Meditations for the Fourth Sunday after The Epiphany

A Musical Meditation

by Tom Lee

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est

The themes of charity and love in today’s epistle reading are echoed in one of the most beautiful and enduring of Gregorian Chants:  Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. (Where true charity and love dwell, God himself is there.) Since its origins in the 8th century, it has provided inspiration for sacred choral music throughout the centuries.  For your reflection and meditation, here are two recordings of the same setting of the text by the young Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978).  It has already become a standard in the repertoire of sacred choral music.  Its universal appeal is well illustrated by comparing the two performances. 

The Choir of Kings’ College, Cambridge

Men’s Choir: The King’s Return

Text:

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero
.

Translation:

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

A Meditation on The Collect for The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Almighty and everlasting God,
you govern all things both in heaven and on earth:
Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This ancient prayer was used, according to Marion Hatchett, as a daily prayer in the late-seventh-century Roman sacramentary and has been used in earlier Prayer Book editions for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany.  In the use of Salisbury (the Sarum missal), it was prayed on the second Sunday after the eight-day celebration (octave) of the Epiphany (Hatchett, 171-2), which, if I have calculated correctly, would typically be our Third Sunday after the Epiphany. 

The Preamble, “Almighty and everlasting God,” is the same as for the Collects for the Second Sunday of Easter, Trinity Sunday, and for Proper 22.  This Preamble invites us to consider the themes of creation, re-creation, and governance—that is, God’s mighty deeds of creation and our salvation as well as God’s eternality ground the doctrine of the Acknowledgement and provide us with confidence to ask the Petition.

In the Acknowledgement, “you govern all things both in heaven and on earth,” we remember that the God to whom we are speaking is the God who is sovereign over all of creation.  We confess this Acknowledgement daily in both of the choices for the Invitatory Psalm of Morning Prayer (BCP 82-3).

The Petition, “Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace,” has two parts.  The first half, “Mercifully hear the supplications of your people,” brings to mind Thomas Cranmer’s A Prayer of St. Chrysostom (one of the two closing prayers of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, BCP 102 and 126) in which we ask God to “Fulfill now … our desires and petitions as may be best for us …”.

The updated 1979 BCP translation of the second half of the Petition is, as Hatchett notes, an intentional return to the original sense of the petition rather than continuing to use Thomas Cranmer’s “grant us thy peace all the days of our life” (Hatchett, 172).  While Cranmer’s translation continues the original Collect’s contrast between God’s eternality with our limited time in this age, “all the days of our life” can be understood as a petition that is limited to requesting for peace for those who are praying.  The return to the ancient form subverts that understanding and turns this Collect into a cry for a broader experience of peace.  In this way, the original (and our current) form of this Collect is asking for the realization of what we heard Jesus proclaim in last week’s Gospel reading (Luke 4:14-21)—the year of God’s favor—to be realized in our time.  This use of “in our time” seems to add a feeling of urgency to this petition that is not captured in “all the days of our life.”

Recalling that Hatchett invites us to read the Collects of the season of Epiphany through the lens of the Gospel readings assigned for Sunday, these readings invite us to consider what peace looks and feels like.  In Year A (Matthew 5:1-12), we hear Jesus say that the blessed peacemakers will be called the children of God—but this list of blessed persons also includes those who are reviled and persecuted for the sake of Jesus.  This description of peacemakers is part of the beatitudes, which challenged the hearers then and us today to ask ourselves which kingdom we belong to—that of the world or that to which Jesus rules.  In Year B (Mark 1:21-28), Jesus gives peace in the form of freedom from torment from an unclean spirit, which echoes the description of the Gospel from last week’s Year C reading (Luke 4:14-21).  In this week’s Year C reading, Luke 4:21-30, Jesus disturbed what appeared to be an otherwise peaceful synagogue setting.  The peace of God that is found in these three readings calls us to ponder what peace in our time might look like and how being part of the revealing of and coming of this peace might not feel like peace as it happens.

Theoptional Aspiration is not present in this Collect.

The Pleading:  “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,  one God, for ever and ever. Amen, appropriately offers our prayer to all three persons of the Trinity: we have asked for the peace of God (Philippians 4:7), which is the gift of Christ (John 14:27) through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). 

The 1979 return to the ancient form of this prayer, “and in our time grant us your peace,” seems quite appropriate in our current situation.  What do you envision peace in our time to be like?  In what ways is God inviting us to re-envision what peace in our time could look like?

How have the events of the last few years affected your thinking about our role, as Church, in peace in our time?  How have our responses to the disruption of the pandemic stretched us to find new ways of being Church, cooperating with God’s grace to bring peace in our time?

When have we, as a parish, experienced a pre-pandemic disturbance of our peace?   How did this disturbance bring us to a deeper expression of peace?  In what ways has the pandemic disturbed our peace as a parish?  To what new experience of peace might God be calling us?

Almighty and everlasting God,
you govern all things both in heaven and on earth:
Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

© 2022 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995
Quotations and page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition. 
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

A Visual Meditation

Jesus Mural of Faith, Hope, Love, and Peace

Chicago, Illinois

from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56412 [retrieved January 25, 2022]. Original source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36847973@N00/3342340183 – CC BY 2.0.

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