To think well is to serve God in the interior court: To have a mind composed of Divine Thoughts, and set in frame, to be like Him within. To conceive aright and to enjoy the world, is to conceive the Holy Ghost, and to see His Love: which is the Mind of the Father. And this more pleaseth Him than many Worlds, could we create as fair and great as this. For when you are once acquainted with the world, you will find the goodness and wisdom of God so manifest therein, that it was impossible another, or better should be made. Which being made to be enjoyed, nothing can please or serve Him more, than the Soul that enjoys it. For that Soul doth accomplish the end of His desire in Creating it.
A beautiful performance of Addison’s hymn.
My favorite image: “The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
and nightly to the listening earth repeats the story of her birth.”
The spacious firmament on high,
with all the blue ethereal sky,
and spangled heavens, a shining frame,
their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
does his Creator’s power display,
and publishes to every land
the work of an almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail
the moon takes up the wondrous tale,
and nightly to the listening earth
repeats the story of her birth;
whilst all the stars that round her burn,
and all the planets in their turn,
confirm the tidings, as they roll,
and spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though in solemn silence all
move round the dark terrestrial ball;
what though no real voice nor sound
amid their radiant orbs be found;
in reason’s ear they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice,
for ever singing as they shine,
‘The hand that made us is divine.’
Words: Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
Tune: not the one in my hymnal!
Christ Enthroned Book of Kells Trinity College, Dublin
I was feeling flat and tired one day when a Goshen college choir came on the radio to sing a rousing version of this hymn. The crowd roared their approval, and I too was energized. Turned around, if you will. The lyrics seem to me a curious mix of fury and tenderness, but not unlike the world itself. Perhaps that’s why people vary the tempo so much when they sing it. Meanwhile, I did find the creator’s blog and I’ll quote his thoughts below.
The idea of “turning” in the title was both a nod to the inner conceit of “revolution,” (derived from the Latin “volvere,” which means “to turn”) and to the message of Jesus’s preaching in all three of the synoptic gospels, the core message of which was, “Repent, and believe the good news.” “Repent” translates a Greek verb the noun form of which is metanoia, that is to say, a complete change of the self, of mind and heart, which might also be rendered as “turn around.” — Rory Cooney
Canticle of the Turning
Author: Rory Cooney
Tune: STAR OF THE COUNTY DOWN
1. My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!
2. Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn.
3. From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.
4. Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God’s mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound,
‘Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around.
Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean Artist: Gustave Doré Image: Wikimedia Commons
Today we remember the contributions of three English composers: William Byrd, Thomas Merbecke, and Thomas Tallis. Tallis holds a special place in my musical heart. He makes me hear the angels.
Spem in alium
I have never put my hope in any other
but in You,
O God of Israel
who can show both anger and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins of suffering man
Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth
be mindful of our lowliness
O God most glorious, whose praises art sung night and day by thy saints and angels in heaven: We offer thanks for William Byrd, John Merbecke and Thomas Tallis, whose music hath enriched the praise that thy Church offers thee here on earth. Grant, we pray thee, to all who are touched by the power of music such glimpses of eternity that we may be made ready to join thy saints in heaven and behold thy glory unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Pride Goeth Before a fall, detail Copyright Wallace Tripp from A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me
I suppose everyone has some aspects of the practice of faith that they do better than others. For me, it’s the praise part that doesn’t come naturally. I feel at ease with prayer and study; I try to be a good person in the world and ask for forgiveness when I fail; I can mostly remember to say thank-you to God for the many blessings in my life. But praise does not rise unbidden to my heart, mind, or lips as often as I feel it should. Perhaps it’s all those mid-west Lutherans in my heritage warning me of the dangers of pride–I’ve become a bit too careful about how lavishly I spread my enthusiasm.
God, of course, is the one person you can praise unreservedly, without ulterior motives, and without fear of excess–such freedom! Praising God feels great–like being part of the roar of a crowd, everyone on their feet, the festal shout, a mighty Affirmation–and given that, I don’t know why His praise is not continually in my mouth. It’s a weakness. Hymns are a huge help to me. Also the psalms. And I know that I need to get myself to church on Sunday, so I can join with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven.
Sigh. There’s always something to work on, isn’t there? Keeps us humble.
The woman said: My mother was always at work, by day helping my father on the croft, and by night at wool and at spinning, at night clothes and at day clothes for the family. My mother would be beseeching us to be careful in everything, to put value on time and to eschew idleness. If we were dilatory in putting on our clothes, and made an excuse for our prayers, my mother would say that God regarded heart and not speech, the mind and not the manner; and that we might clothe our souls with grace while clothing our bodies with raiment. My mother taught us what we should ask for in the prayer, as she heard it from her own mother, and as she again heard it from the one who was before her.
My mother would be asking us to sing our morning song to God as Mary’s lark was singing it up in the clouds, and as Christ’s mavis was singing it yonder in the tree, giving glory to the God of the creatures for the repose of the night, for the light of the day, and for the joy of life. She would tell us that every creature on earth here below and in the ocean beneath and in the air above was giving glory to the great God of the creatures and the worlds, of the virtues and the blessings, and would we be dumb!
From Catherine Maclennan, nee MacDonald, crofter, Achadh nam Breac, Moydart.
Printed in Celtic Prayers. Selected by Avery Brooke from the collection of Alexander Carmichael with calligraphy by Laurel Casazza. The Seabury Press. New York. 1981.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command! …
It’s been a very full summer and I’m afraid I haven’t been able to write as often as I would have liked. This morning I have just one quick thought from reading Psalm 148. It’s a great rush of a psalm, and I really enjoy the spirit of exhortation that brings all creation into a mighty chorus of praise. Planets and sea monsters, fire and hail, and everyone from Kings to children come together. What an image! And as I read, I was struck by the words, “For he commanded and they were created” and “stormy wind fulfilling his command!” That word, “command.” The psalmist says that we should praise God because he speaks a command and it happens. God’s words (however it is that words come out of the mouth of God) are enough. He has authority.
As I mused a bit, this reminded me of the stories of the Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8, and of Jesus calming the winds and the sea–also, and perhaps not coincidentally, in Matthew 8. They echo this idea of authority:
As he entered Caper′na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.”But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment….
…”“Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
We struggle in this earthly life with the gap between words and deeds. We command, and nothing happens. That schoolyard taunt, “You can’t make me!” will come back again and again–at work, at home, even between nations. And the truth is, we cannot even make ourselves do the good that we will (Romans 7:19). No wonder the psalmist is amazed.
When I first began to draw near to belief in God and even for some time after it had been give to me, I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should “praise” God; still more in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it….
But the most obvious fact about praise–whether of God or anything–strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise–lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game–praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers mountains, rare stamps rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least. The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad one continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read….Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible….
The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
C.S. Lewis, “A Word About Praising” in Reflections on the Psalms.
If you haven’t yet heard the Soweto Gospel Choir, then you owe it to yourself to listen to their Tiny Desk Concert on NPR. Their music is so joyful and infectious, it’s difficult to hear without moving. A good way to start the new year with sounds of praise!