February 20, 2015 Comments Off on Hymn of the Week: #147 – Now let us all with one accord
This Sunday, we will sing hymn #147, Now let us all with one accord, set to the tune Bourbon. It’s one of my favorite Lenten hymns and singing it marks the beginnings of Lent for me as surely as ashes. The text, a paraphrase of a text attributed to St. Gregory the Great, is perfect: “Now let us all with one accord,/in company with ages past,/keep vigil with our heavenly Lord/ in his temptation and his fast.” I always find the fourth verse particularly moving: “Remember, Lord, though frail we be,/ in your own image were we made; help us, lest in anxiety/, we cause your Name to be betrayed.” How very often the temptation to sin is rooted in fear and anxiety, the fear that we are not enough, that God is not enough, that this world is not enough. Yet creation is very good, and we are made in God’s image, and God stands ready to help us in our need.
I must admit, though, that I especially adore the tune. Bourbon is an example of the Sacred Harp folk melodic tradition in the United States, ideally made to be sung in unison, a capella, full-throated. Like many folk tunes, it is pentatonic, that is, it only uses five pitches. The tune is included in many shape-note hymn-books published in the 19th century. I’m a huge fan of singing without accompaniment in church, on occasion. There is something terribly beautiful about human voices lifted together, listening and tuning to one another, seeking a common rhythm. It is an apt and beautiful metaphor for community.
– The Rev. Gabriel Lamazares