Cambridge.


Epiphany (& the liturgical calendar)

Today is Epiphany. That means we are well into the new liturgical year which began with the first Sunday of Advent on Dec 1st. So it’s not really so new any longer. We’re past Advent. The season of Christmas, twelve days on the liturgical calendar, is behind us.

Since I first became involved with the Episcopal Church, I have found that I mark my life by the liturgical calendar as much as I do by the secular calendar or by the changing of the seasons. In a Facebook post Susan Russell highlighted this statement from a blog post at All Saint’s Pasadena.

quote The beauty of the liturgical year is that we get a chance to re-do, to think, to worship in a new way each year, as we spiral toward the coming of God’s dream realized on earth. We go around the liturgical circle, and we start and end in a new place every time.
Christina Honchell

This is certainly my perspective.

And so it is. And so it goes.


the liturgical cycle

Yesterday was Epiphany, and as those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, I am fond of quoting W.H. Auden at this time of year. Not exactly an optimistic perspective, but reflective of how I often perceive reality.

Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.

Auden knew his liturgical calendar. And indeed, Ash Wednesday is early this year: 13 February. Not very far off indeed.

Yet if we can lift ourselves out of that ennui, we can find real meaning and value in the cycle of the liturgical year, even if we struggle at times to live it out to its fullest.

I recently read The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Joan Chittister. She tells us:

Life is not meant to be escaped, we learn, as the liturgical year moves from season to season, from feast to feast. It is meant to be penetrated, to be plumbed to its depths, to be tasted and savored and bring us to realize that the God who created us is with us yet. Life, we come eventually to know, is an exercise in transformation, the mechanics of which take a lifetime of practice, of patience, of slow, slow growth.

Wise counsel as we move through the liturgical seasons.