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The Anglican Way

  • Posted on Jun 18, 2018

This meditation is the homily from last Sunday’s 1662 Morning Prayer service which was part of the Mountainside Baroque Summer Music festival.  The Scholars of St Cecelia sang canticles from William Bryd’s Great Service and we chanted to the tunes composed by Thomas Morley.  It was a service of mystery and beauty.  The Episcopal Liturgy allows us to access our suffering souls and AT THE VERY SAME TIME be comforted in the hope of new life.  Read on…..

The Anglican Way

The high cedar shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell. Ezekiel 17:22-24

Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth. But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under its branches. Mark 4:30-32

In the name of God, Father Son and Holy Ghost. AMEN.
Many of us have been immersed in the 16th and 17th century since Thursday when the First Mountainside Baroque Summer Festival began in earnest.
From the English Child Ballads including the rousing Nottingham Ale which influenced our Appalachian bluegrass.
To the beautiful Italian of Monteverdi and Cara.
Then to Mozart and Handel.
This morning we are enveloped with the beauty of the composer William Byrd.

The whole service from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the readings of Scripture from the King James Bible are perfectly made for the rich harmonies of William Byrd.

In the earlier concerts during this Festival week, as I read the English text or heard the songs sung in the English language, I noticed that the text is full of stories of sorrow and death.
There is goodly amount of “languishing” and “Weeping” and “Torment.”
There are Beheadings and “a-lying in the grave.”
Yet, almost in the next stanza, there is joy and hope.
Most often brought by love in creation—in the goodly cedar and the seeds of the earth and the birds of the air— and in the human love of another.

In Appalachian bluegrass music, there is often a “holler” that rises up from a musician.
We heard such holler Friday evening at the beginning of the Newberry Consort concert.
A holler is not a spirited yippee or a painful wail.
It is a sound thick with both misery and redemption.

It’s said that one of the founders of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, used to hide in the woods next to the railroad tracks in his native Kentucky and watch the World War I veterans returning home from the war.
From time to time, those weary soldiers would let out a long holler as they walked along.
The sound was a loud, high-pitched, bone-chilling wail of pain and freedom.

(Story from Brene Brown in Braving the Wilderness, p, 43)

Today’s Scripture readings come from the prophet Ezekiel and St Mark’s Gospel..
About the cedar tree and the mustard seed, both of which grow strong and shade the birds of the air in its shadow.

So to in the music of Carol, there is a story about a nymph that steals the heart of another as he sits in the “shade of a lovely laurel tree”…where “the breeze wafted about”…there were” grasses and leaves, flowers, branches, trees, and wind”
An ode to the living.
Even in the midst of suffering. Especially in the midst of suffering.

This is the Christian mystery of life in the midst of dying.
A resounding YES to all that is–even with the tragedy, betrayal and heartache.
We find the beauty of the mysterious YES not only in the shadow of a goodly cedar tree but in the music of WIlliam Bryd and in the cadences of Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible.

Lancelot Andrewes, one of the Anglican Divines, who was one of the authors of the translation of the King James Bible….he was known as one of God’s Secretaries,
Taking the translation of William Tyndale, the Protestant reformer of the 1530s, a generation or so later Andrewes and others made the Protestant translation sing in what has come to be known as the gift of the Anglican Way.

Take the opening of Genesis as found in the King James Bible….In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the earth. And the earth was without forme, and voyd, and darknesse was upon the face of the deepe; and the Spirit of God mooved upon the face of the waters.

Andrews’ translation is dramatic, enormous. Resonate bass notes–void, deep, dark–interplay with the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters like the ornamentation of a violin run.
Indeed, Adam Nicholson author of God’s Secretaries, says that “The Spirit of God moving on the face of the waters has a mysterious and ghostly humanity to it which neither the modern translation or Tyndale’s simple Protestant translation can match. The face of the waters carries a subliminal suggestion that the face of God is reflected in them. That is a baroque suggestion, a scene from Michelangelo or Blake. In this first, archaic darkness a connection already exists between God and creation. The universe from the moment of its making is human and divine.” ( p, 194)

The langauge of King James sings like a baroque piece of music and when combined with the words of the Book of Common Prayer and the music of Byrd and others—we are caught in a deep, profound moment of mystery–where the Spirit of God moves among us all–penetrating our prisoned hearts and souls–setting us free, giving us hope in the beauty and goodness of humankind.

A glorious combination of human and divine.
A glorious combination that sees us from Sunday and Sunday.
That carries down through the centuries to give us hope.
To allow us to say YES to life.
To give light to those that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death—and guide our feet into the way of peace.

So be enveloped by this 1662 service this morning.
A service in every way that captures our suffering and delivers us from that suffering—
at one and the very same time.
AMEN.