Last Wednesday night, we offered a service of Evensong, one of the great traditions of the Anglican church. From its inception, the church has held onto the daily offices of morning and evening prayer as the heartbeat of our observance; Evensong is Evening Prayer set to music. One of our parishioners had such a moving experience that he asked for the chance to publicize his reaction: here it is. (Regular programming will return to this space next week.)
On Wednesday night, you may have missed one of the great services and liturgies in the Episcopal Church and at St. Alban’s: “Evensong for Embertide”.
“Embertide” may seem about as familiar to us St. Albanites as is Queen Emma of Hawaii. Think of the four seasons. Last Wednesday’s was September or Autumn.
Our magnificent choir (I should say “choirs” as three were incorporated in one), led by Sonya, moved the congregation mightily in passionate renderings of the music of Ayleward, Wooley, and Gibbons. The music incorporated four exquisite solos in the six canticles, songs, and anthems. This evening recalled the stunning Evensongs I heard in the summer of 2012 when the St. Alban’s choir visited Coventry and Wells Cathedrals.
And the hymns …. I had never heard Hymn 24. “The day thou gavest” . Look up the words, and they will enthrall you as will the music, simple and gorgeous. The hymnal allocates Hymn 24 to the “Evening” section. I suppose that there is a lesson here: if you don’t attend an Evensong, you are left out.
And the readings? A great gift in selection by the clergy, read by two of our best lay readers.
Sirach 42: When does one ever get to hear Sirach’s incredible poetry in praise of creation?.
The new moon, as its name suggests, renews itself,
how marvelous it is in this change,
a beacon to the hosts on high,
shining in the vault of the heavens …
And so forth through verses 27-28, concluding with,
We could say more but could never say enough;
let the final word be: ‘He is the all.
And Colossians 3 followed Sirach.
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony….”
Deborah’s homily set forth the life and work and prayers of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th Century Benedictine abbess, and prophetic visionary, who wrote of her visions, which revealed to her deep knowledge of the Psalms, the evangelists, and the volumes of the Old and New Testament. She had little hesitancy, once she shed her doubts of her visions, of instructing Popes, Archbishops, Abbots, and even the King of England. Consider these insights:
Asserting the primacy of love above all, she wrote “love, like the angels, looks at the face of God.”
all of creation
for our use:
If we misuse
gives creation permission
to offer Humankind
Deborah’s homily reversed the challenge raised with the ancients. She asked us not to decide whether Hildegard of Bingen of the Twelfth Century can be “relevant” to our times, but, rather, to gird ours intelligence and faith to wander around Hildegard of Bingen’s visions of God and humankind.
So there. Great music! Great readings! Great homily!
And, by the way, the supper provided beforehand on was truly fine.
I’m sorry you missed it. But all is not lost.
Mark your calendars with the two up-and-coming Evensongs: January 7 for Epiphany and May 20 (between Ascension and Pentecost) and be joyful. Peace.”