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January 15, 2006

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany (Year B)
February 12, 2006

Madonna of the Pomegranate (circa 1487), Botticelli, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Tu B'Shevat, The Jewish "New Year for Trees," Shevat 15, 5766
(celebrated Monday, Februrary 13, 2006)

"When you come to the land and you plant any tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it will be forbidden and not eaten. In the fourth year, all of its fruit shall be sanctified to praise Adonai. In the fifth year, you may eat its fruit." Leviticus 19:23-25 "There are four new years ... the 15th of Shevat is the new year for trees according to the ruling of ... Beit Hillel." Mishnah "Rosh Hashanah" 1:1

Tu B'Shevat is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. Fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for God, and after that, the fruit may be eaten. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B'Shevat, so if a tree is planted on Shevat 14, it begins its second year the next day, but if a tree is planted two days later, on Shevat 16, it does not reach its second year until the next Tu B'Shevat. See www.jewfaq.org/holiday8.htm

The Coalition on the Environment & Jewish Life has helped create a seder dinner and prayer service for the holiday (consisting of walnuts, pomegranates, olives, dates and other fruits from trees), focusing on Tu B'Shvat as renewed commitment to serve and protect trees, and all God's creation. For Kabbalists (Kabbalah is a Jewish mystical tradition), trees serve as well as a metaphor for the "Tree of Life." Many will find the biblical and other citations in the seder useful and interesting. see http://jewish.com/holidays/tbv_hag2.html

from Hymns of the Spirit Three:
"Praise to the Living God" No. 1R
"Yigdal Elohim Chai" No. 1R

from Singing the Living Tradition:
"Shabbat Shalom" No. 214 (Hebrew melody)
"Hashiveinu" No. 216 (Hebrew melody)
"Hineh Mah Tov" No. 392 (Hebrew round)
"Hava Nashirah" No. 394 (Hebrew round)
"Vine and Fig Tree" No. 399 (Hebrew round; words from Isaiah and Micah)
"Shalom Havayreem" No. 400 (Hebrew round)
"Hevenu Shalom Aleychem" No. 415 (Hebrew melody; recessional)
"Earth Was Given As a Garden" No. 207

Singing the Living Tradition contains an abundances of rounds in Hebrew, or which are otherwise traditional Hebrew melodies. One or more might be appropriate on this Sunday, in a common worship service, or in a religious education class with children. "Earth Was Given As a Garden," to the well-known Welsh tune HYFRYDOL, by contrast, has no particular Hebrew musical connection, though it echoes themes from Genesis and exhorts stewardship for the Earth.

2 Kings 5:1-14

From Hymns of the Spirit Three
"Praise to the Living God" No. 1R
"Yigdal Elohim Chai" No. 1R
"Praise Be to God, the Almighty" No. 7R
"Rock of Ages" No. 603R
"Roca de la eternidad" No. 603R

Psalm 30

From Singing the Living Tradition:
"Amazing Grace" Nos. 205, 206
"I've Got Peace Like a River" No. 100
"Oh, Freedom" No. 156 (African-American spiritual)

From Hymns of the Spirit Three:
"O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go" No. 243R
"In Prosperous Days I Boasted" No. 604R

The following lyrics are based on lectionary Psalm 30, from The Psalter (1912), and have been moderately revised and set to MEIRIONYDD ( D), by William Freeman Lloyd (1840). The tune is better known for being paired with "The Morning Hangs a Signal."

1. In pros-perous days I boast-ed,
"Un-moved I shall re-main;"
O God, your di-vine fa-vor
my life did you main-tain;
I soon was sore-ly troub-led,
for you did hide your face;
I cried to you, O my God,
and sought your ho-ly grace.

2. The Ho-ly Name re-mem-ber,
you saints, give thanks and praise!
God's dis-pleased but a mo-ment;
God's fa-vor lasts al-ways;
For sor-row, like a pil-grim,
may stay with us a night,
but joy the heart will glad-den
when dawns the mor-ning light.

3. Who'd pro-fit if I per-ished,
if my life were not spared?
Would dust re-peat God's prais-es,
would Truth thus be de-clared?
O God, on me have mer-cy,
and my pe-ti-tion hear;
That you might be my hel-per,
in mer-cy, God, ap-pear!

4. My grief thus turned to glad-ness,
to you my thanks I raise;
who has re-moved my sor-row,
up-lift-ed me with praise!
And now, no lon-ger si-lent,
my heart your praise does sing;
O God, my God, for-ev-er
my thanks to you I bring.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

from Hymns of the Spirit Three
"Jesus, the Very Thought of You" No. 205R

Mark 1:40-45
Jesus Cures the Leper

from Hymns of the Spirit Three:
"Rock of Ages" No. 603R
"Roca de la eternidad" No. 603R
"Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"

from Singing the Living Tradition:
Amazing Grace

St. Valentine's Day
(celebrated February 14, 2006)


On February 15, Ancient Rome celebrated the Pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility ritual, where after much wine-drinking and the sacrifice of goats to Lupercus, the god of fertility, people ran through the streets thouching whom they please. Easy childbirth was the petition of people's prayers. At least three (legendary) saints exist with the name St. Valentine; the most topical, perhaps, is said to have married Roman soldiers prevented by law from doing so.

While this entry is being written, from within the Commonwealth of Virginia, the legislators here have decided our Jefferson-inspired constitution needs words ensuring same-gender couples are not treated as married couples under the law here (that there is a law to this effect is, apparently, not sufficient), as these are a threat to Virginia families and an affront to our state's deeply held moral values. Were this true, the editor would all the same be forced to ponder different-gender couples in Virginia whose unions have been the result of manifestly adulterous liaisons, the (sometimes Machiavellian) break-up of otherwise intact heterosexual married couples, and the children of such unions who thereafter are shuttled between the resulting households. Yet these unions, of course, regardless of their moral status or their effect on Virginia families, are given access to the "special" rights and privileges accorded by marital law in the Commonwealth. One can only speculate why it is some putatively "immoral" couples are given legal status and some are not, or why it is Virginia legislators believe themselves to be in a position to judge some Virginians "pure" or "not pure" enough to marry whom they choose (one likewise wonders when legislators in Virginia, in accord with chapter 19 of Leviticus noted above, will prohibit the consumption of fruit from tree not yet five years' old, as God has prohibited this ... or is Leviticus perhaps something some people of faith pick and choose from, as their pre-existing prejudices suit them?).

One is recollected again of Jesus in the lectionary reading from Mark, who cures the leper, but in doing so not merely cures one person of a disease, but seeks more broadly to tear down the social barriers that exist between those who deem themselves "clean" and those who are deemed "unclean" and thus outcasts. God indeed, as those in the United Church of Christ might say, is still speaking ... Suffice it to say that the spirit embodied in the legends of St. Valentine might be more needed now than at any time in the past.

Finally, at least one of the original "Valentines" was an influential gnostic Christian; that is, Valentinus, the author of the gnostic Gospel of Truth. He believed that "union" of ourselves with our beloved within the holy context of the Christian bridal chamber was itself a means of spiritual purification.


English poet Christina Rossetti, born in 1830 of Italian parents living in exile in England, Anglican and much influenced by the Oxford Movement to return to more "Anglo-Catholic" modes of worship, wrote Victorian verse that described an intense religious experience. The words below from her poem "Quinquagesima," in the public domain, and in meter, might well make an appropriate (if brief) St. Valentine's Day hymn. Currently I'm thinking LANGRAN ( for "Love Alone is the Worthy Law," but any suggestions before placement in Hymns of the Spirit Three would be most welcomed.

from Singing the Living Tradition:
"My Life Flows On In Endless Song" No. 108 (American Gospel tune)

The original lyrics of this Quaker song go "since Love is Lord of heav'n and earth, how can I keep from singing;" the editors of Singing the Living Tradition having given us "since love prevails in heav'n and earth, how can I keep from singing?" The "unrevised" version may have to be placed in Hymns of the Spirit Three.

from Hymns of the Spirit Three:
"New Every Morning Is the Love" No. 98R
"Love Alone is the Worthy Love" No. 605R

Love a-lone is the wor-thy law of love:
All oth-er laws have pre-sup-posed a taint:
Love is the law from kind-led saint to saint,
from lamb to lamb, from dove to answe-ring dove.

Love is the mo-tive of all things that move,
har-mon-ious by free will with-out con-straint:
Love learns and teach-es: love shall us ac-quaint
with all we lack, and all we lack is love.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Roman soldiers, faithful couple, martyred for their Christian faith circa 303. Their feast-day on the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church is October 7.

Posted by rehurst at January 15, 2006 03:49 AM


"My life flows on in endless song" is not a Quaker song. It is by Robert Lowry, a Baptist minister. There is a fairly widespread intrusive stanza that is probably of Quaker (or other peace-church) provenance, but the basic song (and the more common of the two tunes) is by Lowry.

BTW, what's become of updating this wonderful blog?

Haruo = Leland

Posted by: Leland Bryant Ross at November 22, 2006 11:41 AM

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