Sunday, December 04, 2005

Solemn Harmonies

In the Book World section of today's Washington Post, there is an excellent article by Michael Dirda, a book critic for the Post, in which he extolls the virtues of sacred prose, commenting that "there are times when only the full organ roll of liturgical prose can match the glory or sacredness of the occasion." He writes that the five sources of religious eloquence in the English language are the King James version of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, The Pilgrim's Progress, hymns by writers such as Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, and the classical traditions of oratory and homily. He then spends the remainder of the article examining excerpts from each.

In my writing classes, the students practice imitation, short exercises in which they copy out passages from literature or great speeches or Scripture. They are now copying out Luke 2:1-14, and so I am thrilled that Dirda opens his article with a section from this passage. In fact, I enjoyed this article so much that, though they are at this moment unaware, my students will tomorrow be receiving handouts of this article and listening as their teacher reads it aloud to them with her own inserted exhortations. :-) I highly encourage you to read it as well.

This article was an excellent prelude to the hymns we sang at church this morning: "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah," "O What Matchless Condescension," "Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor," "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," and our closing hymn, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence."

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!


Post a Comment

<< Home