Hymn of the Week: December 12
by Nicholas Frazier Bideler, Acting Organist & Choirmaster
The Episcopal Church of St. Michael & St. John, Clayton
This Sunday at The Church of St. Michael and St. George the hymn at the retiring procession is one of my favorite tunes to play, sing, and say! The Welsh tune named after a Pembrokeshire village, Llangloffan, is all-around a fabulous hymn. This strong, majestic tune is a fitting complement to the poetry, and it proves that just because a hymn is in a minor key doesn’t necessarily mean that it is sad or to be played like a dirge. What is really happening is the exact opposite; the tune is hopeful and triumphant as it matches the invocation in the text: "Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear!"
The hymn text is an excellent example of the important hymn writer Laurentius Laurenti. You wouldn’t know it by looking up his name in the Hymnal 1982, but his imprint is rather large on hymnody, especially that of the Lutheran church. This text has been a part of the Episcopal church tradition since its inclusion in the 1892 hymnal.
Laurenti was born at Husum in 1660 and studied at the University of Rostock and then to Kiel to study music. In 1684 he was appointed Cantor and Director of Music at the Cathedral Church at Bremen. His hymns are founded on the Gospels for Sundays and Festivals, and they draw out the bearing on the Christian life of the leading thoughts therein contained. They are of noble simplicity; are Scriptural, fervent, and often of genuine poetical worth.
This text is based on the parable of the wise and foolish maidens (Matthew 25:1-13) consisted of ten stanzas, but this briefer version is more appropriate for its message of urgency. Just as the bridesmaids did not know when the bridegroom would return, we do not know when Jesus will return. We know not the day or the hour and so we need to keep watch for His return. The marriage between the bride (the Church) and the bridegroom is at hand.
In our Advent journey, we are closer now to Christmas than we are to the start of Advent. In today’s society, or even as a church musician, this could be a relief or even the cause of major anxiety. But as we journey to the manger, may our presence, prayer, and wrestling continue, but also, may our hopes grow as we wait until God is with us.
Listen to the tune here: