Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's Advent Not Christmas, Day 19

Gordon Giles, vicar of St. Mary Magdalene's Church, Enfield, North London, wrote an Advent devotional book a few years ago titled O Come Emmanuel.  In the reading for December 17th, he remembers the first time he preached in St. Paul's Cathedral, on a text from St. Luke's gospel about the Incarnation. The posts for today and tomorrow come from that reading.

"As is the usual custom in large cathedrals, the Gospel book is carried down the nave, so that it is read from within the body of the congregation after the Alleluias have been sung.  This done, the small procession makes its way back to the altar, and the preacher climbs the steps to the pulpit...While these very practical liturgical movements are taking place, it is traditional for the organist to improvise...

"On this August day in question, John Scott, organist at the time, was playing, and as the procession returned to the altar...he played gently, but recognizably, the first few notes of the tune of 'O come, O come, Emmanuel.' The congregation would have been taken by surprise, undoubtedly, it being summertime, but then the music moved away from the theme and built up, until after about two minutes the theme returned, with other notes flying all around, a trumpet blazing 'O come, O come, Emmanuel' through sparkling notes of summer...By this time, I was in the pulpit...looking down the length of St. Paul's, [and] I wondered if there really was any point in saying anything, for in a way it had already all been said with the voice of the organ."

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