It is a mark of the richness of The Hymnal 1982, which is the primary hymnal for the Episcopal Church, that we have hymns dating to the early days of Christianity. These are especially abundant in our choices for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and hymns for Lent and Easter. For example, the name of an eighth-century saint, John of Damascus, appears on three hymns in the Easter section.
One of my favorite hymns for Lent is attributed to Gregory the Great (depicted above), who became Bishop of Rome in 590. He sent missionaries to England who set up their base in Canterbury.
Here is the text of this hymn:
Now let us all with one accord,
in company with ages past,
keep vigil with our heavenly Lord
in his temptation and his fast.
The covenant, so long revealed
to those of faith in former time,
Christ by his own example sealed,
the Lord of love, in love sublime.
Your love, O Lord, our sinful race
has not returned, but falsified;
author of mercy, turn your face
and grant repentance for our pride.
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.
Therefore, we pray you, Lord, forgive;
so when our wanderings here shall cease,
we may with you for ever live,
in love and unity and peace.
One of the best things about this hymn as it appears in our hymnal is that we have a choice of melodies. We may sing it to a twelfth-century plainsong chant, or we may sing it to (my favorite) an eighteenth-century mountain melody from Bourbon County, Kentucky. Another choice is that we may simply memorize the text as poetry and let it roll around in our minds until Holy Week and Easter.
The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek