A page from the violino piccolo part of “Wachet auf” in Bach’s own hand (courtesy of Wikipedia)
Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” was first performed on November 25, 1731, the 27th Sunday after Trinity. Based on the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13), this message of stunning cantata is central to Advent watchfulness.
Words are my lifeblood, so I want to understand them deeply and fully–to know them and to own them. Thus, I frequently consult the Online Etymology Dictionary, a favorite site for enriching my store of words as I explore their origins and their histories. I took that path to provide a substrate for today’s Advent Word.
The entry for watch begins with these tantalizing tidbits:
Old English wæccan “keep watch, be awake,” from Proto-Germanic wakjan, from PIE root -weg,“to be strong, be lively.” Essentially the same word as Old English wacian “be or remain awake.” . . . Meaning “be vigilant” is from c. 1200. That of “to guard (someone or some place), stand guard” is late 14c. Sense of “to observe, keep under observance” is mid-15c.
And that’s just the verb! As early as 1200, we also had the noun in its related senses of vigil, observation, and guard. As early as the 1580s, our current meaning of “a small timepiece” had evolved from the mid-15th century word for “a clock to wake up sleepers.” Continue reading
I delight in volubility and could write thousands of words on the idea of grace, so antithetical to American culture beginning with our Puritan forefathers and continuing right through the rugged individuals of the frontier.
However, I also delight in beautiful words written by others. Beginning on p. 845 of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, we find “An Outline of the Faith: commonly called the Catechism.” It is to this seldom-used section of our prayer book that I turn for my discussion of grace, which occurs in a section aptly labeled “The Sacraments.”
Q: What are the sacraments?
A: The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward
and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain
means by which we receive that grace.
Q: What is grace?
A: Grace is God’s favor towards us, unearned and
undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens
our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.
My prayer for the days of Advent and for every day of our lives is that we may accept the daily miracles of God’s grace and, in turn, practice its etymological cousin, gratitude.
Give Peace a Chance?
Most Advent meditations have no need of a trigger warning, but here goes: If you’re expecting warm fuzzies, you should make a peace sign and hum a few bars of “Kumbaya.” My thoughts as I pondered today’s Advent Word did not incline me to subtitle my post “Give Peace a Chance.” Continue reading
Richard Jolley, “God’s Map of the Universe”
In an argument that has informed my efforts to understand God ever since I first read it, Walter T. Stace wrote, “Either God is a mystery, or he is nothing at all.” However, it seems that some of the attributes of God are more ineffable than others. Even though we can’t comprehend God’s omnipotence, we can at least understand something about the nature of power and thus imagine the all-powerful. The same goes for omniscience; since we ourselves know things, we can wrap our heads around knowing everything. Continue reading
What were you doing 60 years ago today? (If twinkling somewhere in a galaxy far, far away, don’t bother to reply.) Continue reading
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And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. . . . And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:7-8, 10b)
This was not judgment day — only morning. Morning: excellent and fair. (William Styron, Sophie’s Choice)