Saturday, January 23, 2016

Accidental Ecumenism

One of my hymn writing hobbies is translating Latin office hymns into clear, plain English. To me, it's like finding treasures that have been packed away in the attic for many years, and discovering them and polishing them off so that they can be used by people today. It's sort of like an ecclesiastical Antiques Road Show.

Some of the reactions have surprised me, particularly the overwhelmingly Anglican appreciation of the translations. I've done this work for the purpose of supporting my own communion, the Catholic Church. But every year I receive requests from Episcopalians and Anglicans.

I suppose that part of the reason is that the Office hymns are meant for the communal recitation of the celebrations of the Hours, and since this is a more common practice among Anglicans than Catholics, then the Office hymns are more in demand.

Another aspect is the perduring use in Anglicanism of hymnody of a more 4-square kind. It's possible to find a guitar-piano combo in an Anglican church, I would guess, but it's not the norm. Elevated diction is the norm as well. Culturally, even in more theologically progressive circles, casualness is not an Anglican liturgical attitude.

Whatever the reasons, I've been flattered by the requests and happy to serve. The most recent request was for an Episcopalian service of Compline for the Feast of the Presentation at a parish in St. Paul, and this was the hymn. Note especially the theologically rich verse 3.

Let Zion's bridal-room be clothed:
He comes, her Lord and her Betrothed.
Let bride and Bridegroom, by faith's light,
A vigil keep throughout the night.

Saint Simeon, go forth in joy,
Exult to see the baby Boy:
Make known to all this Light divine
Who soon upon all lands shall shine.

His parents to the temple bring
The Temple as an offering
The righteousness of law He chose
Though to the law He nothing owes.

So, Mary, bring this little one,
Yours and the Father's only Son
Through whom our offering is made
By whom our ransom price is paid.

And forward, royal Virgin, go
And let rejoicing overflow
With gifts bring forth your newborn Son
Who comes to rescue everyone.

Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory bright
Who guides the nations into light
Be praised, and for eternity
Be glorified, O Trinity. Amen.

Translation c. 2009 Kathleen Pluth.