HYMN FESTIVAL READINGS
(Click here for PDF of Hymn Festival bulletin)
A READING: “Goodbye to the Listeners’ Row”
from The Metropolitan Diary section of The New York Times (April 21, 2017)
1937, second grade. The class is practicing a song to sing to our first-grade teacher, who is on maternity leave and coming to visit. I am really excited and singing my heart out. The teacher taps me on the shoulder and says, “Go sit in the listeners’ row.”
1941, the local settlement house. Private music lessons are 25 cents. My father would love to hear me play the violin. We go to Mr. Gerber’s music store, and for $10 I get a violin, a bow, resin and a cardboard carrying case. I have my first lesson and practice religiously for a week. The next week I return with quarter in hand and joyously play for my teacher. “Why don’t you try another instrument?” he says.
1951, Brooklyn College. I am working toward my degree in elementary education. One of the required courses is how to teach music. At the end of the semester, the professor says, “Be sure you always have a record player to teach vocal music.”
2017, the Riverdale Y senior center. Andy is returning to start a chorus. Everyone had so much fun with him last year. I work up my courage and go into the room. “Sure,” he says, “come on and join us.”
After 80 years, I can sing.
A READING: from the writings of Alice Parker (b. 1925)
A song does not exist until it is sung, or re-created, by a human voice. Every incarnation is different, and no one sound is the only right one. This is a paradox. A page of music seems to present a finished product, yet it contains no sound. (Hold it up to your ear: Can you hear it?) The song doesn’t live until it comes off the page and resumes its natural state as sound. The page cannot more substitute for living sound than a recipe can for edible food. Singing is the most human, most companionable of the arts. It joins us together in the whole realm of sound, forging a group identity where there were only individuals and making a communicative statement that far transcends what any one of us could do alone. It is a paradigm of union with the Creator.
A READING, Annunciation, from La Corona, John Donne (1607)
Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is All everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful Virgin, yields himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother,
Whom thou conceiv’st, conceived; yea thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.
A READING: Journey of the Magi, T.S. Eliot
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like
Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
A READING: from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because they can unite in the Word. There should be singing, not only at devotions, but at regular times of the say or week. The more we sing, the more joy will we derive from it. But above all, the more devotion and discipline and joy we put into our singing, the richer will be the blessing that will come to the whole life of the fellowship from singing together. It is not you that sings; it is the Church that is singing, and you, as a member of the Church, may share in its song. Thus all singing together that is right must serve to widen our spiritual horizon and make us see our little company as a member of the great Christian Church on earth, and help us willingly and gladly to join our singing, be it feeble or good, to the song of the Church.
A READING: from a sermon of Peter Chrysologus, Bishop of Ravenna (ca. 450)
Offer your soul to God, make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the means of giving. To make these acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to the earth. However much you cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature—root out vices, sow virtues—if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit. When you fast, your mercy is thin, your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give others.
A READING: from The Road to Emmaus, Fredreick Beuchner (1966)
The sacred moments, the moments of miracle, are often the everyday moments, the moments which, if we do not look with more than our eyes or listen with more than our ears, reveal only…the gardener, a stranger coming down the road behind us, a meal like any other meal. But if we look with our hearts, if we listen with all of our being and our imagination—if we live our lives not from vacation to vacation, from escape to escape, but from the miracle of one instant of our precious lives to the miracle of the next—what we may see is Jesus himself, what we may hear is the first faint sound of a voice somewhere deep within us saying that there is a purpose in this life, in our lives, whether we can understand it completely or not; and that this purpose follows behind us through all our doubting and being afraid, through all our indifference and boredom, to a moment when suddenly we know for sure that everything does make sense because everything is in the hands of God, one of whose names is forgiveness, another is love. This is what the stories about Jesus’ coming back to life mean, because Jesus was the love of God, alive among us, and not all the cruelty and blindness of men could kill him.
THE HOLY TRINITY
A READING: An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts, drawn from Eastern Liturgies
Invoking the thrice-threefold company of the heavenly hosts, sing we:
Fire unquenchable encircling the resplendent and life-giving Trinity,
Ye six-winged Seraphim, and ye, the many-eyed Cherubim
who soar aloft and are borne on pinions,
Hymning in answering ranks the Thrice Holy,
And ye, the Thrones that unite with them in the first hierarchy of heaven,
Praise, O praise the King of Glory, and transform our praises into
the likeness of your heavenly song. Amen.
Ye who perform the one eternal will,
Ye orders of Dominions, Princedoms, Powers,
Conform our will to his, the Strong, the Holy, the Unchanging Lord. Amen.
Ye ministering angels, messengers of grace,
Virtues, who govern men,
And myriad hosts of Archangels and Angels, succour and defend us.
Hail, ye countless hosts,
Praise with us the One Holy, the One Holy Strong, the One Holy Immortal. Amen.
THE VOICE OF CREATION
A READING: from the writings of Abraham Herschel (1907-1972)
The Hebrew word or “cantor” is ba’al tefillah, ‘master of prayer.’ The cantor does not stand before the Ark as an artist in isolation, trying to demonstrate skill or displaying vocal feats. The cantor stands before the Ark not as an individual but with a congregation. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” How do they declare it? “There is no speech nor language; neither is there a voice to hear.” The heavens have no voice; their glory is inaudible. It is the task of people to reveal what is concealed; to be the voice of the glory, to sing its silence, to utter what is in the heart of all things. The glory is there—invisible and silent. Man is the voice; woman is the voice; their task is to be the song. The cosmos is a congregation in need of a cantor. Humanity is the cantor of the universe. To sing means to sense and to affirm that the Spirit is real and that glory is present. In singing we perceive what is otherwise beyond perceiving. Song, and particularly liturgical song, is not only an act of expression, but also a way of bringing down the Spirit from heaven to earth.
As cantors of the universe, let us pray for this land which God has entrusted to us. Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St. David's Episcopal Church
1300 Wiltshire Avenue
San Antonio, TX 78209
9:00am: Outdoors in the Wiltshire Ave. parking lot
11:00am: Indoors in the Sanctuary*
*Masks optional for vaccinated individuals
Children's Chapel & Nursery Care offered at both services
11:00am service live-streamed on our Facebook Page