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The Presentation in the Templ

SING we of the blessed Mother

The Presentation in the Templ

At a Candlemas (Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple) service I attended last Sunday, we sang:

1 SING we of the blessed Mother
who received the angels word,
And obedient to his summons
bore in love the infant Lord;
Sing we of the Joys of Mary
at whose breast that child was fed
Who is Son of God eternal
and the everlasting Bread.

2 Sing we, too, of Mary’s sorrows,
of the sword that pierced her through,
When beneath the cross of Jesus
she his weight of suffering knew,
Looked upon her Son and Saviour
reigning from the awful tree,
Saw the price of man’s redemption
paid to set the sinner free.

3 Sing again the joys of Mary
when she saw the risen Lord,
And in prayer with Christ’s apostles,
waited on his promised word:
From on high the blazing glory
of the Spirit’s presence came,
Heavenly breath of God’s own being,
Tokened in the wind and flame.

4 Sing the chiefest joy of Mary
when on earth her work was done,
And the Lord of all creation
brought her to his heavenly home:
Virgin Mother, Mary blessed,
Raised on high and crowned with grace,
May thy Son, the world’s redeemer,
Grant us all to see his face.

These lyrics are by George Boorne Timms (1910-1997). It’s found in at least 15 hymn books. We were singing from The New English Hymnal, published in 1986, a hymn book aimed for Anglicanism, and the successor of 1906 English Hymnal. And wait – there’s more! There’s promise of The Revised English Hymnal “early 2020” (see here and here). It won’t be difficult to get the language being a bit more gender-inclusive! [Let’s hope that’s part of the brie – eg. “…the price of man’s redemption…” can easily become “…the price of our redemption…”]

The start of verse 3 is interesting. Much of the hymn has a strong biblical basis (I think that verse 4 deals very well with different perspectives Christians might have about Mary’s dormition/assumption/death/etc). Verse 3 speaks of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, encountering her Risen Son, a story not told in the Bible.

I’m reminded of the note for a meditation on this in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola:

He appeared to the Virgin Mary. Though this is not mentioned explicitly in the Scripture it must be considered as stated when Scripture says that He appeared to many others. For Scripture supposes that we have understanding, as it is written, “Are you also without understanding?” [299]

I’m with Ignatius, and GB Timms’ sensitive allusion to this: of course the Risen Christ appeared to his Mother. Otherwise, are you also without understanding?”

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5 thoughts on “SING we of the blessed Mother”

  1. As I read through the verse3s the exact same issues that you raise jumped out at me. Although I think it entirely possible that Mary was among those who witnessed a risen Christ, the Assumption of Mary isn’t something to which I subscribe.

    Overall, I like the hymn!

  2. For the parent who loses a child, all else is immaterial; you suffer, and hopefully eventually overcome to the most extent possible, the same suffering as our Christian God itself. The only answer to counter the pain and bitterness is to love and dedicate yourself to the world. Is that the metaphor of Mary and Christ?

    Even so, ‘Let us stop with the insistence of imposing one another’s metaphors upon each other, lest we trample another’s spiritual longing and development’ is too a prayer I would pray, for Jesus said ‘whenever you pray, go into your closet, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly.’

    One of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written is Dormition for the Mother of God by John Tavener ( it’s on Youtube ) Tavener suffered numerous health issues in his life, he had Marfan Syndrome which is a severe trial. He overcame through his music and lived to 69.

    From this hymn
    ‘From on high the blazing glory
    of the Spirit’s presence came,
    Heavenly breath of God’s own being,
    Tokened in the wind and flame.’
    This speaks to all who have made peace with their religion and spirituality. ‘Perfect presence’ as The Acts later call it.

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