From the Music Minister
Part 3 of a 4 Part Series by Kira Seaton
Dear St. Thomas family,
For centuries, Christian congregations have met together, and no matter what the scriptures or lessons were for the day, there were elements of worship that are called the Ordinary, which means we always, or “ordinarily”, do them. A thousand years ago, the Ordinary consisted of five pieces of scripture that the early church fathers thought would help the celebrants and congregation to stay focused and more fully participate in worship. Because of their origin, the words are translations of a mixture of Latin and Greek texts.
The Gloria, which is included in most Sunday services, takes its words from Scripture, as the Angels sing “Glory be to God the Father, Son, Holy Ghost” or “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace to all His People”. Sometimes, like we are doing right now, the Gloria is replaced with a more general Hymn of Praise, but usually the same words of praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are found somewhere in the hymn text.
The Kyrie, or “Lord Have Mercy” is especially included in the Episcopal liturgy on days of penitence, and we often say or sing these words in Advent and Lent. At St. Thomas, we don’t include the whole setting in every service, but it can often be found in the words used to confess our sins before taking Communion.
The Credo, or Creed is something we include in each service before the Prayers of the People, either the Apostle’s or Nicene version. Our current method of worship is to say these words, but sometimes they are sung, and VERY effectively, during special services.
The Sanctus is again, taken from the scriptural words of Man and Angels. With it, we directly address God and proclaim His majesty together with the angels. Every time we say or sing the Sanctus we join the angels and saints in their song, hoping to sing a perfect hymn of praise to a perfect and holy God.
And last, the Agnus Dei, “Lamb of God”, often called the Fraction Anthem, is sung after the Lord’s Prayer, as the Priest is breaking the Bread to be served to us. The words of this great prayer focus on the Book of Revelation, (Revelation 5:12), where the angels praise the Lamb of God and we, who join in this heavenly liturgy by our own earthly liturgy, do the same. We join in this praise, but also plead with God that He may show us mercy as we prepare to receive Communion. (Revelation 19:1-9)
It is our intent at St. Thomas to include these by singing or saying, so that we are joined with Christians everywhere, past, present, and future. Because of this, Music Directors often use the most familiar settings they can, and many composers of church music will write a group of settings. We sometimes will choose, say, the Schubert settings, and I have often chose those at Christmas as the most familiar.
Complacency in worship is probably just as dangerous as the panic feelings that can come with new elements of worship. However, if we are to “Sing to the Lord a New Song”, sometimes new settings are presented, and we will use them. Rev. Catinella and I wrote three different Sancti that appear most often in the Contemporary worship, and we have sung a couple of these in the past in all services. We recognize that there is a great deal of comfort in what we know, but if we are to “worship God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and spirits”, perhaps it is a good thing, every so often, to change up our songs of praise so that they do not become too “ordinary.”