Tag Archives: hymns

Heralds and singers all day long.

On the church calendar, we are still in Pentecost, that 50-day period between Easter/Pascha and Pentecost. We even take note of Mid-Pentecost, which was last week.

Of course, it’s never inappropriate to remind one another that “Christ is risen!” but during these weeks we make a special point of it and try to remember, instead of “Hello!” to greet one another with those words of joy and hope. For truly His resurrection from the dead, His overcoming of death, shows the power of God to deliver us from our own patches of darkness, no matter how impossibly deep and cold the current “grave” we find ourselves in.

Last night a robin came around to chirp the falling of dusk to me, “my” robin who always seems to be sent as an emissary from the Father – or more precisely, a herald: Gretchen, remember, God is here with you! I forgot to tell you that in my hotel in Atlanta earlier this month, the night when I was staying alone, a robin chirped right outside my ground-floor window just before darkness and a rainstorm.

This morning I woke to birdsong floating in from the garden and the trees. As I made my bed I joined in with them and sang a meditative version of the hymn, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life.”

Next week will be the Leave-taking of Pascha, after which we will focus on the Ascension of Christ. At Vespers the evening before, we will sing all those rousing Paschal choruses for the last time liturgically. I know the little sorrows and worries, confusing thoughts and maybe even some big heartaches won’t disappear from my earthly life, and I will want to keep singing these re-orienting melodies of Christ’s transforming Life.

I’m counting on the birds to be my helpers.

What streams and shines.

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The abundant rain made January of 2017 less depressing than average for that dark and cold month of the year. It looks likely that my town will have received 40 inches for the season-to-date before the end of the week. Usually we get 20+ inches. When it rains the air is cleared of pollutants and the burn restrictions are lifted – so we had lots of wood fires which are always cheering!

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Christmas joy and lightness always carry me through Theophany on January 6th, but then I have the reality of a Christmas tree that needs taking down eventually. I strained my shoulder slightly a few weeks ago, which slowed me down, but it gave me time to read five books in just the first month of the year, often sitting in front of that woodstove. I started drinking coffee, which is a mood-elevator for sure… and now suddenly, it’s February, and the weather has been 20 degrees milder.

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Flocks of goldfinches and juncos have returned to the garden, swooping down from the bare branches of the snowball bush. The juncos peck around on the ground, and the finches hang all over the nyger seed feeder, even in the rain.

And flowersgl-asparagus-2-8-17-standing-water are coming on dear Margarita Manzanita, buds on the currant bushes and calla lilies. I went out and took pictures just now under the umbrella, so everything is too wet to be optimal, revealing how one of my asparagus beds is less than optimal – we didn’t dig down deep enough into the adobe clay, and now there is standing water. That may not portend good for the future of that planting.

I made several gallons total of various soups in January, including Barley Buttermilk Soup, which I decided to try incorporating into bread yesterday. Here you have it, Barley Buttermilk Bread. It was enough dough that I ought to have made three loaves of it, but what I did was bake one oval loaf on my pizza stone, with butter brushed on top toward the end, and a round one in the Dutch oven. I added some oat flour which made it soft, but by this morning its crumb is very nice, and I like it very much… even too much.

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It’s been a long time since I had eggs from hens who ate lots of greens. My fellow communion bread-baker James brought some pale blue-green eggs from his Americaunas to our last baking session, and I was the lucky one to take them home, just as he had brought them, in the bottom of a paper shopping bag. They are so wonderfully orange-yolked, I had to take their picture, too. They go well with Barley-Buttermilk Bread. 🙂

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Every week the peas and the poppies have been beaten down by the rain…

gl-poppies-p1060639But they keep growing and blooming. Overall, they appear to thrive in it. I am reminded of this verse from the hymn “O Worship the King,” which likens God’s provision for us generally to the moisture that falls.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Sometimes, it is not only a metaphor.

Wake, and lift up thyself.

GL 10 P1020112 sunflowersWe often sang the last verse of this hymn as a Doxology in The Presbyterian church in which I grew up. I didn’t know until recently that it is composed of many more stanzas of exhortation, including “Wake up!”, which one might speak to one’s soul to good effect. On those mornings when I’m slow to get moving and my thoughts start sinking precipitously, I would do well to use this song to stir up my spirit.

I have heard at least two melodies for the composition; it was the one from the Geneva Psalter that I used to sing, and to which I hope to learn these other heartening words.

Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, Who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

–Thomas Ken, Man­u­al of Pray­ers for the Use of the Schol­ars of Win­ches­ter Col­lege, 1674

We cry like the children, Hosanna!

A palm frond was waiting for me when Kate and I arrived home last night from the road trip, thanks to my thoughtful friends who picked up an extra one at the Mapalm in window 16tins for Palm Sunday service I’d missed. But I forgot to take it to church this morning, so it remains where they saved it, on the windowsill above my kitchen sink.

During the whole of Divine Liturgy today almost everyone held a palm branch, even the clergy and choir, while carrying their usual books or babies, etc. The little girls all know how to weave the leaflets into a sort of mat. There were enough fronds for me to have a second one, and I was handed a branch of pussy willows, too. I tried to hold it alongside my palm, but the soft willow buds one by one were sliced off when they slid between the sharp leaflets of the palm frond, so that the floor around me became littered with them.

We were remembering the first time that Jesus was hailed by people carrying palm branches, a symbol of victory and peace. We learned in the homily this morning that it was common for more than a quarter-million people to be in Jerusalem for Passover, and these gl Christ icon w palms crp 2016 people had heard about Lazarus being raised from the dead. Suddenly Jesus was acclaimed by multitudes — and children are particularly mentioned as joining in with shouting — who spread tree branches and their coats on the streets before him to ride on; it was quite the scene.

But Christ didn’t come to be enthroned as an earthly leader, as most of the crowd assumed, or to rule as they do, by external power. He wants to deliver us from the death in our souls and to rule by His Holy Spirit in our hearts. St. Andrew of Crete (8th century) encourages us to spread before the Lord not branches which wither, but ourselves, “clothed in his grace, clothed completely in Him.”

When it was time to take my goddaughter Mary up for communion, I left my branches on a bench, because Mary is a wiggly child and I didn’t trust myself to securely hold her and them at the same time.  Keeping her in my arms, I picked up the palm frond again when we made our procession out the doors and around the church singing:

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion,
Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God.
Like the children with the palms of victory
We cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death,
“Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!”

Little Mary was happy gl P1040243 to hold the branch while I carried her, and to wave it around as we walked in the pleasant air, passing under wisteria blooms. Even outdoors on the porch, giant palm branches were decorating the pillars. Inside, green altar cloths were temporarily covering the purple, but later in the day they were removed. Tomorrow we enter Holy Week.

The fact of Lazarus’s being raised from the dead, and its reminder of Christ’s resurrection that we will be celebrating in just a few days, the experience of His grace in which we are clothed — all these realities will sustain us during the many services and the heart preparations of this week. The joy of the Lord will be our strength.

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