On Sunday, we’ll get to do something post-1979 Episcopalians rarely do anymore: read/sing a canticle. Some of my readers have probably never heard the word. I hadn’t until I arrived at Virginia Seminary. A canticle is a non-metrical song, usually based on the Bible (other than the Psalms). They have been a part of the Daily Office for ever, I think, but since we moved the Eucharist back to the center of our liturgical life and since very few people actually attend a Daily Office service, let alone pray it on their own, canticles have gone out of favor with Episcopalians. And its a shame, really. Two whole generations of Christians don’t know the joy that is Calvin Hampton’s setting of Canticle 18, A Song to the Lamb, from the Hymnal 1982.
As I said, this Sunday, we’ll have the chance to read/sing a Canticle, number 16, the song of Zechariah. My friend, Evan, is blogging about it all week, you should read his stuff. Anyway, I was struck by a part of Canticle 16 as I read through the lessons for Advent 2 this morning. It come about halfway through Zechariah’s song, as he is extolling the virtues of God’s covenant with Abraham.
“This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *to set us free from the hands of our enemies, /Free to worship him without fear, *holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.”
I was probably more struck by it today than other days because of another blog I had read today by a fellow General Convention Deputy and Acts 8 Devotee, Megan Castellan, about her encounter with Zach, a 10 year old boy who is learning to knit. Go read the whole post, but in the meantime, here’s the pertinent excerpt:
“[Zach asked,] ‘Why, if God gave us free will, did God insist that we worship him, and “not just let us sit on a beach in Miami all the time?”’ (That made me laugh out loud.)