(see commentary below for explanation of imagery)
Mount Calvary Church
A Roman Catholic Parish
of the Personal Ordinariate of S. Peter
Rev. Albert Scharbach, Pastor
Dr. Allen Buskirk, Choirmaster
Eutaw Street and Madison Avenue
January 13, 2019
The Baptism of the Lord
10 A.M. Sung Mass
Anglican Folk Mass, Martin Shaw
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day, arranged David Willcocks (1919–2015)
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day:
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance:
Sing O my love,
This have I done for my true love.
Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance;
Thus was I knit to man’s nature,
To call my true love to my dance.
Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance.
Asperges me, Domine, Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611)
Asperges me Domine hyssopo et mundabor: lavabis me et super nivem dealbabor. Miserere mei Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
“I come,” the great Redeemer cries is by Thomas Gibbons, 1720—1785, a Dissenting minister in London and a defender of Calvinism. In 1760 the College at New Jersey (now Princeton), gave him the degree of M.A. He modeled his hymns after those of Watts.
In Psalm 29:3 David sings: The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. The Fathers of the Church saw in the voice of the Father at Jesus’ baptism a fulfillment, a sealing, of this prophetic word.
The tune THIS ENDRIS NIGHT is from a 15th century English Christmas carol.
Comfort, comfort ye my people (Tröstet, tröstet meine Lieben) was written by Johann Olearius (1611–1684), a Lutheran pastor at Halle and translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827–1878). The hymn is a paraphrase of Isaiah 40:1-5, in which the prophet looks forward to the coming of Christ. More specifically, the coming of the forerunner of Christ – John the Baptist – is foretold. Though Isaiah’s voice crying in the desert is anonymous, the third stanza ties this prophecy and one from Malachi (Malachi 4:5) to a New Testament fulfillment. “For Elijah’s voice is crying In the desert far and near” brings to mind Jesus’ statement, “’But I tell you that Elijah has already come.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”
The tune GENEVAN 42 is an adaptation by Louis Bourgeois (1510–1559) of a tune by Claude Goudimel (1501–1572), a French Calvinist who was killed in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
When Jesus went to Jordan’s stream is a translation of Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam by Martin Luther, who also wrote the tune for the hymn. It was translated by F. Bland Tucker (1895–1985), an Episcopal priest who worked on both the 1940 and 1982 Hymnals. The hymn is a straightforward baptismal catechesis of the role of baptism in salvation: we are healed and saved by the death of the Saviour, and that salvation is applied to us by water and blood, by baptism and the Eucharist.
Commentary on the Icon of the Baptism of the Lord
Fr. Stephen Freeman
For an Orthodox priest, the services of the Church involve many “comings and goings.” Part of any service takes place within the altar area, which is usually enclosed by an iconostasis, a wall on which icons are hung. The wall does not truly separate one area of the Church from another so much as it marks one area off from another – the space of the Church is itself an icon. But within these spaces, the priest (and deacon) move back and forth. Going out from the altar and entering back in to the altar. Each exit and entrance has its own meaning within the context of the service. I often think of the Psalm verse, “May the Lord bless your going and your coming in…” With this action, for me, has come an increased awareness of doors and entrances within Scripture. For the doors of the altar bear a relationship with the various “doors” in Scripture.
I have often thought about the meditation attached to the closed doors of the altar early in the service of Vespers. The priest stands before them, head bowed, and prays. I have been told that the closed doors represent the closed doors of paradise, with the priest standing outside them, like Adam, weeping for his sins. It is always a poignant thought.
The gates of paradise always have a strange double quality to them. When they are open the world becomes heaven. When they are closed all becomes Hades. It is the gates of Hades that Christ promises will not prevail against the Church.
I have also noted over the years that most people seem to concern themselves with the “larger” gates of Hades. They want to know who goes there, who stays there and why, and how they can avoid the entire thing. Some people seem to be experts on Hades and Hell.
There is a far more intimate and immediate question concerning Hades’ gates. This is the question of its gates within the heart. For the human heart is like a microcosm of all things. There we can find both the gate of paradise and the gate of Hades. I’m convinced that if we do not first find paradise within our heart then we will never know it otherwise. Salvation may be eternal, but it is also immediate.
To stand before the closed gates of paradise within the heart and weep is to begin to pray.
Tonight I served the Vigil for the Feast of Theophany (Christ’s Baptism). The richness of the feast is beyond description. The texts that are sung are among the most theologically profound that I know. It is difficult to serve the feast and not insist that the service stop at points – that we might stand in silent wonder.
Christ at the Jordan is Christ before the gates of paradise (and Hades). In many icons of Christ’s Baptism, the gates of Hades lie beneath His feet (it almost looks like He is surfing), with snakes sticking their heads out from beneath. These snakes are the “dragons who lurked there,” mentioned in Psalm 74.
The Lord refashions broken Adam in the streams of the Jordan.
And He smashes the heads of dragons lurking there.
The Lord does this, the King of the ages;
for He has been glorified.
From the St. Cosmas’ Canon of Matins for the feast