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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Songstories 43: Acts of God (GIA, 2015, "To You Who Bow")

Well, it's a little early, I suppose, to be crowing about this song or recording, but we have been at it for a very long time, and I think it may be even longer before you get to hear more of it. Let me tell you why I wanted you to hear a little of this one today, and not, say, a week from now.

Back in 2012, my friend Bill Fraher, former music director at Old St. Patrick's church in Chicago (currently, he serves as director of special musical events) commissioned me to write a couple of pieces for his choir, one for Easter and one for a Pentecost project the parish was doing with another community in the city. I gratefully obliged him, though it was more difficult than I thought it was going to be. The Easter song turned out to be this one, "Acts (of God)". I used the parentheses in the title because "Acts of God" generally is a legal turn referring to floods, hurricanes, &c, and while these things can be amusing in mixed company they are not usually associated with the joy of discipleship. "Acts," of course, refers to "Acts (ΠΡΑΞΕΙΣ, praxeis) of the Apostles," the source of the verses of the song. I added "of God" to refer forward to the pronouncement that "only God could make this day," a line from the text of the refrain, which says
This is the day! This is the day! This is the day now
To live in the light, arisen with Christ,
To show the way now.
Only God could make this day.
A paraphrase and gloss on Psalm 118: 24, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." My emphasis was to try to musically and lyrically exegetize that the "acts" are God's acts in the newly created world. Only God can create this day. This does not in any way deny our participation in the "deal," but it puts the emphasis kerygmatically where it belongs.

The text of the verses is almost verbatim (but let's call it a paraphrase because it's not verbatim) of Acts 4: 32-37, which is the first reading for the Second Sunday of Easter in Year B. Now maybe you are beginning to see why I wanted you to hear a little of this now! This reading from Acts 4 only comes up on Sunday every three years, and this Sunday is it! Now, this doesn't mean that "Acts of God" wouldn't make a good Easter anthem all the way through the 50 days of Easter, but its clearest connection might be with this Sunday, if it weren't for "doubting Thomas," who gets the homiletic focus on Easter 2 every year, poor soul. Here's a piece of news: where there's no doubt, there's no faith. You want certainty? Be a scientist.

And anyway, every Sunday is Easter. So the anthem would be useful at other times as well. I'm thinking of the early autumn in Year A, when the Matthaean community discourse makes up the gospel for two or three weeks, and on those Luke weekends when the gospel challenges us toward distributive justice in the real world.

Anyway, I thought you might like a sneak peek at the new song. It is now available at GIA, use this link for the piano/vocal edition, and this link for the guitar/vocal edition. We're still trying to figure out the recording issue. Right now, it's half Christmas music and half other liturgical music. There's a theological way it holds together, but sonically, I'm not so sure. We're weighing the possibility of making two recordings by adding a few more songs. I'll let you know.

Bill Fraher and Old St. Pat's, thank you for your constant support of me and my songs through the years. Now the great Jennifer Budziak is directing the Sunday choirs, and continuing the musical tradition that Mary Prete and Bill have established for the last 20-25 years.



Acts (of God) by Rory Cooney

The community of the believers
Was of one mind and heart,
They held everything in common,
No one claimed his goods apart.
The apostles preached the gospel,
Bearing witness as they said
That the Lord Jesus was risen from the dead.

Refrain:
This is the day! This is the day! This is the day now
To live in the light, arisen with Christ,
To show the way now.
Only God could make this day,
Only God could make this day.

There was no one needy among them,
For their goods and homes they sold,
And gave the proceeds to the apostles
To distribute and to hold.
So the church was held in favor
For their common life and prayer,
And the Lord Jesus
Was the the life they sought to share.

Refrain 2:
This is the day! This is the day! This is the day now
To live in the light, arisen with Christ,
To show the way now.
Only God could make this day.
Let us live so people say:

See how these Christians love one another.
See how these Christians favor the poor.
See how these Christians love one another.
See how these Christians honor the Lord.
(This is the day that God has made.)
See how these Christians love!
See how these Christians love!
(This is the day that God has made!
Alleluia! Today is the day of the Lord!)
This is the day! This the day!
This is the day, NOW!

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