Wednesday 21 December - Epiphany (Judith Bingham)

CD Cover

Performed by the Choir of St Paul's Cathedral, London.

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Here I've taken the 'enlightenment' idea of the last verse, and looked at it as foreshadowing the visit of the Magi at Epiphany, which I would otherwise not get to on the calendar. Today's the shortest day of the year, and one doesn't have to be up too early to see a more prosaic morning-star rise in the skies - whether you're fine through the winter months or not, there's something pretty universal about a desire for light in dark places.

Judith Bingham's anthem Epiphany is one of the more challenging pieces I've come across while putting together this advent calendar, both to sing (as we have done for the past couple of years, at Epiphany) and to enjoy. It is, I think, worth the effort though. It was written for the installation of the Bishop of Winchester in 1996, to be sung while a lot of liturgically-necessary moving around was taking place during the service. The ending is quite spectacular, so even if you dislike it do stick it out!

Deep midwinter, the dark centre of the year.
Wake, O Earth, awake.

Out on the hills a star appears.
Wake, O Earth, awake.

Here lies the way for pilgrim kings;
Three Magi on an ancient path.
Black hours begin their journeyings.
Wake, O Earth, awake.

Their star has risen in our hearts.
Empty thrones, abandoned fears.
Out on the hills, their journey starts.
In dazzling darkness, God appears!