First song of Isaiah, 13 Dec 15

Positive organAs we noted two weeks ago, we are into canticles or individual songs of praise (from the Latin canticulum meaning little song) in the place of the psalm during Advent.

Which ones?

Which texts are accepted as canticles is another question. Different church traditions tend to use different lists. One web-site lists dozens of them which, it says, are:

… mostly collected from the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours and the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Not included are the Psalms which are used as Canticles (Psalms 95, 100, 67, 24).

The Magnificat, Nunc dimittis and Benedictus are understandably favourites in most traditions, especially during Advent. Regarding those popular ones, I’d really like to have a go at the settings à4 by John Blow (1649 – 1708). Maybe another time?

What about our lot? A search of the official UCA site says nothing about the canticles at all, save the pronouncement that:

The Uniting Church in Australia welcomes Pope Francis’s encyclical letter on the environment, Laudato Si (Canticle of the Sun)

Fine, especially in the face of reluctance in many quarters to take on, or even recognise, the challenge of global warming. But it doesn’t shed much light on the UCA’s expectations for the traditional canticles. That’s fine by me too; I see nothing wrong with a little freedom. How often has revolution erupted from frustration with prescriptive doctrine, rules and regulations? (You won’t find too much of that stuff at South Woden.)

IMG_1121Aside: In honour of Bruce, our cantor from last Sunday’s song to whom our warmest of thanks, I hasten to acknowledge that standardisation and common measures are also important; Bruce earns his crust in this obscure field after all. In 1796-7, the French installed metre standard measures around their capital as reference points, presumably in the interests of fair trade — the one shown here (in a rather poor photograph, sorry) is the sole survivor in its original position. Such measures never prevent cutting one’s cloth to suit the purpose, of course and in today’s context, verse and song are marvellously malleable media, serving myriad moments and messages.

This one

This week’s First song of Isaiah is relatively obscure. It is no doubt in use, but does not appear in numbered lists in the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox liturgy. It’s called Canticle 9 in the Roman tradition.


Well, the ecclesiastical authorities have clearly given me a non-metric inch, so I might as well take a musical mile. For this Sunday, I have borrowed the tune of a song that John Bell wrote for Advent (He came down that we may have love) and added a paraphrased First Song of Isaiah as a children’s song.

It’s a simple tune that concludes ‘hallelujah for evermore’. We sang it in Advent 2012 and 2103 to the delight of our children. One of our mothers-of-young and creative children’s blogger will sing for us. We can anticipate their strong support, especially now that they are so much older and taller a couple of years on, and — is it possible? —  even more beautiful.

We welcome back our former pastor Jonathan Barker as our leader this week.

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