Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ambrose of Milan and Advent


In history today, Ambrose was called as bishop of Milan in 374. I first learned about Ambrose when we studied Augustine several years ago. He impressed me as a man I would like to meet some day. Catholic Forum has a good article about him.

But today I want to think about something that Ambrose introduced to the church that is so common today — singing of hymns. Yes, Ambrose, mostly known for being God's instrument to draw Augustine of Hippo to faith in Christ, is the man who introduced hymn singing during worship services.

Because hymn singing in church was previously unknown, Ambrose had to compose hymns to be sung. One hymn most appropriate for this season that he wrote was the Advent hymn, "Come, thou Redeemer of the Earth." Altogether, eight verse were written. Read, listen, and ponder.

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth, and manifest thy virgin birth: let every age adoring fall; such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will, but of the Spirit, thou art still the Word of God in flesh arrayed, the promised fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained with virgin honor all unstained; the banners there of virtue glow; God in his temple dwells below.

Forth from his chamber goeth he, that royal home of purity, a giant in twofold substance one, rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds, to God the Father back he speeds; his course he runs to death and hell, returning on God's throne to dwell.

O equal to thy Father, thou! Gird on thy fleshly mantle now; the weakness of our mortal state with deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright, and darkness breathe a newer light, where endless faith shall shine serene, and twilight never intervene.

All laud to God the Father be, all praise, eternal Son, to thee; all glory, as is ever meet, to God the Holy Paraclete.


3 comments:

Carol in Oregon said...

Do you sing this in your church? What a rich hymn!! I popped up and checked the Trinity Hymnal that we use and, alas, it is not in there. I'd love to introduce it to our music director. Thank you, Janie!

Seasonal Soundings said...

Oh, Carol, here we go again with more in common! So you use the Trinity Hymnal? We did at our past churches, but in the present one we use The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration. I like it but prefer The Trinity. Are you in the PCA?

Ambrose's hymn is not in ours either, but the tune is in LM (Long Meter). If you check the metrical index in the back of the hymnal, you can choose any hymn tune under Long Meter which will work with the words. For instance, think "Old Hundredth", "Jesus Shall Reign," or "Lord, Speak to Me," (some of my personal favorites!) and sing the words of Ambroses's hymn. Voila!

You can do this with any hymn as long as you have the meter which is found somewhere on the hymn page. Usually the tune is titled and the meter is right under it in numbers with periods or CM (common meter), LM (long meter), or SM (short meter). It's a handy way to fit a tune to known words, or vice versa.

Carol in Oregon said...

Thanks Janie. We're not PCA, our church is sort of independent with Reformed Baptists ties.

For years my husband and I picked songs for the service. We switched tunes to be able to sing unfamiliar hymns that fit with the service.

I was teaching piano to a young friend and we started exploring the metrical index. We started to get goofy and made unlikely pairs. Like, "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" to the tune of Greensleeves.

Thanks for the suggestion. Happy day to you!