Light from the Canticles 7: Jonah’s Cry from the Depths

Jonah 2:2-9; Matt 12:39-41; Job 41; Psalm 104/LXX 103:26; Psalm 139/LXX 138: 8-12; Psalm 148:7 The song of Jonah, Old Testament Canticle 6, is notable for its poignancy and substance.  Jonah gives voice to the desolation of those who know themselves to be at the brink of death, crying out to the Lord from the depths, and also from the depths of their being.  It is a heart-cry of longing, coupled with…

Light from the Canticles 6: Hosea’s Yearning and Hope

Isaiah 26:9-20; Psalm 119; Romans 8:22-39; 2 Peter 1:19 The fifth Biblical Ode, taken from the song in Isaiah 26:9-20, is both challenging, and encouraging.  It begins practically, with a description of human vigilance before God, and ends pragmatically, with a reminder that human beings are given by the LORD a time of rest, for He is the main Actor in our world. Between these bookends, we hear of righteousness and judgment,…

Light from the Canticles 5: With Habukkuk in Humility, Hope, and High Places

Habakkuk 2:1-4 3:1-19; Joshua 10; Exodus 15 For several years, as we sang the fourth Ode of the Paschal canon, I was mystified at the prominent role given to a relatively obscure prophet, who wrote three short chapters of our Old Testament.  We sing: The inspired Prophet Habakkuk now stands with us in Holy Vigil.  He is like a shining angel, crying out with a piercing voice: ‘Today salvation has come to…

Light from the Canticles 4: Hannah’s Humble Faith

1 Samuel/1 Kingdoms 2:1–10, Haggai 2:6, Psalm 74/5:3, Job 9:5 The third Biblical Canticle is one that we often associate with holy Mary’s Magnificat—both songs are uttered by women who have experienced a miraculous conception, the first an Old Testament married woman who had much sorrow, and the second a young virgin whom the LORD unexpectedly chose as the Theotokos, the bearer of God Incarnate. The major theme in both songs is…

Light from the Canticles 3: No God Beside Him!

Deut 32:19-43; Jeremiah 1:10; Hosea 6:1-3; Our last episode considered the luminous first eighteen verses of the second canticle of Moses, taken from Deuteronomy, with its many ways of picturing the Almighty.  It ended, though, on a sober note, reminding us how easy it is to forget the LORD, who “gave us birth.”  The second half of the canticle goes on to picture the LORD’s vigorous response to this human forgetfulness and…

Light from the Canticles 2: Remember the Days of Old

Deuteronomy 32:1–18 (Second Song of Moses, Part 1) As we have come to the New Year, we have been met by many poignant and wise commentaries upon life, and upon our generation.  Recently a friend of mine posted on FB a citation from St. Basil.  His situation in the fourth century, with the crisis of Arianism and newly established respectability for Christians, evidently made many nostalgic for the “old days,” just as…

Light from the Canticles 1: Gloriously He Has Been Glorified!

The Song of Moses, Exodus 15:1-19 The singing of hymns, both personally and corporately, has been part of Christian life from the very beginning.  The gospels tell us that as Jesus and his disciples prepared to go to His ordeal on the Mount of Olives, they sang a hymn (Matt 26:30; Mark 14:26). Colossians and Ephesians urge us to “sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God ״ (Col 3:16), ”making melodies…