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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Music for Advent

Visitation
Christopher Orczy
2009

And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste,
into a city of Judah;
and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth.
And it came to pass,
when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary,
the babe leaped in her womb;
and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost;
and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry,
and said,
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
And whence is this to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?
For behold,
when the voice of thy salutation came into mine ears,
the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
And blessed is she that believed;
for there shall be a fulfillment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord.

And Mary said,
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath looked upon the low estate of his handmaiden:
For behold,
from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
And holy is his name.
And his mercy is unto generations and generations on them that fear him.
He hath shewed strength with his arm;
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.
He hath put down princes from their thrones,
And hath exalted them of low degree.
The hungry he hath filled with good things;
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen Israel his servant,
That he might remember mercy
(As he spake unto our fathers)
Toward Abraham and his seed for ever.

And Mary abode with her about three months,
and returned unto her house.
Luke 1:39-56 RV
I have just completed the final part of my Advent trilogy. The first part, Annunciation, was completed in 2007. You can read more about that here. The third part, Nativity, was completed in 2008. More about that here.

This last piece comes in between the two, as will be noticed by the above Gospel reading, concerns Mary's visit to Elizabeth, just after being informed about what is to occur.

Where in Annunciation, I wanted to treat the dialog between Gabriel and Mary, with Visitation I wanted to give two portraits of the two women involved. There are similar themes and sonorities between the two pieces, as both women are talking about the same thing: Christ.

I suppose this work may sound a bit gloomy, especially for a reading that is essentially joyous. While it may be a wondrous thing that has occurred, the shadow of the cross is looming.

Please forgive my take on this. It certainly isn't what I would preach on this passage. I do invite you to listen to the now complete Advent album. These pieces express my feelings of the Incarnation. The most wonderful thing to occur is also very difficult to understand. The immensity of the event is unfathomable.

These pieces also reflect my journey as a Christian. I experienced my conversion on Christmas Day 2006, and I knew at that point all future compositions would be devoted to the faith. I also knew I could no longer expect money for doing so.

You can download Advent for free here.

Enjoy these pieces, and have a very merry Christmass.

Music for Advent: Visitation

Visitation
Christopher Orczy
2009

And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste,
into a city of Judah;
and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth.
And it came to pass,
when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary,
the babe leaped in her womb;
and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost;
and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry,
and said,
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
And whence is this to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?
For behold,
when the voice of thy salutation came into mine ears,
the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
And blessed is she that believed;
for there shall be a fulfillment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord.

And Mary said,
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath looked upon the low estate of his handmaiden:
For behold,
from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
And holy is his name.
And his mercy is unto generations and generations on them that fear him.
He hath shewed strength with his arm;
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.
He hath put down princes from their thrones,
And hath exalted them of low degree.
The hungry he hath filled with good things;
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen Israel his servant,
That he might remember mercy
(As he spake unto our fathers)
Toward Abraham and his seed for ever.

And Mary abode with her about three months,
and returned unto her house.
Luke 1:39-56 RV
I have just completed the final part of my Advent trilogy. The first part, Annunciation, was completed in 2007. You can read more about that here. The third part, Nativity, was completed in 2008. More about that here.

This last piece comes in between the two, as will be noticed by the above Gospel reading, concerns Mary's visit to Elizabeth, just after being informed about what is to occur.

Where in Annunciation, I wanted to treat the dialog between Gabriel and Mary, with Visitation I wanted to give two portraits of the two women involved. There are similar themes and sonorities between the two pieces, as both women are talking about the same thing: Christ.

I suppose this work may sound a bit gloomy, especially for a reading that is essentially joyous. While it may be a wondrous thing that has occurred, the shadow of the cross is looming.

Please forgive my take on this. It certainly isn't what I would preach on this passage. I do invite you to listen to the now complete Advent album. These pieces express my feelings of the Incarnation. The most wonderful thing to occur is also very difficult to understand. The immensity of the event is unfathomable.

These pieces also reflect my journey as a Christian. I experienced my conversion on Christmas Day 2006, and I knew at that point all future compositions would be devoted to the faith. I also knew I could no longer expect money for doing so.

You can download Advent for free here.

Enjoy these pieces, and have a very merry Christmass.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Elevation of the Host

Monstrance

Real Presence

Lightning

for as the lightning,
when it lighteneth out of the one part under the heaven,
shineth unto the other part under heaven;
so shall the Son of man be in his day.
Luke 17:24 RV

Light of men

In him was life;
and the life was the light of men.
John 1:4 RV

The Blood of Jesus


Tresors de Satan


Tresors de Satan
Jean Delville
(1895)

Compare with L'Homme Dieu


Hell is nothing else but
nature departed or excluded
from the beam of divine light.
William Law

Saint Christopher

Mystical Mass

Photo of Jesus

(l-r: Peter, Jesus, Beloved Disciple)
I am not sure where this came from, but it is quite cool. I like the idea that this is a fake photo from the early 1900's that may have had some people fooled that it was real.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ad Orientem



Solemn High Mass, Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, 1960s

Mode of Incensing the Altar

from Ritual Notes.

Aureole


The golden halos around the heads of pagan gods and Christian saints refer both to their being bathed in the glory of the sun and also to the fact that a spiritual sun within their own natures is radiating its glow-ray and surrounding them with celestial splendor. Whenever the nimbus is composed of straight radiant lines, it is solar in significance; whenever curved lines are used for beams, it partakes lunar nature; whenever they are united, it symbolizes a, harmonious blending of both principles. The circular nimbus is solar and masculine, while the lozenge-shaped nimbus, or vesica piscis, is lunar and feminine. The same symbolism is preserved in the circular and lozenge-shaped windows of cathedrals. There is a complete science contained in the shape, color, and adornments of the halos of saints and martyrs. A plain golden ring usually surrounds the head of a canonized saint, while God the Father and God the Son have a far more ornate aureole, usually adorned with a St. George Cross, a flowered cross, or a lilied cross, with only three of the arms visible.

From Audsley's Handbook of Christian Symbolism.


Christmas with George Herbert



Christmas

ALL after pleasures as I rid one day,
My horse and I, both tir’d, bodie and minde,
With full crie of affections, quite astray ;
I took up in the next inne I could finde.

There when I came, whom found I but my deare,
My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
Of pleasures brought me to him, readie there
To be all passengers most sweet relief?

O Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
Wrapt in night's mantle, stole into a manger ;
Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,
To Man of all beasts be not thou a stranger :

Furnish and deck my soul, that thou mayst have
A better lodging, than a rack, or grave.



THE shepherds sing ; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymne for thee?
My soul ’s a shepherd too : a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is thy word ; the streams, thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Out-sing the day-light houres.
Then we will chide the sunne for letting night
Take up his place and right :

We sing one common Lord ; wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold.

I will go searching, till I finde a sunne
Shall stay, till we have done ;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
As frost-nipt sunnes look sadly.
Then we will sing, and shine all our own day,
And one another pay :
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev’n his beams sing, and my musick shine.


George Herbert

New Blogs


I have set up two new blogs in the past week. That may seem to be a bit over the top, but I have noticed that things are heading in different directions.


The first new one is about Jesus music from the mid 60's to late 7o's. It will consist of compilations, lectionary relevant songs, Mass settings, and bits and bobs about whatever Jesus rock I am into. I also hope to discuss some of the differing theological ideas this music brings up.



The other new one is a bit different. It won't consist of much writing; more images, music, phrases, symbols etc. It is generally based around Christian unblack metal, gothic stuff, and so forth.


There will still be stuff happening here on ...ascending and descending..., but it by moving these two more practical elements away, it leaves this blog for theological and personal reflections.

So there you have it. One blog for being a hippy, the other for being a metalhead. And this one for whatever it is that I normally carry on about.

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity
Fridolin Leiber
(1853-1912)

Julian of Norwich



And at the end of woe suddenly our eyes shall be opened,
and in the clearness of light our sight shall be full;
which Light is God, our Maker and Holy Ghost,
in Christ Jesus our Saviour.
Thus I saw and understood that our faith is our light in our night;
which light is God,
our endless day.

Angel


Angel
Joseph Cornell
1957

L'Homme Dieu

L'Homme Dieu
Jean Delville
(1903)

The Carrier of Light

The Carrier of Light
Jean Delville

There was the true light,
even the light which lighteth every man,
coming into the world.
John 1:9 RV

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Metal Years: Part Three

At this time I was reading about occulty bits and bobs and listening to death metal almost exclusively; I was 19. I eventually settled down a bit, and started to take my own music a bit more seriously. I was still reading occulty stuff, but death metal started to recede into the background a bit. This was also the time of the first rumblings of "black metal": the second Dark Throne album came out, and the metal scene in Christchurch experienced a schism. I didn't really get the black metal sound. It wasn't heavy really, but was sure evil. By this time I was really mellowing out musically, listening to Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno etc. I would still check out the odd new release, but eventually I ended up getting rid of my collection; not so much out of wanting to rid myself of it, more due to lack of finances to buy other new albums. The stuff I didn't listen to eventually would be sold.

Over the years a few albums would return, but mainly out of nostalgia. Occasionally a new album would appear at the right time, Slayer's Diabolosa in Musica (1998) being such an album. 1998 was an incredibly dark year, and that album was perfect. 1998 was also my first year of being "confronted" with confessing Christians. Teacher's College was filled with young Christians. Unfortunately, while they were fine people, their faith had very little effect on me; if anything, it pushed me further away. In this same year, I had an odd experience. I was walking down Innes Rd, looking up at the cross of the roof of Our Lady of Fatima school. I wandered onto the road, staring up at the cross, right into the pathway of an oncoming car. I was narrowly missed.

Anyway, on Christmas Eve 2006 I experienced an instantaneous conversion to the Christian faith. This initially turned me away from all "rock and/or roll" and put me on a diet of Messiaen and Hildegard von Bingen. Eventually I would go back to prog, and decipher the lyrics anew (an example of such a hermeneutic can be found here. Yet, Christian music remained classical, and I certainly wasn't going to start listening to Hillsong.

Eventually I broke my self emposed embargo on Christian rock music, and it was through the previously mentioned death metal albums that I found a whole new old world. I wrote about this discovery when it happened here.




Crimson Thorn were the band that first really got me. They sounded like Suffocation circa 1991, classic old style death metal. There was nothing in their sound that was new or different, other than their lyrical content:
For those who are perishing
The message of the Cross is foolishness
But those who have received Christ
Will have everlasting life
This is pretty different than the Morbid Angel and so forth. However, the spiritual intensity is the same. If anything it is more fervent. Where some death metal may be using occult imagery, it is possible that it may be being used for shock or "fashion" sake. These guys really mean and believe it.



Horde was a whole new thing for me. As I mentioned earlier, black metal never appealed to me, not on spiritual grounds (but I must admit, even then I thought the anti-Christian thing was a bit high school) but the sound was thin and under produced; the vocals a screech instead of a growl. It wasn't heavy. Horde changed my earlier opinion. It was a screech, it wasn't heavy and it is was insanely lo-fi. Where Crimson Thorn expressed the faith in strong terms, Horde was more about what to do with satan. Sort of like a reverse black metal.



Crimson Moonlight was more black metal, but had a strong atmospheric keyboard sound. Back in the early 90's, keyboards were extremely rare within death and black metal. There was a band who had a keyboard player as a bonafide member (Nocturnus) and many albums had atmospheric introduction pieces (usually courtesy of Ken Smith), but the music was strictly guitar based. The keyboard element is normally dramatic and movie soundtrack like, the sounds being largely orchestral. Crimson Moonlight would eventually remove keyboards and create a blackened-death sound (Veil of Remembrance, 2004). This sound would be developed further by other bands, Vaakevandring who only completed one demo managed to use the symphonic style in a very dramatic and melancholy way. This song is a great depiction of the difficulties of following the Christian faith.



By the mid 00's all sorts of things were accepted within black metal: flutes, angelic vocals, strings. It is difficult to regard some of this stuff as black metal, sounding as it does a bit like more like hard gothic rock. What this expansion of timbre does is create a more majestic, etheral and mystical sound.


It is this mystical feel that is in many ways the sign of where Christian music needs to head. What we hear from Hillsong and general ccm is bland and the only difference it actually has from the mainstream is the lyrical content. Christians are called to be in the world, not of the world. Where normal Christian music has become an corporate industry, with it's own moguls, stars and over-exposure, Christian metal has remained underground, and in many ways is even more subversive than normal metal, in the sense that it's lyrical content is by far from being the norm. As St Paul tell us:
For though I am free with respect to all,
I have made myself a slave to all,
so that I might win more of them.
To the Jews I became as a Jew,
in order to win Jews.
To those under the law I became as one under the law
(though I myself am not under the law)
so that I might win those under the law.
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law
(though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law)
so that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak,
so that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people,
so that I might by any means save some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel,
so that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NRSV

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Metal Years: Part Two

In Christchurch (where I was living at this time) there was a t-shirt and record shop called Ace T-Shirts and Grunt Records. It was a metal shop, so I had never really had any reason to go there. The metal I wanted I got from the shop I worked at.

At this same time there was a music show on Friday nights. This show had a metal section that was hosted by Bruce Rae, the owner of the aforementioned shop. On one night I was with my mates from work, and as usual we were watching the show, having a few drinks and the odd smoke. Then this came on......



I was transfixed. Here was something really heavy. What was this? It was Death Metal, and man, I wanted some.

In between Metallica and Death, I had been "through some stuff" I guess. Booze, pot, exams, leaving school, starting fulltime work, girlfriends and being a teenager all somehow combined into loving the sound of this stuff.

I went to Grunt Records that week and bought a few albums. I was hooked, but was picking up anything blindly: death, thrash, power, and doom metal all at once. Then I stumbled upon Celtic Frost.



This wasn't like the others really. It was depressing, more like the gothic stuff I was into (Fields of the Nephilim, The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure etc) but was deadly depressing. Listen to the first vocal "grunt" at 0:33. It sounds like he is barely living. Then check out the amazing tempo change at 1:40. The sense of slowing inertia, slowly falling out of angst into terror. This was played many, many times with my brother. Very loudly, very blitzed, very early in the morning.

I started reading metal magazines, scouring the reviews for the death stuff, knowing waht reviewers dug death metal. I noticed a things reoccuring in liner notes: Scott Burns (producer), Dan Seagrave (artwork), Tampa, Florida; Kent Smith (sound effects). All roads were leading to understanding a scene. If an album ticked a few of those boxes, it was worthy of my money. Like Sepultura. I had read about them constantly in the magazines. They were "the big one", but getting hold of this album was hard. Grunt Records was always sold out. Then one day, Bruce himself gave me the call: "Your Sepultura album is here".



The bar was raised. I had never heard anything so watertight, fast and heavy all at once. Far out. If ...and Justice for all was the yardstick, this went way beyond measure. There is another one of those falling slowing tempo changes at 1:25. Where with Celtic Frost it was falling in a heap, with Sepultura it was like moving forward and backwards at the same time. Sepultura were the band that every metaller who I was talking with agreed on; whether you liked thrash or death, Beneath the Remains was recognized as the best. Listening to it today, it is still easy to see why, especially thinking it is from the same time as ...and Justice for all. (1988)

By this time, we were importing these albums into our shop, and everyday there would be someone to talk about the latest such and such album. These guys sort of became mates. We would get together at someones house and take turns in what to play. Bands were being formed. I even started one (well, sort of. I got my first mention in a music magazine talking about a band I was forming. Nothing really came of it.) There was a central figure in the group, an older woman who had three school age kids. Her house was the general meeting place, and she always had the latest albums before any of us had heard about them. Looking back, it was pretty odd. Not dodgy, but sort of incongruous.



It was here that I was introduced to Obituary. On the heaviness scale, this was heavy. I have no idea what he is going on about; apparently he didn't even use words all the time, but what a voice! I had always been aware of the darkness of this music, but this song made me completely aware of it. At 2:28 everything slows down, the lyrics are "into the soul," the guitars are flanged to give an other wordly effect. The guitar solo starts. I distinctly remember imagining it was like falling into hell, but trying to claw back up. The solo was satan's claws at my ankles.

Oh yeah. I'll have more of that. It was scary but spiritual. The whole idea of metal and the occult is as old as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. One can even trace it back to Robert Johnson at the crossroads. Going back further, music and the occult can be found together in Berlioz and Liszt. It was the next couple of bands that I encountered that were to change this as an idea of imagery to one of actual belief and practice.




Morbid Angel were widely known as being occult practioners, mainly of the Necronomicom variety. They were also extremely anti-Christian, and were also prone to mention satan regularly. Also these were the first hyperblast drums that I had ever heard. They also used some nice choral effects (at 1:53) which gave the whole thing a mystical air. No longer was the music brutal and about corpses and zombies, here was something that seemed to be about belief and religion. At 3:25 is where the whole thing becomes tangible. To a young spiritually green young me, this was very powerful. It was on this stuff that I cut my spiritual teeth.

One thing I know for sure, is that if I was told then where I was to end up, I would not have been all too happy with the present day version of myself. I also know that if the Christian faith had been presented to me in the way I now understand it, I would've been in hook line and sinker. The occult was mysterious and actually seemed to provide spiritual experience. The Christianity that I knew then was bland and boring. The mystery and mystical nature that is inherent in the faith is of a far greater substance than that of any occulty thing. It is a shame I didn't see that then.

But that is for the next post.


Monday, December 7, 2009

The Metal Years: Part One

My recent metal phase has been making me feel nostalgic. I said something recently to someone about being "bitten by the metal bug" and how the love for a good riff never dies.

I have decided to write about this over a few blog entries.



.....And thus began my journey into metal.
Peace sells but who's buying? by Megadeth was my first metal purchase. It was 1987, and I was working at the record shop. There was a copy in the sale bin (vinyl). I'm not exactly sure why I picked it up, but was more than likely the colours of the cover.

I remember getting home and putting it on. I had never heard anything so angry, fast, heavy and "forbidden". I knew this was something that was going to annoy my mother. My brother dug it as well, and we played it heaps. Really loud and air guitars. "Start the clock!"

I needed more pretty soon. I'd always thought Metallica was a terrible name for a band, but apparently they were good.



By hokey they were good. All the above: angry, fast, forbidden, and really heavy. There seemed to be a bit more going on in the lyrics. This one I bought on tape, as I knew it would be perfect for the walkman; both on skateboard and on the bus. Getting into Metallica got me hanging out with some different guys at school. Tough guys, the sort that were always in trouble. The type of guys who drunk, smoked pot and had girlfriends who weren't "nice".

Like anything, it leads on to other stuff.


This was a whole different realm. All the above: really angry, really fast, forbidden, and really heavy. Add to that evil. These guys were going on about Auschwitz, satan, blood sacrifices; everything you weren't supposed to go on about. I had never actually felt scared listening to a record before. I have to admit I didn't really dig it that much. It was just too everything.

Fortunately, Metallica released their new album, ...and Justice for all.



This album completely blew me away. It was such an advance on anything I had ever heard. Long songs, good lyrics, really heavy. It also seemed really intelligent. All of my friends got into this one (well, most of them). I remember my brother stating that this would be the album that all other metal albums would be measured by, a yardstick.

After that, I went into a metal wasteland of WASP, Motley Crue and other assorted stuff. Nothing was going to compare with Justice and I didn't feel like going down the more extreme path of Slayer.

And apparently, there was stuff around that was heavier and faster than Slayer.

But that will have to wait for the next entry...

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's a hobby

My wife recently posted this picture of me up on facebook, with the title "an example of my husband's obsessive tendencies.

She may have a point, but as I always retort "it's a hobby".

The hobby consists of downloading, burning and printing Christian music. It started about this time last year, when I was hunting for some progressive rock (a la Yes) but with Christian lyrics.
It has since grown to covering the whole gamut: from nuns and priests to country to folk to Merseybeat to psychedelia to pop. In that time I have collected over 350 albums.

What is happening in the above photo is organising the collection chronologically: 1964-1982.

The piles next to my legs are the UK portion, along with Catholic folk stuff.

What the photo doesn't show is the cataloging of the songs and artists. All songs are sorted into Bible verses or liturgical movements. Where a song is variable with it's verses, it is labelled by the event or person involved. (Interesting note: the two most represented New Testament books are Thessalonians and Revelation. The Second Coming was very topical to young hippie Christians.)

So there you have it. When I am not reading (note books on couch behind me: Albert Schweitzer, Evelyn Underhill, Bernard McGinn. Pauline Mysticism is the topic du jour) I am organising Christian music 1964-82.

It's a hobby. Of sorts.



Friday, November 13, 2009

A purely Johannine Christianity?


I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book,
If any man shall add unto them,
God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book:
and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy,
God shall take away his part from the tree of life,
and out of the holy city,
which are written in this book.
Revelation 22:18-19 RV

I have often thought about what the faith would be like if all that survived was John's Gospel. What would be missing?

Many things. The Infancy narratives being the most obvious. Our understanding of the Last Supper would be very different, if we were to have it all. The Transfiguration, The Ascension, The Sermon on the Mount, The Prodigal Son. The list is obviously huge.

What would we be left with?

Just imagine if Paul's letters had not survived, and John's received a greater prominence? And (if one assumes that Revelation is genuinely Johannine) how would our view of God be altered if Revelation assumed a larger percentage of the New Testament?

I would love to study this idea in greater detail.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Gentle Collision

They are not of the world,
even as I am not of the world.
John 17:16 RV

And be not fashioned according to this world:
but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
Romans 12:2 RV

I have been made increasingly aware of the tension of Christian and secular living. While I have been aware of this since becoming a Christian, it seems to me that the two worlds I live within are not that compatible.

The first inkling was due to social networking like Facebook and Twitter. I have two sets of friends on both: Christians and (essentially) athiests. Some of my secular friends post some pretty freaky stuff: drugs, sex, anti Christian stuff and so forth. This is not a problem for me; I accept everyone for who they are. Conversely, some of my Christian friends post some freaky stuff as well: constant "Jesus is Lord" updates hourly; Bible verses, weird Christo-politico stuff and so forth.

It dawned on me that I am unable to hide the secular replies to my posts from my Christian friends. I am also unable to hide my replies to Christian posts from my secular friends.

It is not that I want to hide anything from anyone. I certainly don't hide my faith from my secular friends; in fact, many of my status updates and posts are Christian and /or Jesus Music related.

There is another side to all this. My love for the late sixties and seventies Jesus music has been a sort of evangelizing to other music buffs. It has also been an element of secularization sneaking into my listening (That is simplistic really. I have always listened to secular music, it is only recently that Jesus music has come along). It is more to do with my ecclessiology. Previously nothing other than an organ (or harmonium) and a choir would have been acceptable to me as Church music. I suppose after a year of some pretty average music at church, the idea of a Folk Mass, or even a Psychedelic Mass seems far more appealing.

The idea of transversing these two worlds doesn't concern me. I actually like it. I guess it is more the idea that they exist that is the issue. A recent visit back to NZ made me very aware of how far I have grown/gone on my Christian journey. Doing air guitar to a Rock Mass makes me realise that I am still the same person.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Love Action




Hereby know we love,
because he laid down his life for us:
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoso hath the world’s goods,
and beholdeth his brother in need,
and shutteth up his compassion from him,
how doth the love of God abide in him?
My little children,
let us not love in word,
neither with the tongue;
but in deed and truth.
1Jn 3:16-18 RV

On Friday, Ivy read the above out at her school Mass. Fewer things have made me prouder as a father than that. I love Ivy being involved in her school church services, but to reading from 1 John is a whole new level. When she was reading it to me to practice, I was struck by a few things, not least how advanced the thought is for a 6 year old. I know when I was that age, I wasn't thinking in these terms.

The other aspect that got me was how far into James territory this section of the letter is. I have always emphasized the "mystical" elements of this text, but here, pure and simple is a very socialist, James-like statement:

But whoso hath the world’s goods,
and beholdeth his brother in need,
and shutteth up his compassion from him,
how doth the love of God abide in him?

This is of course a very true statement. If God is Love, and if God does abide in us, how is it at all possible for us not be this love for everyone?

I honestly struggle with this. Some are more difficult to love than others. Sometimes I find it easy to love everyone and all creation. Then the next moment, I can only wonder why some people exist. Ouch. At those times, I can feel an awful distance come into my life, a separation of my being with that of God.

Anyway, these are the constant struggles which make up a part of the Christian journey. No one said it was going to be easy, not least Jesus Himself.

Here is a song I really dig, and dug when it came out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Still around


I have just noticed that I have not blooged for nearly 3 months. It is not that I have been overly busy, rather just doing other stuff. Like learning ancient Greek. Like the philosophy of psychology. Like hunting out some great Christian hippy music. Like sleeping.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spirit, Light, Love.




God is a Spirit:
and they that worship him
must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:24 RV

God is light,
and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5 RV

God is love;
and he that abideth in love
abideth in God,
and God abideth in him.
1 John 4:16 RV


Todays Morning Prayer reading was from the Gospel of John again, this time from the Samaritan woman at the well.

The part that leapt out at me was

God is a Spirit:
and they that worship him
must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:24 RV

It carries on from what I was saying in my previous post. It is not enough to profess the faith, it must be felt, otherwise it is hollow and meaningless.

A friend recently asked me what I thought God was: a he, and it, or whatever?I thought about these "God is....." sayings.

Spirit. Light. Love.

I agree with all these, but the one I have experienced is Love. The one I relate to, and think about the most is Light. For some reason this really appeals to me
God is light,
and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5 RV

No darkness! Pure 100% light. I instantly think of The Transfiguration.

Jesus became pure light in front of the three, and they understood it.

Imagine feeling love that was light.

And people say Jesus wasn't a hippy.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sons unto Glory: The Harvest is Ripe

The Harvest is Ripe
Sons unto Glory
1976

For it became him,
for whom are all things,
and through whom are all things,
in bringing many sons unto glory,
to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 2:10 RV

Another recently discovered Jesus music gem has been the above album. It is not the most promising cover, I will admit, but it is a corker.

The opening second is a whispered "Praise Jesus". It is honest and really hippyish. It is a humble beginning for a great rural prog Jesus freak half an hour. Loads of organ, burning leads, funky bass work. The lead vocals are straight mid Seventies USA

The title track is a stunner. a 6 minute mainly instrumental with loads of clavinet and electric piano; very close to Todd Rundgren's Utopia (1974) album in sound. The song climaxes when the vocals kick in: "Come to Jesus; Lay your burdens down." It sounds like the most wonderful thing: relaxing, euphoric, hazy. Absolutely fantastic stuff.

The track that got me writing was "You must be born again". Not the best track, but it starts with a funky groove, with the singer talking over the top, about Jesus freaks, man, it's good news brother, and assorted hippy bits and bobs. When he says "it's good news" he is so happy, you vcan hear a hint of a laugh.

Todays 2nd reading at Morning Prayer was the section that deals with the idea of being born again:

Jesus answered,
Verily, verily,
I say unto thee,
Except a man be born of water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee,
Ye must be born anew.
The wind bloweth where it listeth,
and thou hearest the voice thereof,
but knowest not whence it cometh,
and whither it goeth:
so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
John 3:5-8 RV

I don't regard myself as "born again". There are way to many bad connotations that go with such a phrase. I did go through a huge, instantaneous conversion. This changed my life immessurably. I don't think of it as being born again, more like layers of gunk being washed away. It wasn't so much becoming new, as revealing what was there all along.

What Jesus is saying to Nicodemus is that one needs to experience such a reawakening within oneself. It is not enough to start going to church and professing the faith. One needs to filled with the Spirit; one needs to allow this to happen. This is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven; and it starts as soon as you listen to the whisper of the Spirit.

The last song on The Harvest is Ripe is all about the whisper of the Spirit. A delicate song of acoustic guitar, with gorgeous string synth washes. A gentle ending to a great album.

You can download it here: The Ancient Star Song

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First Revelation



Along my journey of Jesus music, I have found many gems, and also a fair share of turkeys.

First Revelation are an example of a gem: odd, eclectic and shiny.
The band consisted of Danny Kimer who played all sorts of guitars, banjos, and probably many types of other stringed instruments. His wife, Lynda, sung and played organ and synthesizer. She had a voice like Grace Slick, and Danny played guitar like Jeff Beck and Chet Atkins.

First Revelation recorded three albums. The first was under the name Danny and Lynda, and was called "Gospel".



I have not been able to find this anywhere on the net, so I have no idea what it sounds like, but it is so on my hunt list.

The next album was recorded twice. I have heard the second version of this:


This is a fine album; it has some great stuff on it. The keyboard work is wonderful; a mix of monophonic moog lines and fairgroundlike organ. Lynda's voice is resonant and understated, yet emotional. Danny's guitars are all over the place: fuzz leads, banjo, and some serious smoking lead work. I instantly liked this album. There is something so odd about it. Lynda's keyboards are a bit sloppy, and loose, but so wwonderful and charming. They are in fact the main drawcard for me. Her organ sound is a bit cheesy and loopy, but it just adds to the overall coolness.


A couple of weeks after getting the This Side of Eternity, I went in search of the follow up, with not much luck. Eventually it turned up, and it has been a constant listen since. In many ways it is a better album than the other, a bit more together, more acoustic guitars. Lynda's keyboards are tighter, with a bit more moog work; her voice is richer. Yet, the production is a bit more homey, lo fi. That is not a problem in itself, but just surprising.

The lyrics to both albums are very Christian, no mucking about. The songs are about evangelising more than anything else. This is all fine, and in fact gives the whole vibe an even odder feel. I particularly like their take on "New Jerusalem".

You can find these albums at The Ancient Star Song.

There is much more info about the Kimers here.

When I heard these albums, I had no idea what the Kimers looked like.
When I went to the site that explained their story, I found the above pictures. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my wife looks like Lynda! Yet another reason to love this band.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MacMillan Greek New Testament Commentaries

My current collecting obsession is the MacMillan Commentaries on the Greek New Testament. I have managed to get quite a few of them over the past year or so, but a few have eluded my grasp. For those so biblio-inclined, here is the list, that may or not be complete:

Matthew McNeile, 1915
Mark Swete, 1913
Luke Creed, 1930
John Westcott
Galatians Lightfoot, 1865
Ephesians Westcott
Philippians; Lightfoot, 1890
Colossians & Philemon Lightfoot, 1879
Thessalonians 1 & 2 Milligan
Hebrews Westcott, 1903
James; Mayor
1 Peter; Selwyn
2 Peter & Jude; Mayor
John 1, 2 & 3; Westcott 1883
Revelation; Swete

Titles in bold I do not have. Hint hint for birthday.....

These, combined with the International Critical Commentaries, would make a mighty exegetical bookshelf.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wake up sleepy head!


A great gale arose,
and the waves beat into the boat,
so that the boat was already being swamped.
But he was in the stern,
asleep on the cushion;
and they woke him up and said to him,
‘Teacher,
do you not care that we are perishing?’
He woke up and rebuked the wind
Mark 4:37-39 NRSV

One of the factors within the stilling of the storm is the fact that Jesus is asleep, and the disciples are worried and think that he doesn't care.

Within Mark's Gospel (and the other synoptics, but we are dealing with Mark here. To me it makes sense to compare Mark with Mark. It is his wording and version of events that is being looked at.) this is the only time Jesus is actually stated as being asleep. This isn't to say that He didn't sleep at other times. In fact, when He does stay up all night, a point is made of it. However, the fact that this is the only time Mark actually mentions Jesus sleeping may be of some import.

Within the Psalms of the OT sleep is used in two different ways. One expresses an idea of when things are bad, God is viewed as being asleep:
Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
Awake, do not cast us off for ever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
Psalm 44 23-24 NRSV
This is how the disciples on the boat are thinking.

Another representation where being able to sleep can represent complete trust in God:
I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord,
make me lie down in safety.
Psalm 4:8 NRSV
This is how Jesus is represented in the boat. He has complete faith in the Father. Storm or no, He knows it will be fine. This may be a little easy however.

In this case, I think the agony at Gethsemane may hold the meaning
On the boat, it is Jesus who is asleep, and the disciples who wake him up.
In Gethsemane, Jesus asks the disciples to stay awake, yet they fall asleep.
‘Abba,
Father,
for you all things are possible;
remove this cup from me;
yet,
not what I want,
but what you want.’
Mark 14:36 NRSV
Here, Jesus lets us know what the whole point of it is. It is about what we want, or think is fair. It is really about letting go. It is about trusting, faith, and knowing that what God wants for us is.

I have to admit I am finding this the most difficult part of all this. I really want to say that when Jesus was aware of the full extent of what lay in store for Him at Calvary, He too was worried. He too asked God the Father to sort it out for Him. But it isn't that simple. He adds, that He is aware it is not His decision, but the Father's. He was aware of the awfulness of what was to occur, yet He had total faith in God the Father. He trusted.

If we are Christians, how do we respond? When our lives turn to mush?

‘Why are you afraid?
Have you still no faith?’

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is there anybody out there?



‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’

These two phrases are key to what the passage of the stilling of the storm is really about, and what we can take from it for our own lives.

The storm of course represents any form of grief that we may be going through.
Depression, illness, unemployment, anxiety, lack of money, lonliness, tension, conflict.....
The list could go on and on.

Within the context of the story, the storm arrives very quickly. A few moments ago, Jesus was teaching. Of the go, to the other side, then the clouds gather. If it was looking too dodgy, I doubt they would have decided to cross. Also, the fact the Jesus has had time to have a little kip gives us an idea of the length of the voyage.

The point is that these storms can come up on us quickly. An extra bill in the mail can change a whole month, can change all sorts of plans. Can change hope into despair. A fall may brake a bone. A cold can turn into a flu, from a sniffle to a week in bed. Who's going to cook dinner? A discussion can quickly turn into a disagreement, into a feud. A friend can move away to another city, or country. A friend may pass away. All of a sudden we may realise that we are in fact quite alone.

It is at these moments we can be like the disciples in the boat with Jesus:
‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
"Why am I going through this?"
"What have I done to deserve this"
"How come this is happening now?"
"Lord, help me through this"

We feel we have been deserted by God, we are alone in the storm. It seems as though God does not care.

In the reading, Jesus sorts the storm out. Then He says
‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’
Indeed.
Why do we assume that things going wrong, the storm, means God does not care?