Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Hymn, Spring, and Bach’s Birthday

My poor little blog has suffered lately. It’s a busy time of year for us teachers and homeschooling moms with standardized testing of various sorts, planning for next year, registration for classes opening soon, not to mention the extra time outside. Because, yes! spring is here! But more on that in a minute. First I want to pick up the Sunday hymn posts, which so far is a series of one. Lol So here goes . . .

Sunday Hymn~~St. Patrick’s Breastplate (I Bind unto Myself Today)

The text of this hymn is attributed to the well-known St. Patrick, a Briton who in the 5th century went to Ireland to evangelize the pagans and is now the patron saint of that country. It is a lorica, or prayer for protection, and if you think about it, it is no surprise that Patrick would ask the Lord for protection in a wild land full of people hostile to the faith. The words are powerful:

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
By pow’r of faith, Christ’s incarnation,
His baptism in the Jordan River,
His cross of death for my salvation,
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heav’nly way,
His coming at the day of of doom,
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The pow’r of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need,
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The Word of God to give me speech,
His heav’nly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ of Lord! Amen!

The tune is called, not surprisingly, St. Patrick, but I have been unable to find out anything else about it except that it comes from the Liber Hymnorum (“Hymn Book”—imaginative title, isn’t it? Lol), which consists of two manuscripts kept in Dublin. The meter is irregular, meaning that there is no regular pattern of syllables for the lines. The tune has that lovely Celtic sensibility that defies definition . . . at least, I’m not able to define it!

Here’s a rendition on pipe organ:


We have had several days of gorgeous weather with blue skies and temperatures in the 60’s and even 70’s. The daffodils had been hovering on the brink of blooming, just waiting for warmth to make them pop out. And pop out they did in the past few days. My mini daffodils are blooming, and there are other signs of life as well~trees budding, the first hints of forsythia, birdsong in the mornings. I’m just beginning to realize how important flowers are to me. I’ve always loved them, but I’m beginning to sense how much they contribute to my mental well-being, and not just flowers but blue sky and sunshine too. I’m feeling a little guilty about that because I want to rejoice in the Creator, but I know that the creation points me to Him, and I think that ultimately I am rejoicing in Him but also in the good gifts He has given. It would be wrong, in fact, not to notice His gifts to us and be thankful for them, like an ungrateful child who does not recognize that his food, shelter, clothing, and all the things he needs for his well-being are his because his parents have worked hard to provide them. I’m reminded of a Lewis quote (as in Clive Staples) that I can’t recall the source of or the exact wording, but it goes something like this: The sunbeam is beautiful and is to be admired, but it leads our gaze up to the source of the light, the sun. So it is with God’s good gifts. He gives us all we need and more, and those gifts should lead our grateful thoughts to Him.


Last of all, but certainly not least of all, today is Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday. Born in Eisenach, Germany, in 1685, he was the son of a musician in a family of musicians. Bach was not known as a composer during his lifetime. In fact, he was thought to be rather pedantic and old-fashioned, and his last employers were disappointed that their first two choices were not available. “Since the best man was not available,” they said, “a lesser man will have to do.” If only they had known that Bach would eventually be recognized as the greatest composer the Western world has ever seen!

After his death in 1750 (and often before) his music languished in obscurity until Felix Mendelssohn, a fellow Lutheran, staged a production of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in Leipzig in 1829 that birthed the Bach revival, first in Germany, then in Europe and beyond.

Bach was a devout Lutheran who wrote all his music to the glory of God. He often inscribed “Jesus, help me” or “To the Glory of God Alone” in his manuscripts. His two wives bore him twenty children, ten of whom died in childhood. (I can’t even imagine!) Several of his sons came to be composers better known during their lifetimes than he was during his lifetime. Despite the loss of many of his mansucripts, Bach has left a legacy of music that is one of the very greatest achievements of the West.

If you are new to Bach, I suggest starting with his Brandenburg Concertos. There are six, and they are all fun. Go on to the orchestral suites from there. If you have several hours to spare, try the B Minor Mass or the St. Matthew Passion. The solo cello suites are elegant simplicity. There is more wonderful music than I can list here, but these are a start.

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