The season of Advent has arrived. But nothing kicks the legs out from under our observance of Advent like premature Christmas songs. Advent, as I’m sure you know, is the season leading up to Christmas, designed to focus us on the hope and expectation of Christ’s arrival, his advent in the world. It does this by reminding us what the world was like before Christ — in darkness. And it also uses that remembrance to bolster our desire to see him come again in glory at his second and final advent. The spirit of Advent, then, is of watchfulness and waiting. Because of this, Christmas songs are inappropriate to the spirit of the Advent season. They don’t jive; they’re incongruous. Continue reading
In my last post I hoped to convey the importance and gravity of choosing good and proper songs for church. I suggested using the triple test of “everywhere, always, and by all” (universality, antiquity, and consent) as a guide for choosing songs, relying on the judgment of the Church through the ages instead of following the unbalanced judgment of isolated times and places. This approach guarantees orthodox content and a worthy quality of song to be sung in church, and it gives occasion for those doing the choosing to exercise prudence and humility, relieving them of the temptation to assert their own wisdom and will. Continue reading
Who picks the music in church and how is it picked? This has been my privilege and burden since planting a church five years ago. I began with the understanding that this was a privilege, but quickly learned that it’s also a burden. As our little church slowly grew into its rich, ancient heritage, I began to feel keenly the burden of choosing music to accompany our blossoming Liturgy. This burden was greatly lessened when I discovered the ancient Proper Chants of the Western Church which accompany certain moments and actions in the Liturgy (Procession, Offertory, Communion). These chants, prescribed for every Liturgy and linked with the lectionary readings, have been basically settled since the end of the first millennium A.D. and adhered to pretty universally throughout the West. Continue reading
Sackville College, East Grinstead – where John Mason Neale lived and did most of his writing.
The Church year is centered around Jesus and the redemptive story of his life, death, and resurrection. The Scriptures read in the Liturgy, the various prayers, and also the songs and hymns that are sung all correspond to the seasons of the year, and the seasons themselves correspond to events or periods in the life of Jesus. The season of Lent takes the Church with Jesus both into the desert where he fasted for forty days and also on his last journey to Jerusalem (and ultimately to the cross and his glorious resurrection). Several themes and lessons of the Lenten season are emphasized in the Liturgy, but two of the most prominent are repentance and spiritual struggle. Continue reading