Aural Advent Calendar: Day 15

A bit of a backlog in the Calendar department these last couple of days folks. A terrible disappointment indeed, but there is a bright side, so not all is lost. What is this mysterious upside of which Miss Mussel speaks? Well, not having a door to open (as it were) yesterday or the day before, means THERE ARE THREE TO OPEN TODAY!!!! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is excitement on a scale not seen round these parts for quite some time. Whoopeee!

*ahem*

Today’s (technically yesterday’s)(but whose counting?) Advent calendar installment brings us back to England, this time in York. Although most Londoners think the world ends at the edge of the M25, the Anglican church sees things rather differently and has stationed one of the two CofE Archbishops there.

Miss Mussel attended a mind-blowingly spectacular carol service at Yorkminster in 2004. The church is enormous and on that evening was absolutely packed full of people. At least 1000…or so it seemed. The exact number of personages present is not as important as the overall effect of such a mass of voices singing together in a building of such fantastic reverb.

It is rather like hearing a live performance of Mahler’s 2nd symphony. By the end, you are literally so overwhelmed by sound it feels as if all your senses are exploding, rendering you a pile of blubbering mush incapable of articulating anything that happened in the last 60 minutes.

It may be difficult to tell for those that are not down with the Advent hymns in mainline Protestant churches but the one being sung in the video is Lo, He Come With Clouds Descending!

Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Christ the Lord returns to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at nought and sold him,
pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

Those dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears,
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshipers;
with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
gaze we on those glorious scars!

Now redemption, long expected,
see in solemn pomp appear;
all his saints, by man rejected,
now shall meet him in the air:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
See the day of God appear!

Yea, amen! let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory;
claim the kingdom for thine own:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.

At first glance, the text seems very odd, considering its discussion of nails, scars and wailing rather than babies, virgins, evergreen boughs, presents, shepherds and items of the holly and/or jolly variety. The 1758 text, by Charles Wesley, is straight out of the Book of Revelation and is appropriate the context of Advent’s purist definition as a looking forward to Christ’s second coming. In this frame, the birth is a means to end, not the reason for the party.

This tune was not in circulation until 1868 when it was made up by John Goss, an English organist who is best remembered for the tune to Praise My Soul The King of Heaven.

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