Sunday, February 19, 2017
9:30am | Saint James Episcopal Church, Dexter

The Epiphany of Christ is a festival day celebrated annually, in Western Christianity, on 6 January. The birth and revelation of Jesus of Nazareth—the physical manifestation of our God—is the central theme of the season after the Epiphany, including the commemoration of the magi visiting the young Jesus, the holy family’s flight into Egypt, the presentation of Christ in the temple (think Simeon and Anna), the baptism of the Lord, and the transfiguration.

At Saint James Episcopal Church in Dexter, we celebrated the Epiphany season with a service of word and sacrament and musical selections primarily from the Christmas season, the beginning of Christ’s human journey on earth. 

“Ther is no rose of swych vertu as is the rose that bare Jhesu.”

An anonymous Marian hymn from the Trinity Carol Roll, a 15th century English manuscript that is our earliest known source of English polyphonic carols. The roll contains thirteen carols in Middle English and Latin, including “Ther Is No Rose,” which has reentered the popular choral repertoire for the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons.

“Shine on our darkness and lend us thine aid.”

Reginald Heber’s well-known Christmas text is almost universally arranged with the opening four lines of “hail the blest morn,” an anonymous addition that emerges in the American shape-note tradition as verse 1. Heber’s first verse then becomes the refrain, his other three verses rounding out the hymn as we so often find it today. Set to dozens of tunes, this shape-note variant has a long history, from Hickok’s 1832 Sacred Harp (#140) to Walker’s 1854 Southern Harmony (#16) to Chase and Hall’s 1875 Christian Hymnal (#37), where it appears (for the first time?) in a major key.

“Let not our selfishness and hate this holy seed remove.”

An inspiringly raucous fugal melody by Joseph Stephenson from White’s 1844 Sacred Harp (#273) is sung here to John Cawood’s 1819 text “Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast.” In Sacred Harp (1844), MILFORD is paired with the anonymous “If Angels sung a Savior’s birth” Christmas text. Both texts are below.


There Is No Rose of Such Virtue
There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu.

For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in little space.
Res miranda [a wonderful thing].

By that rose we may well see
That he is God in persons three.
Pari forma [of the same form].
~Trinity Carol Roll 15th century English manuscript

Hail the Blest Morn!
Hail the blest morn, see the great Mediator,
Down from the regions of glory descend!
Shepherds, go worship the babe in the manger,
Lo for his guard the bright angels attend.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Shine on our darkness and lend us thine aid.
Star in the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

Cold on his cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies his bed with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore him, in slumber reclining,
Wise men and shepherds before him do fall.

Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems from the mountain, and pearls from the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, and gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
Vainly with gold we his favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration;
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
~ Christian Hymnal, 1875

Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast
Almighty God, your word is cast
like seed upon the ground,
Now let the dew of heav’n descend
and righteous fruits abound.

Let not our selfishness and hate
this holy seed remove,
But give it root in every heart
to bring forth fruits of love.

Let not the world’s deceitful cares
the rising plant destroy,
But let it yield a hundred-fold
the fruits of peace and joy.
~Music: Sacred Harp, 1844
~Text: John Cawood, 1775–1852

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