One thing I adore about our church is the quality of all the music we sing. Mennonites have a rich vocal history; this is one of the first congregations I have been part of that naturally sings four part harmony. My heart thrilled when we sang the following song. Not only is it based on an absolutely beautiful, ancient theme (Thomas Tallis, 1500’s) but these words!! It was such a meditative, meaningful experience to ponder these words in the midst of one beautiful, collective voice.

Here are the lyrics; I strongly suggest you hunt down the melody. Ralph Vaughan Williams composed a fantasia for strings around this theme, and it is a piece of music I think every human should experience. You can listen to it in adequate quality, here. (The theme appears in the lower voices around minute 2:00).

How shallow former shadows seem
beside this great reverse
as darkness swallows up the Light
of all the universe:
creation shivers at the shock,
the Temple rends its veil,
a pallid stillness stifles time,
and nature’s motions fail.

This is no midday fantasy,
no flight of fevered brain.
With vengeance awful, grim, and real,
chaos is come again:
the hands that formed us from the soil
are nailed upon the cross;
the Word that gave us life and breath
expires in utter loss.

Yet deep within this darkness lives
a Love so fierce and free
that arcs all voids and–risk supreme!–
embraces agony.
Its perfect testament is etched
in iron, blood, and wood;
with awe we glimpse its true import
and dare to call it good.

Carl P. Daw, Jr. © 1990 Hope Publishing Co.

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