Monday, September 22, 2014

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy

Frederick Faber - the hymn's author

To Cambridge to help look after Grandchildren, after having helped Daughter prepare for a delightful birthday party.
The 10:30 Mass at OLEM was especially notable for two wonderful hymns.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
 like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in his justice
 which is more than liberty
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
 are more felt that up in heaven;
there is no place where earth’s failings
 have such kindly judgement given.

For the love of God is broader
 than the measures of man’s mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
 is most wonderfully kind.
But we make his love too narrow
 by false limits of our own
and we magnify his strictness
 with a zeal he will not own.

The singing then stopped as the organ improvised a voluntary on the theme, while the priest prepared the vessels. I was almost worried that they had decided to cut the last three verses. But the magnificent improvisation swelled to a crescendo. Not cut at all, but super-intensified. My eyes filled with tears – they do again as I write this –

There is plentiful redemption
  in the blood that has been shed
there is joy for all the members
 in the sorrows of the Head.
There is grace enough for thousands
  of new worlds as great as this;
there is room for fresh creations
 in that upper home of bliss.

The multiverse has no terrors for this hymn-writer at any rate!  And then the magnificent conclusion:

If our love were but more simple
  we should take him at his word;
and out lives would be all gladness
 in the joy of Christ our Lord.

I’m actually quite surprised that this hymn survived the calamitous papacy of Benedict, but it seems to me to be utterly apt for the era of Pope Francis. The author, Frederick Faber, was a friend of Cardinal Newman and like him an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism. He too must have yearned for reunification. The hymn was first published in 1854 and Faber died in 1863 before the deplorable Apostolicae Curae of 1896.
The other lovely hymn was “Tell out my soul” – written by Tim Dudley-Smith, a retired Anglican Bishop. All very ecumenical.
And the excellent organist Nigel Kerry concluded with Buxtehude’s Prelude in D BuxWV 139.
I’ve finally finished Amartya’s wonderful The Idea of Justice but that’s well worth a separate post!

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