Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Epiphany



January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, is a day to commemorate the realization of the divinity of Christ by the Gentiles as the Wise Men form the East came to pay homage to the Christ Child. It is a day full of light symbolized by the star that dominated the heavens to announce the divine light coming to the world. Today I would like to direct your attention to two masters who have addressed the subject of Epiphany: J. S. Bach and T.S. Elliot.

The tune for “O Little One Sweet” (O Jesulein Suss) is based on an old German melody, harmonized by J.S. Bach. Often sung as a Christmas carol, it serves quite well as an Epiphany hymn (the German text for the hymn was written by Valentin Thilo and translated into English by Percy Dearmer)

Bach's sublime chords lend a palpable grace to the Epiphany story of the Christ Child come to earth's domain, casting divine energy upon the consciousness of humankind, awakening the world. 

To hear “O Little One Sweet” go to The Music of the Spheres.

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T.S. Elliot wrote “The Journey of the Magi” after his own conversion and confirmation into the Anglican Church. His poem, in contrast to Bach’s music, takes on a darker tone and a rough-hewn vision as he speaks from the point-of-view of one of the wise men who makes the difficult journey but realizes that the old days of kings and magi must come to an end in light of the new day seen in the Christ Child. The poem is quite rich in symbol and allusion to the wider aspects of incarnation. As fate would have it, Elliot died 50 years ago today on the Feast of the Epiphany.

You can read “The Journey of the Magi” (or listen to Elliot read the poem) at http://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/journey-magi.

     




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Photo: Latvian postage stamp depicting Three Wise Men
Public Domain, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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