Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dead Weight

Dead Weight
by T. R. Ragan
Recommended Ages: 14+

Lizzie Gardner is a Sacramento private investigator who collects mysteries the way a porch light attracts moths. As a teenager she was held captive by a serial killer, only to escape from him and, years later, kill him when he came after her and those she cared about. Now her job is supposed to be all about sniffing out cases of workman's comp fraud. She can't help it that the creepy crawlies keep swirling into her orbit. They don't know any better.

In this installment, Lizzie and her assistants Haley and Jessica are on the trail of not one but two missing persons. One girl disappeared 20 years ago off the side of a highway, and the creepiest thing about her disappearance is how little effort her parents have made to find her - until now, when her mother is dying of cancer and just wants closure. The other girl has only been gone a few months, but her sister suspects that a dynamic weight-loss guru may be involved. As Lizzie and her bickering duo of assistants get closer to the answers, it seems increasingly likely that a lunatic is involved - someone who, to judge by interleaved chapters depicting an extreme type of fat farm that borders on torture, may like to see plus-sized women disappear a pound at a time.

Or maybe not. It's not actually entirely clear that a serial killer has anything to do with this story. In fact, the character who seems closest to becoming one is young Haley, who was repeatedly raped as a child and has a plan for revenge that will have you squirming and biting your knuckles. I wasn't sure which would be worse - if she were to accomplish it, or if the plan would backfire.

It's a girl-power mystery thriller that will definitely live up to this, lo and behold, Adult Content Advisory. Its "toughness has no gender" shtick is so over-the-top at times that I giggled, for example, at Lizzie's hesitancy to say "I love you" back to her tenderly devoted boyfriend Jared. She is so totally the guy in that relationship, one can only guess this series plays out in a fantasy world defined by a reversal of traditional sex roles. It almost works out that way, but for the vulnerability of Lizzie and her girls Wednesday and Friday (guess which is which). And it is that vulnerability that makes the climax of this book's three story lines almost unbearably suspenseful.

This is the second book in the Lizzie Gardner series, which began with Abducted and also includes A Dark Mind, Obsessed, Almost Dead and Evil Never Dies. T. R. Ragan is also the author of the upcoming (in March 2016) thriller Furious and, as Theresa Ragan, eight other novels of romance, romantic suspense and time-travel romance. This review is based on the audiobook read by Kate Rudd.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

135. Hymn for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany

The mass for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany is traditionally celebrated only when Easter falls in the April 22-25 range, or April 21 in a Leap Year. I guess that makes it a statistical rarity. The Epistle is Colossians 3:12-17, one of only two Sundays when that book of the Bible is heard in the historic lectionary (the other being Trinity 24 when the lesson is Colossians 1:9-14). The Gospel is the parable of the tares according to Matthew 13:24-30. The tune I have in mind is SONG 1 by Orlando Gibbons, 1583-1625.
Heirs of God's realm, be not discouraged, though
False brethren bide among you, bringing pain!
The seed He sows is good, and yet the foe
Sows other seed by night among the grain.
It pleases Christ to wait till He return
To gather in His wheat, the tares to burn.

Far be it from our Lord to suffer weeds
To shade His planting's leaf or crowd its root;
For dearly bought indeed are we His seeds,
And dear to Him our cultivated fruit.
Such is His love for us, that He forbears
Lest we be lost in pulling out the tares.

Be patient yet a while, till Christ appears
To bring the consummation of the age!
His angels then will winnow out the tares;
The sons of lawlessness shall have their wage.
Then will the just by faith shine as the sun
And see the kingdom of the Three in One.

Meantime, beloved, chosen holy ones,
Put on a heart of mercy, kind and meek,
Forbearing, gentle, as becomes God's sons,
And bonds of peace with one another seek!
The peace of Christ let rule within your hearts,
That His word may indwell your inner parts!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

134. Hymn for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany

The mass for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany is traditionally heard only when Easter falls on or after April 15. With the same Introit and Gradual as the Third and Fifth Sundays of that season, it is distinguished mainly by its Epistle, Romans 13:8-10, and its Gospel, the "stilling of the storm" related in Matthew 8:23-27. Godfrey Thring's hymn "Fierce Raged the Tempest O'er the Deep" is based on the parallel account in Mark 4:35-41, in which Christ is quoted saying to the sea, "Peace, be still." Since neither Matthew nor the parallel account in Luke 8:22-25 includes those words, and my text is Matthew's account, I am saved from plagiarizing Thring's memorable poem. The original tune is titled OLIGOPISTOI.
O you of little faith,
Be not so very timid!
Though He appear to sleep,
The Lord His watch will keep
With you upon the deep.
Come massive swells and steep,
His mercy has no limit,
O you of little faith!

Come fiery test or death,
Your Lord will not forsake you.
When tempests blow and quake
And waves across you break,
Be sure He is awake
Your cause and course to take;
To patient prayer betake you,
O you of little faith!

O slow of heart to trust
All that the Lord has spoken,
Can it but be His will
These winds and waves to still?
He let His own blood spill
All justice to fulfill;
Can His word, then, be broken,
O slow of heart to trust?

Though you return to dust,
The grave holds no more terror;
For by His three-day rest
Your sleep will, too, be blest
Till, rising as His guest
In spotless glory dressed,
You will, His banquet's sharer,
No more be slow to trust.

While I was comparing the three synoptic accounts of this incident, I was also interested to note Matthew is the only one who reports Christ calling his lads oligopistoi, the famous "O ye of little faith." Where Matthew has him asking, "Why are ye fearful, oligopistoi?" Mark has, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" and Luke has simply, "Where is your faith?" It offers an interesting glimpse into the different sides of Jesus' character portrayed by these three witnesses. While Marcan Jesus comes across as more amazed at his disciples' weakness of faith, and Lucan Jesus as exasperatedly chiding, Matthean Jesus seems to turn their fearfulness into a playful pet name. It sounds like the kind of goofiness a later evangelist might want to paint over with a clearer, more pointed expression. Call it today's iota of evidence for the priority of Matthew.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

133. Hymn for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

The historic propers for the mass of the Third Sunday after Epiphany are generally heard only when Easter falls on or after April 8. But then one could hear the same Introit and Gradual on the Fourth and Fifth Sundays after Epiphany. So the most notable features of this particular mass are its Epistle, from Romans 12:16 beginning at the words "Be not wise in your own conceits" to the end of the chapter, and its Gospel, the healing of a leper and a centurion's servant in Matthew 8:1-13. The unusually structured tune is ICH WOLLT, DAß ICH DAHEIME WÄR from Strasbourg, 1430.
Your will, Christ, made the leper clean;
Let now sin-cleansing grace be seen!

You heard the unclean’s humble plea;
Now also lend Your ear to me!

In sending him to tell a priest,
You kept God’s precepts to the least.

Yet Your word showed the pow’r to save
When it restored the soldier’s slave.

The one sign showed Your mighty will:
Not to abolish, but fulfill.

The other showed how You conferred
Your power and presence to Your word.

Since You kept all the Law for me,
Pronounce the word that sets me free.

Lest I appeal to You in vain,
Remove sin’s blemish, rot and stain!

Send ministers with message pure
To speak Your pardon full and sure!

Enroll me as Your own through faith;
Engrave on me Your holy death!

Dear Shepherd, feed me on Your best;
Call me to share Your holy rest!

When dawns at last Your glorious day,
Restore my flesh to life, I pray!

Restore and judge me, Christ, by grace;
Grant me the bliss to view Your face.

Now while that blessing I await,
I will declare Your glory great!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Inkling

Inkling
by John D. Waterman
Recommended Ages: 14+

Gyro, pronounced like the first part of "gyroscope," may seem to be aiming a bit low when he applies for a mining job with the Virtue Mining Corporation. After all, he has military experience and knows how to write computer programs. But he takes the job because he needs one badly, and because he wants to get off his home planet where his ex-wife is making things difficult for him. So he joins up with VMC, befriends a hot-headed youngster named Skoots and undergoes six weeks of training for a five-year tour of hard labor on the planet Joules, all the way across the galaxy.

You may be expecting this story to end up with a war against insectoid aliens laying claim to Joules, or maybe a desert-dwelling tribe of religious zealots who ride gigantic sand-worms. At the very least you're expecting the story to be about what happens once Gyro, Skoots and company arrive on Joules. The surprise is that they don't even get to Joules until the end of the book. The real story is about how they get there.

There are several facets of the journey that make it interesting. First, there's the way the miners are trained: how it psychologically prepares them for a hyperspace jump across the galaxy and the discipline and duty that holds them together (mostly) when everything goes wrong. Second, there's the intriguing concept of the hyperspace jump: the weird, ten-dimensional math that governs it, the spooky precautions that have to be taken during it, and the disastrous problems that result when an unforeseen variable creeps in. The third facet is the role Gyro plays in saving the ship and most of the men on board: how, in the end, all depends on an overqualified miner who likes to play with computer code as a hobby. Between his refinements on an old, low-res computer game and an idea he had for a screen-saver lie a solution no one has thought of before - but if it doesn't work, everyone on board the Virtue Star will starve adrift in space.

It's a lean, fast-paced book with some sharply defined characters, interesting social dynamics, fascinating science concepts, humor, suspense, irony, and now and then a burst of shocking violence. Underneath all the details it's a very simple story about a high-stakes engineering problem. I would have liked to see more development of Skoots and Gyro's careers after (spoiler!) their arrival on Joules, building on what was started here - more of a sci-fi epic, maybe, with a series of engineering problems on an expanding scale and rising stakes. But in its straight-to-the-point way this book is an appealing whole already.

John D. Waterman worked for 30 years in the aerospace industry. He drew on this experience to write the nonfiction book 48 Hours to Chaos: An Engineer Looks at Life and How the World Really Works. This is his first novel, which I read via a free Kindle download through the book review website NetGalley.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

132. Hymn for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

In the historic church year cycle, what with the movable date of Easter and the pre-Lenten Gesima Sundays and Transfiguration (almost) always being the last Sunday after Epiphany, Easter had to fall on April 1 or later, or March 31 during a Leap Year, for there to be a full-blown Second Sunday after Epiphany. Truly the Sundays after Epiphany are a precarious proposition. They hold some of my favorite Gospel lessons of the entire church year, to say nothing of a beautiful body of hymnody, but the earlier Easter is the more likely one is to miss them. The Epistle for this Sunday, part of a three-week lectio continua in Romans 12, runs from verse 6 of that chapter through the words "condescend to men of low estate" or their equivalent in verse 16. The Gospel is the water-to-wine miracle at the wedding in Cana, John 2:1-11. The tune I have in mind is WIR WOLLEN ALLE FRÖHLICH SEIN by Cyriakus Spangenberg, 1568, based on a 15th century melody.
O bride of Christ, O holy line,
Take pleasure in God's good design!
For in His first attesting sign
Your Lord made water into wine
And poured abroad His joy divine.

Before He multiplied the bread,
Before His voice aroused the dead,
"My hour has not yet come," He said;
But Mary with the servants pled
To follow where His orders led.

They saw no secret charms, or heard
But that pure water be transferred;
Yet after they obeyed His word,
The steward sipped with rage absurd
The latter wine, so much preferred.

You branches of the Winestock true,
Behold how He in-grafted you
By mighty word and water too!
This pressing none but God could do:
The old poured out, behold the new!

O Christ, let us as servants pure,
Each in his calling firm and sure,
Work as You will with faith mature!
To teach with strength, to serve demure,
Help us each other's good secure!

O Bridegroom, pledged to us in love,
You are today our Blessing-cup,
The paschal Bread whereon we sup.
With life and pardon fill us up
That joy may overflow our cup!

Come, better Vintage, richer Joy!
Let all the saints their gifts employ!
Sin's bitter residue destroy -
Cups that confuse, corrupt and cloy -
Till we Your festal wine enjoy!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Werewolves: A Hunter's Guide

Werewolves: A Hunter's Guide
by Graeme Davis
Recommended Ages: 13+

I don't usually take notes when I read a book for entertainment, but in this case I did. You never know when a hot tip on identifying and eliminating a werewolf might come in handy.

In this well-researched, lavishly illustrated and clearly organized book, Graeme Davis lays out a fairly convincing outline of the different types of werewolf, how to spot them, how dangerous they are and what to do about them. Then he goes on to discuss werewolf society and the societies that hunt werewolves.

Of course not all of his sources are non-fiction, and even many of the historic case studies and early testimonies he draws on could be put down to superstition, hearsay and legend. What makes this book a bit eerie is how the author frankly admits this and points out the holes in his own case - and yet somehow it seems to stand up. No doubt the error creeps in at the level of how or why he chooses to believe certain witnesses or interpretations of them. And then there's a good chance some of his data is straight-up fabricated. But the effect of the magic trick is that at the end of the book, you could easily believe you have just read a scientifically sound, academic treatise on the existence of werewolves.

There's even a bibliography at the end, and it distinguishes carefully between fiction and scholarly work. To be sure, Davis's judgments on the views of his sources are colored by his own views. He notes one author dismisses lycanthropy as a psychological condition, while others (particularly in Roman Catholic circles) consider it a delusion brought on by witchcraft. His basis for disagreeing with them could be wishful thinking. Still, there is something eerily familiar about many of the historic case studies backing up each variant of werewolfery (I just made up that word).

There are, for example, viral werewolves, shamanic werewolves, sorcerous werewolves and obsessive werewolves. Sometimes it's about the bite, sometimes astral projection, sometimes black magic or a divine curse, and sometimes it's just madness. There are lone werewolves, wandering packs, urban and rural packs, criminal werewolf gangs and even, it seems, military uses of lycanthropy. There are variants on every continent (though, to be sure, Australia is barely mentioned), and even were-creatures other than wolves. It depends on where the folklore comes from, evidently. But do the legends have a basis in fact? Aha! That's where the fun comes in. Read the evidence for yourself and then decide whether a few rounds of silver bird shot are worth the investment!

Confusingly, there are two current authors named Graeme Davis. The one who wrote this book is a noted designer of roleplay games, particularly the Warhammer franchise, and author of several dark fantasy novels. The one who didn't write this book is a medievalist whose books include literary analyses of each of the Harry Potter novels. This book is the fifth of nine books in the Dark Osprey series, featuring books by various authors exploring "the shadowy worlds of fantasy, secret histories, and conspiracy theories" in a scholarly, investigative style. Their titles include Vampires: A Hunter's Guide, Zombies: A Hunter's Guide, The Wars of Atlantis and Knights Templar: A Secret History. This review is based on a free download of the book made possible by the reviewers' website NetGalley.

A Dark Mind

A Dark Mind
by T. R. Ragan
Recommended Ages: 14+

From the standpoint of "things Harry Potter fans would love to read" one may question why I would post a review of this book, since serial killer fiction is a whole huge area of the book world that has very little overlap with schools of magic. I could take the cute route and point out, for example, that Voldemort is a type of serial killer, and that as an auror who carries a lifelong scar from a childhood encounter with the dark lord, Harry Potter has something in common with Lizzy Gardner, a private investigator who as a teenager survived being abducted by a serial killer. But to be honest, the reason I'm reviewing this book is that I review almost everything I read. As it happens I started listened to Kate Rudd reading this book on CD during a long road trip when I couldn't find anything else suitable on the audio fiction rack at a truck stop. It's the sort of thing that can happen even to a book nut who prefers magical fantasy. If it happened to me, it could happen to you.

Sacramento, California seems to be a popular hunting ground for serial killers. It was there that Lizzy escaped from, and eventually destroyed, the monster known as Spiderman. In previous books in this series she must have taken down a few other psychos, because already by this installment in the Lizzy Gardner series she has two very different assistants whom she took under her wing after traumatic experiences. One is Jessica, a tight-laced young lady who wants to be an FBI profiler someday. The other is Haley, a street-smart kid who has to wear a monitoring device since she castrated the man who abused her and her mother. Together with her boyfriend, FBI Agent Jared Shayne, Lizzy is trying to keep Haley out of trouble - but soomehow, trouble comes to them.

For example, Lizzy assigns Jessica a seemingly easy case, helping a client who has been unlucky in love find out whether her fiance is to be trusted. Jessica's target, a building contractor working on a new subdivision, turns out to be up to his neck in something nasty that may include burying bags of body parts under a concrete slab. As the apprentice sleuth tries to prove her mettle, she gets dangerously close to a bad-boy subcontractor who gets orders to shut her up by whatever means necessary.

Then there's the case of a politician's wife who gave up a child for adoption when she was an unmarried teen. Now she wants to make contact with the girl before her husband starts a big campaign, but the adoptive parents say she has gone missing. Finding her leads Lizzy's team into a dark corner of Sacramento area culture and an ethical dilemma.

But ironically, it is a routine workman's comp case that leads Lizzy into the most danger. One of several similar cases, it involves checking into an employee who claims he was injured on the job, while his bosses, a married couple of realtors, think he may be scamming them. The ink is still wet on their contract when the case leads Lizzy across the trail of a serial murderer dubbed the Lovebird Killer because he targets couples who are deeply in love. When one of her clients is arrested for killing his wife, Lizzy has a feeling he's innocent - and she soon begins to suspect the Lovebird Killer may be involved. As she continues looking into their former employee, the case grows even weirder.

Strange things start happening at her home and office that suggest she has caught the attention of yet another sociopath, one who thinks of targeting the woman who stopped Spiderman as a special challenge. The name of the realtors' ex-employee proves to belong to another man entirely, a man who has been seeking justice for the murder of his sister for more than five years. Meanwhile the killer knows where Lizzy lives and works. While he appears and disappears as if by magic to menace Lizzy, those closest to her, and other innocent people, she races to solve a series of crimes that has baffled the police and the FBI until now. And since he can apparently go anywhere he wants without getting caught, it's only a matter of time until the Lovebird Killer completes a masterpiece of evil that will destroy Lizzy's life.

This is the third Lizzy Gardner thriller by T. R. Ragan, starting with Abducted. The sixth and latest installment, Evil Never Dies came out in August 2015. T. R. Ragan is a pseudonym used by Theresa Ragan, who under her own name has published nine novels combining romance with either fantasy, comedy or suspense. Their titles include A Knight in Central Park, Taming Mad Max and Dead Man Running.

The League of Unexceptional Children

The League of Unexceptional Children
by Gitty Daneshvari
Recommended Ages: 10+

When the stupidest Secret Service agent allows the Vice President to be snatched, along with a computer containing some of the U.S. government's secretest secrets, none of the country's top spies can do anything about it because they're only one password away from having their cover blown - and the Vice President, who has that password, has a very low threshold of torture. With the country on the brink of ruin and its best and brightest out of the game, all depends on two completely mediocre Evanston, Virginia middle school students.

Jonathan Murray and Shelley Brown are so average, they're almost invisible. People they have seen every day since they started school tend to forget their names and sometimes forget ever knowing them. Jonathan wears khakis, heaven help him. Shelley talks in an almost inaudible whisper, which is a mercy because loneliness has made her a bit loopy and she is constantly retracting the bizarre statements that flow uncontrollably out of her mouth. After 24 hours of training by an intelligence outfit that hides its entrance inside the refrigerator in a hot dog stand, their spy skills are no better than you would expect - and even worse when they have to work together. Yet even a pair of teen supermodel agents on loan from the U.K. lack something they have: the ability to go anywhere without being noticed.

These kids' spy adventure is just as ludicrous as you would expect, and the danger level never feels really high. But what the story lacks in hard-hitting action and wire-taut tension, it makes up in tummy-tickling comedy. The book packs in a steady series of giggles, snorts, guffaws and breathless fits of hilarity that rarely lets up. It swerves crazily from pure goofiness to pointed satire, developing characters who build in funniness even as their deeper qualities come into focus. It never misses a laugh line, even in the chapter headings featuring quotes from random, brutally average children around the country. From its general concept to its tiniest detail, this book is just a hairsbreadth too lovable to qualify as tickle-torture.

Gitty Daneshvari is also the author of the young adult fantasy School of Fear trilogy and the grown-up romantic comedy novel The Makedown. This review was based on a Kindle reader uncorrected proof provided through the NetGalley pre-publication review website. The book becomes available on Oct. 20, 2015.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Siren and the Sword

The Siren and the Sword
by Cecilia Tan
Recommended Ages: 17+

I took the opportunity to review this book free on Kindle through the NetGalley website even though, as a matter of policy, I avoid books that are hidden behind the "adults only" wall at Fantastic Fiction. Pretty much everything by Cecilia Tan is, though. I'm told she's a leading name in erotic fiction and LGBT literature. It's the fact that her "Magic University" series riffs on the Harry Potter "school of magic" theme that caught my interest.

In an afterword to this book, Tan admits she was inspired by Harry Potter. At its weaker moments, it reads like a piece of erotic fan-fiction, with the difference that the characters are original and the setting is Veritas, a hidden college of magic within Harvard University. Like at Hogwarts, the students at Veritas are divided into houses and the professors veer rapidly from seeming whimsically odd to dark and menacing. Instead of a shrimpy orphan with messy hair who has been raised by relatives who deliberately tried to squash the magic out of him, the main character is a studly scholarship student named Kyle Wadsworth who stumbles on Veritas during a visit to the Harvard campus during his senior year in high school. His ability even to see the Veritas buildings proves he has talent, but since he grew up knowing nothing about magic, nobody knows what his talent is.

This book comprises Kyle's first of four years at Veritas, learning his place in the magical world. While he takes ordinary poetry classes and some classes on basic magical theory, he develops relationships with other students and gets involved in a creepy mystery involving a creature that preys on students who sneak into the library at night. He also starts to understand where his particular gifts lie, and that his unique gifts may be what it takes to save a fellow student from the deadly effects of the siren in the library.

As for 'shipping, this variant leaves nothing to the reader's imagination. Every time the story builds up a nice momentum of magical mystery laced with unique fantasy concepts, Kyle suddenly takes his clothes off and, either alone or with another student, engages in scenes that broke the needle on my Adult Content meter. We're talking naughty body parts, detailed play-by-plays and lots of vividly described bodily fluids. This isn't just an Adult Content Advisory, it's a Pornography Warning.

Other books in the "Magic University" series include The Tower and the Tears, The Incubus and the Angel, The Poet and the Prophecy and the short story collection Spellbinding. After writing that her other works frequently combine fantasy tropes with romance, graphic sex and kinky elements like fetishes and BDSM, I kind of want to wash my hands. She's obviously an expert on this kind of thing, and I frankly admit I was titillated by them. Yet I also thought the explicit-sex parts of this book strangely lacked the originality and lyricism of the rest. There was a weird disjointedness in it, where distinctively excellent passages ran straight into sections where blue writing served in the place of good writing. I was pleasantly surprised that it rose to a level above slash fanfic... but even without sacrificing eroticism, I think it could have risen higher.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

131. Hymn for the 1st Sunday after Epiphany

The historic First Sunday after Epiphany is the Sunday when everybody used to hear the story about 12-year-old Jesus astounding the teachers in the temple at Jerusalem. This hymn honors that Sunday of the church year, though it has become somewhat of an endangered species. To learn why this is so, see the text block following the hymn below. It is based on the Epistle of the day, Romans 12:1-5, and the Gospel, Luke 2:41-52. The tune I have in mind is LOBET DEN HERRN UND DANKT IHM SEINE GABEN by Johann Crüger, 1650.

Christ, when Your parents to the temple brought You,
Lo, how three days with fear and grief they sought You!
Mark too the cares whereby our hearts are ridden;
Be not long hidden!

Three days again Your faithful few spent weeping
While at Your grave cold eyes their watch were keeping;
Yet even they in time beheld Your rising,
Swift and surprising.

When in these latter days we strive to find You,
Spare us though we in weakness blame or bind You!
Grant us, lest we exalt ourselves unduly,
To know You truly!

Where should we seek but in the house and teaching
Of Him who in Your very flesh was reaching
Into our world with sacrificial favor -
Where else, dear Savior?

Teach us Your word lest, all our will demanding,
We turn aside Your awesome understanding;
Be known to us in sacrament and preaching,
Our blindness breaching!

Pardon us, Lord, and place us in subjection,
That in our hearts we treasure Your direction;
Dwell in us, day by day more closely knitting,
For glory fitting!

Help us henceforth with trusting prayer address You;
Be No Your answer, help us still confess You;
Or hearing none, bide undiscouraged, waiting
Till our translating!

All right, so, Epiphany is always Jan. 6, regardless of the day of the week or the date of Easter. The Epiphany season may comprise as many as six Sundays after Epiphany or as few as one, depending on the date of Easter. Of course, this assumes the historic church year that inserts the pre-Lenten Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima between the last Sunday after Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. Adding complexity is the matter of Transfiguration Sunday, which is always the last Sunday after Epiphany, except there is only one Sunday between Epiphany and Septuagesima. In spite of this rubric some liturgists find the Transfiguration sexier than Jesus Among the Doctors, so they'll prefer it even if there is only one Sunday after Epiphany.

In the revised lectionary that came out of Vatican II, the Gesimas disappear, the number of Sundays after Epiphany varies from four to nine, and Transfiguration moves to the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday. For another twist, the modern lectionary's custom of celebrating the Baptism of Our Lord on the First Sunday after Epiphany has found favor among many who, like me, continue to hold to the historic cycle; though some of us prefer to fix it on Jan. 13, exactly one week after Epiphany. So in a strictly historic one-year series there may not be a "First Sunday after Epiphany," as such, when Easter falls from March 22 to 24 and the minister's preference pushes Transfiguration back onto the Sunday immediately after Jan. 6; and in either the modern lectionary or some semi-strict variants of the historic series there may never be a "First Sunday after Epiphany" at all because the Baptism of Our Lord is celebrated instead.

Between this Scylla and Charybdis lie a few, but I think valuable, chances to observe the historic "Jesus Among the Doctors" Sunday. I hope this hymn may be of use in that event.