Reflections from the Gloria Dei Choir
Dec 12, 2019
Today’s readings follow those of John the Baptist that we have heard the last two weeks, and now it is Jesus himself preaching in the desert and offering redemption. The first reading from Isaiah gives us the prophecy of Christ, the redeemer, who will come to save and to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. In the Gospel, we hear the reality of this prophecy fulfilled in Jesus as it is recounted to the followers of John, who ask if he is “the one who is to come.” In our anthem for the Presentation of the Gifts, we sing “How Beautiful Upon the Mountains” by John Carter (b. 1930) as a reflection upon this reality of the coming of Christ, who “brings good tidings” and redeems us all.
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good tidings
Who brings words of peace and salvation?
Break forth together into singing,
You waste places of Jerusalem,
For the Lord has comforted his people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
John Carter has composed hundreds of choral works, and often collaborates on music with his wife, Mary Kay Beall who is also a pastor. Together, they have over 30 years of experience writing and directing music for choirs of all ages.
As we call out in today’s Responsorial Psalm, “Lord, come and save us,” we recount the original fall of man in Adam and our need for Christ’s salvation in our anticipation of His coming, recognizing also the need to be patient, as it says in today’s letter from James in the second reading. In our anthem for Communion, “Adam Lay Ybounden,” harmonized by Boris Ord (1897-1961), we hear that Adam had to wait a long time indeed for the coming of Christ and his redemption to free him from his bonds. And so we must also wait.
Adam lay ybounden, bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple, an apple that he took,
As clerkes finden, written in their book.
Ne had the apple taken been, the apple taken been,
Ne had never our Lady a-been heavene queen.
Blessed be the time that apple taken was;
Therefore we mourn singen: Deo gracias!
The text of this song dates back to about 1400 AD, thought to have been originally used in an early mystery play of the medieval era. These were the earliest plays recorded, outlining the stories of the Bible, such as this of Adam and Eve. As the song says, although a seemingly simple thing, had the apple not been taken in the garden of Eden, then neither could Our Lady have been crowned Queen of Heaven as mother of the Savior. This arrangement has followed the first lesson of Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, since it was written in 1957, and it was sung in the same place in our own Lessons and Carols Service last week.
—Lorraine Joy Welling, Director
Gloria Dei Choir