With a Song in my Heart – 40 Days of Sacred Songs
Day 39 – Good Friday
To Listen: How Shall I Sing That Majesty
How shall I sing that majesty
which angels do admire?
Let dust in dust and silence lie;
sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.
Thousands of thousands stand around
thy throne, O God most high;
ten thousand times ten thousand sound
thy praise; but who am I?
Thy brightness unto them appears,
whilst I thy footsteps trace;
a sound of God comes to my ears,
but they behold thy face.
They sing because thou art their Sun;
Lord, send a beam on me;
for where heav’n is but once begun
there alleluias be.
How great a being, Lord, is thine,
which doth all beings keep!
Thy knowledge is the only line
to sound so vast a deep.
Thou art a sea without a shore,
a sun without a sphere;
thy time is now and evermore,
thy place is ev’rywhere.
John Mason (c. 1645-1694)
From the Scriptures:
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
And so, as we come towards the end of Lent I find myself back almost at the beginning of my faith journey. When we moved to Felixstowe I turned 60 years old as did my year group from the Royal Hospital School just across the Orwell estuary (on a very clear day you can just see the School tower from the top of the tower of St John’s Felixstowe). One bright spark in our group (I think we had more than one!) thought it would be a good idea to return to school to watch the Sunset Ceremony, followed by a formal dinner on a Saturday and then all attend Chapel on the Sunday with the rest of the School. Today’s hymn – though not one that was of our era – was sung with all the gusto that can be mustered by Boarding School inmates that I mentioned previously.
And suddenly I was home again. It was if I was living inside TS Eliot’s wonderful words from Little Gidding:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
And so, together on this Good Friday, we find ourselves the children of the apple tree once more in the same place again gazing on an olive tree shrouded in Love. It seems odd that it is only when Christ is nailed down that the message of God’s generous love goes everywhere? Indeed ‘How can we sing such majesty’?
Before I grew up, which I think was really only after I was forty, (and I’m pretty certain I’m not done growing yet), I used to hate the idea of God being omnipresent. Psalm 139 made my skin crawl as it played into a twisted picture I had inherited of a God who was out to get me! Since I was ‘embraced’ by Jesus in the early days of my vocation, this has not been so difficult but I still had (have?) those moments when I think I can hide from God and get away with stuff that God doesn’t like, and if I’m honest with myself, I don’t enjoy either.
But when you look at the cross, at Love nailed down, you know that there is no escaping. Not that I want to nowadays anyway. Some days I wish everyday was Good Friday that I might gladly spend all my days singing of this Love Unknown. But we can’t as others also need to learn that God is not ‘out to get them’. We are the ones who have been entrusted with the task of proclaiming the Good News that God’s only desire is to be our guide and comforter, our healer and restorer and longs to welcome us all home where:
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
Psalm 139 reminds me that God’s presence and love is everywhere
The Cross reminds me that I am the one that has the privilege of living that love out in front of the whole world and, in an imitation of Christ, try to be the one who is ‘Love to the loveless shown’.
This is for me the glory of the Cross. God takes sinners such as I and you, gazes on us with love and welcome, and entrusts us with sharing that same love to the whole world. Boasting only that all we know is that ’once we were blind but now we see’ (John 9v25).
may every breath we take be for your glory,
may every footstep show you as our way,
that, trusting in your presence in this world,
we may, beyond this life, still be with you
where you are alive and reign
for ever and ever.
Say a prayer of thanksgiving, in a public place.
(P.S. It doesn’t have to be said out loud)
Reprise: Wait for the Lord
Yes, this is an Advent Song. But it does describe fairly well our task over the next few days, watch, wait, and look for the glory of the Lord which will be revealed.
Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord: keep watch take heart
Prepare the way for the Lord.
Make a straight path for God.
Prepare the way for the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord always: God is at hand.
Joy and gladness for all who seek the Lord.
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed.
All the earth will see the Lord.
I waited for the Lord. God heard my cry
Our eyes are fixed on the Lord our God.
Seek first the kingdom of God.
Seek and you shall find.
O Lord show us your way.
Guide us in your truth.
Taizé Community, based on Scripture
Please Note: These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin
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Prayers are adapted from the Psalm Prayers in the Common Worship Psalter. material from which is included here, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2005
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘With a Song in my Heart’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2022