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.

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