Each morning is an occasion to thank God for the gift of the day, mindful of the innumerable souls who will not wake into the day and who already have departed this earthly life. Recently, I have both seen a lot of death and witnessed our fellow humans enter the eternal life that God promises. In turn, the blessing of each day impresses me as an occasion for Christians to sing “songs of thankfulness of praise,” one of the classics from The Hymnal 1982 and our opening hymn at 10:30 a.m. on Transfiguration Sunday, February 14.
Reading, praying, and singing hymns has been played a substantial role in my spiritual formation. Beginning in my early childhood, I would read and study hymns, ask my elders questions about the text, learn the melody, and eventually realize that certain texts were set to different melodies. In hymns, I often experience a revival of sorts, a transcendence, that can be hard to explain. The rich experience of them, especially singing them with others, taps the Spirit of God within me and brings me even closer. Whenever I have no words for what I may be feeling or thinking, I turn to hymns and let them do their heavy-lifting of my heart, soul, and mind.
The hymn “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” informs my theology of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world at Christmas as “God walking” the earth and made manifest as fully divine and fully human. Its collection of the following four stanzas is one of the ways I understand and attempt to explain the deeper meaning behind the Transfiguration.
"Songs of thankfulness and praise, Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise, manifested by the star to the sages from afar; branch of royal David’s stem in thy birth at Bethlehem; anthems be to thee addressed, God in man made manifest.
Manifest at Jordan’s stream, Prophet, Priest, and King supreme; and at Cana, wedding-guest, in thy Godhead manifest; manifest in power divine, changing water into wine; anthems be to thee addressed, God in man made manifest.
Manifest in making whole palsied limbs and fainting soul; manifest in valiant fight, quelling all the devil’s might; manifest in gracious will, ever bringing good from ill; anthems be to thee addressed, God in man made manifest.
Manifest on mountain height, shining in resplendent light, where disciples filled with awe thy transfigured glory saw. When from there thou leddest them steadfast to Jerusalem, cross and Easter Day attest."
May you too find joy, comfort, hope, and new life in these words, particularly as we walk with our Lord from the season of Epiphany into the journey of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. And may God in Christ Jesus be known and help us as we try,
The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
10 February 2021
Hymn Tune: Salzburg, melody Jacob Hintze (1622-1702); harm. Johan Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Words: Sts. 1-3, Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885); st. 4, F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984)