Ponte Sant' Angelo Methodist Church
16 June 2019
Father, We Praise Thee
Text: Attr. to Gregory the Great, 540-604; trans. by Percy Dearmer, 1867-1936
Music: Paris Antiphoner, 1681; harm. by David Evans, 1927
Tune: CHRISTE SANCTORUM, Meter: 11 11 11.5
This week marks the beginning of the longest season in the Christian calendar--the Sundays after Pentecost, or "Kingdomtide." The first Sunday after Pentecost is often referred to as "Trinity Sunday."
When we think of the Kingdom of God, many images come to mind: all encompassing light; streets of gold; crystal seas; perfection. It is so beautiful to think about, there is hardly any wonder that we seek to depict our understanding of it in the art and architecture of church buildings. For example, there is utility and strength when an architect uses a pointed arch to frame a window, but the arch becomes more beautiful when it is subdivided to form three points within the window. It also becomes a symbol of the Trinity: there is one window but three points, just as we worship one God who is manifested in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The combination of form (the arch) and art (the subdivision) produce a structure that is secure and beautiful and meaningful.
This week's featured hymn is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great (540-604). Through his efforts, hymns and chants were collected and compiled for use throughout the Church. Because of this, it became known as Gregorian chant. Chant is a powerful musical form. Even today when it is used in worship, it continues to evoke a deep sense of spirituality and life in the Church.
Gregory the Great's contributions to hymnody went beyond collecting and compiling, though. Forms of worship also changed slightly, adding both focus and beauty to the service. In the sixth century A.D., he altered a portion of the Mass called the "Gradual." This had consisted of an entire Psalm that was solemnly sung from the steps (the gradus) of the the altar or pulpit. Gregory shortened it, selecting those verses that emphasized the message from the Epistle. By doing this artfully, the Mass incorporated and emphasized a theme.
This sense of structure and beauty in worship was shared by Percy Dearmer, who translated the hymn into English. Dearmer is best recognized for his manual The Parson's Handbook, which was published originally in 1899 and provided a guide to the rites in the Book of Common Prayer. The son of an artist, though, he believed that beauty was one of God's attributes, and was convinced that the worship of God is itself an art.
Like Gregory the Great and Dearmer, this week's hymn uses structure and beauty to produce meaning. As you read the words, consider the form and enjoy the beauty of the thoughts and images conveyed:
|1. Father, we praise thee, now the night is over;
active and watchful, stand we all before thee;
singing, we offer prayer and meditation;
thus we adore thee.
|2. Monarch of all things, fit us for thy mansions;
banish our weakness, health and wholeness sending;
bring us to heaven, with thy saints united;
joy without ending.
|3. All-holy Father, Son, and equal Spirit,
Trinity blessed, send us thy salvation;
thine is the glory, gleaming and resounding
through all creation.
Kingdomtide is here. Share the tidings of the Kingdom with everyone around you!