House of Brigid 2009-10

House of Brigid 2009-10

17 February 2010

Wednesday Nights

Every Wednesday night I come home around half-nine after back-to-back choir rehearsals, and for the rest of my night, often even into the next morning, I have the same song stuck in my head. Every single Wednesday night, without fail. It's the well-known hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth," sung to the tune Dix, and it's how we end each and every rehearsal with our Vigil Choir.
The practice is one that we've brought with us from our days with the Folk Choir, and we've retained those traditional songs as well, beginning our communal Evening Prayer every Tuesday night by singing Chrysogonus Waddell's "Hail, Holy Queen." When we began working with our own choir, though, we decided that we wanted to end our rehearsal with a hymn that was uniquely us, a hymn that, many years from now, will bring us back to the many evenings spent rehearsing in the Day Chapel alongside the tapestry of St. Brigid.
There were two main criteria in choosing the hymn. 1) It had to wear well, to hold up after being sung week after week. 2) Its text had to pray well, to express something timeless and universal while still being able to resonate with our experiences on a day-to-day basis.
I believe that "For the Beauty of the Earth" fulfills both criteria gracefully and beautifully; its melody is simple and elegant, with harmonies that are inexplicably evocative. We sing this hymn in E-flat major (one of my favorite keys), and in this range, sung at a relaxed tempo, it sounds like a lullaby. Its text contains many verses, but I believe the four that we chose enable us to have a completely different prayer each time that we sing it. The text conjures up (at least for me) memories of recent events, interactions, conversations, and intentions -- whatever is taking place in my life at the time. The refrain allows me to take a moment and acknowledge all of the unique ways God has been present and active in my life, and to simply be grateful.
On this Ash Wednesday, I invite you to pray with the House of Brigid, to recall, even as we begin Lent by acknowledging our sinfulness and our need for mercy, that God continues to bless us with countless gifts -- that God will never be outdone in generosity if we but give our lives in grateful praise.

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies;
For the love that from our birth,
Over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour,
Of the day and of the night;
Hill and vale and tree and flow'r,
Sun and moon and stars of light;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child;
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For Thyself, best Gift Divine,
To the world so freely giv'n;
Word Incarnate, God's design,
Peace on earth and joy in heav'n;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

St. Cecilia, pray for us.
St. Brigid, pray for us.

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