Oh for a Thousand Tongues: This month’s column about the Church calendar refers to hymn no. 166, Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle, used at the stripping of the altar at the conclusion of the Maundy Thursday service.
First to the music, a Sarum setting of the Pange lingua (which means, literally, “sing, tongue”). “Sarum” is the Latin reference to the liturgical rite as practiced in the cathedral at Salisbury, England. In Medieval times there was not just one way to offer worship in the western Church. There was the liturgy as practiced in Rome (the Leonine Rite, in reference to St. Leo the Great), in Milan (the Ambrosian Rite, in reference to St. Ambrose), the Mozarabic Rite (as found in Spain, and named for the Christian communities living under Muslim rule), and various “Gallican” rites found in France.
In Lent we encounter many hymns with emphases on the reality of sin, on the need for repentance, and on the fruits of forgiveness. One example relates back to the metaphysical poet, John Donne (see The Kalendar), being no. 140, Wilt thou forgive that sin, a poem of Donne’s set to music contemporary to his life, and a poem which gives a good example of the accented rhythm of speech encountered in metaphysical poetry.
The overarching theme in the season of Epiphany is that of the revelation of God, of how God chooses to reveal Himself and His will. Not unsurprisingly, therefore, the lessons throughout the season speak both to the reality of God’s revelation in words of prophecy and in words of Scripture. We are given the call narratives of Jeremiah and Isaiah. We witness Jesus instructing from the words of the prophets. We experience St. Paul writing of the inspiration given by God to those who teach in His Name.
Our first Sunday of the month is the Feast of the Epiphany, and all of the month is included in this season. Epiphany is a word which comes from the Greek for “manifestation”. We celebrate how God reveals Himself and His will to us, supremely in the coming of His Son. We remember (in the account of the visitation of the magi to the infant Jesus found at Mtt. 2.1—12) that the coming of the Messiah to Israel was manifested to all peoples.