Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hymns As Poetry

For quite some time I have been using the iBreviary app for my iPad and iPhone to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. While I do miss having my leather bound book in my hand, some of the things I like about it over using the standard book Christian Prayer is that I don't have to flip around to find where I'm supposed to be, or think about whether it is a feast day. I also don't have to fiddle with trying to figure out a hymn.

Now I'm pretty musically deficient because I have, unfortunately, very little musical education. I very rarely see the name of the tune when praying and think, "Oh, I know that one." So I wind up reading the hymn as poetry. But wow, what poetry. Several times recently I have read the hymn and have been so impressed by how these hymns, several hundred years old, encapsulate the faith and give Christian encouragement.

I have no idea how they decide which hymn to use for the day. I also have no idea if these are a proscribed hymns to use for the day or if the iBreviary people choose them, but they are fantastic.  Here is a sample from yesterday's daytime prayer:

HYMN

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.

Take up your cross, let not its weight
Fill your weak spirit with alarm;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
Shall brace your heart and nerve your arm.

Take up your cross then in his strength,
And ev’ry danger calmly brave,
To guide you to a better home,
And vict’ry over death and grave.

Take up your cross and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only he who bears the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.

To you, great Lord, the One in three,
All praise for evermore ascend;
O grant us here below to see
The heav’nly life that knows no end.

Tune: Breslau or Winchester New L.M.
Music: (Breslau) As Hymnodus Sacer, 1625, or (Winchester New) Musikalisches Handbuch, Hamburg, 1690
Text: Charles William Everest, 1814-1877, adapted by Anthony G. Petti

Or from yesterday's evening prayer:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the cross of Christ my God,
The vain delights that charm me most:
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet
What grief and love flow mingling down;
Did e’er such Love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were all the realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Tune: Rockingham L.M.
Music: Adapted by Edward Miller, 1731-1807, from A. William’s A Second Supplement to Psalmody in Miniature, Oxford 1780
Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748, slightly adapted

And these are just from one day.  What a rich heritage of music we have!  I could complain about the pablum we get at Mass today, but I will refrain. I think what I will start doing is looking these up online and on YouTube to see if I can listen to them. It would be great to hear these wonderful pieces performed by a real serious choir.  Of course, I love them as poetry too.


Picture: The Convent Choir - Jehan Georges Vibert, 1865

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