This coming Sunday, December 2nd, 2018, liturgical congregations around the world will begin a fresh church year with the four-week penitential season of Advent. For those of us using a three-year lectionary, the new liturgical year (Year C) starts with a cycle of readings centered around the gospel according to Luke. (Year A is Matthew; Year B is Mark; readings from the Book of John are interspersed throughout Years A, B, & C.)
Luke's opening account is very dramatic, with so many miraculous events happening in just the first chapter: the angel Gabriel meeting Zechariah in the temple; Zechariah's muteness from disbelief; old Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist; Gabriel's conversation with Mary (the Annunciation); Mary's visit to Elizabeth and Elizabeth's prophetic greeting; Mary's lovely song in response; the birth of John the Baptist; and Zechariah's song of prophecy in gratitude for it, after months of enforced silence. All this between verses 5 and 80 in Luke, chapter 1.
The Magnificat, or Song of Mary, is unique to Luke's gospel. It is specified in the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which is Dec. 23rd this year. Thousands of musical settings exist for this canticle, for every scoring from solo voice to orchestral versions. Hundreds of versions for organ, especially for Lutheran service use, have been written since the 15th century. We will highlight this lovely song now at the beginning of liturgical Year C with a month's worth of Magnificat presentations-for organ, for choir, for solo voice. (Also, note that on Saturday, Dec. 15th at 5 pm, the Cantate chamber singers will perform a concert at St. Paul's that includes J.S. Bach's Magnificat in D.)
Luke 1: 46-55
And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
-Sonja Kahler & Matt Larson, music directors
So what is this? This special countdown always starts on December 17, for the last seven days of Advent. This year, Dec. 17 is next Monday, the day after the third Sunday of Advent. The O Antiphons are one of the Western Christian Church's oldest traditions, dating from the time of Charlemagne (eighth century) or even earlier. They have been called "the great Os" for hundreds of years; the word "antiphon" comes via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek antiphōna 'harmonies,' neuter plural of antiphōnos 'responsive,' from anti 'in return' + phōnē 'sound.' The Great O Antiphons are a set of refrains originally used before and after the singing of the Magnificat (Mary's Song) in the Vespers (evening) service. Catholics, Lutherans and Episcopalians sing them the most, although nonliturgical churches now use them too, often in spoken form.
Each refrain or petition begins with "O" and one of the special titles given to the Messiah by the prophet Isaiah. And then each petition asks Jesus to come and save us in a particular way, also as described in Isaiah's prophecy. Using these Old Testament titles reflects Israel's yearning for the Messiah, and they help us express our own hopes and expectations as we wait for Christ's return.
During the twelfth century, these antiphons were loosely transcribed into a Latin hymn. In the mid 1800s English linguistics scholar John Mason Neale translated that into English; a later descendant of his version is now sung as the lyrical paraphrase "O come, O come, Emmanuel" (ELW #257). The fifteenth-century French processional chant that fits this text so well is traceable to a copy written out for a Franciscan convent.
This quintessential Advent hymn (a verse at a time) has served as our Advent wreath-lighting hymn this December.
The beautiful language of the individual O Antiphons works well as part of daily devotions in the final week of Advent, as meditations taped to a mirror or door, et cetera.
-Sonja Kahler & Matt Larson, music directors
coming forth from from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
O root of Jesse,
standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can close; you close and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Morning Star,
splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O King of the nations,
the ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people:
Come and save us all, whom You formed out of clay.
our king and our Lord, the hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
We need volunteers in all areas of the worship service, especially altar guild (setup/cleanup of the altar), communion assistant, and usher. Let's give our very loyal regular helpers some relief. If you can serve in any of these positions, please contact Pam Wannen at 202-454-6703 or email@example.com.
The Worship Ministry at St. Paul’s plays a critical part in providing leadership on all factors influencing the congregation’s worship life. It provides input for the music environment of the congregation, including the adult and children’s choirs, the bell choir, and the congregation’s magnificent Shantz organ. It plays a key role in advising on the liturgy, communion practices, and the general worship environment. The ministry also is responsible for enlisting volunteers to assist with the many aspects of worship, including worship assistant, communion assistant, readers, greeters, crucifers, acolytes, banner bearers, and torch bearers.
If you are interested in getting involved with Worship Ministry, please contact Carol Beebe or 301-571-5303.
The youth choir continues to invite young people to come and sing with them on Sundays for a 45 minute rehearsal following the 11:00 am worship service.
Singing in this group is a wonderful opportunity to learn basic vocal technique and explore some great music. Come and be a part of discovering a very special way of making a joyful noise!
For information contact Marcia Perez at 301 580 8021.