In the lectionary readings for Jan. 4, the psalmist proclaims, “Behold our defender, O God, and look upon the face of your Anointed.” This is precisely what the Magi did when they followed the star first to Jerusalem, after which King Herod sent them on to Bethlehem to find the child “born King of the Jews.” Today’s gospel foreshadows the sequence of events that we will celebrate this Tuesday, Jan. 6, on the Feast of the Epiphany and with the Burning of the Greens. The text of this morning’s departing procession hymn, “What star is this,” vividly captures these images of the star and the “Eastern Sages.” Author Charles Coffin (1676-1749) wrote this original French text in 1737 when he was Rector of the University of Paris.
One of today’s Communion hymns is the Hispanic folk song/carol/lullaby “A la ru” as arranged by John Donald Robb (1892-1989). Educated at Yale and Harvard universities, Robb was music department head of the University of New Mexico and was also a prolific composer and collector of Hispanic folk music. This folk song hold the distinction of being the very first hymn ever included in any Episcopal hymnal that is completely in a language other than English. “A la ru” is most often sung in the folk play Los Pastores (The Shepherds) in many villages in New Mexico during the Christmas season; Los Pastores came to New Mexico from Mexico in the 19th century and was handed down in this country by oral tradition. Robb first transcribed this lovely lullaby into English in 1954.
Image credit: “Giotto – Scrovegni – -18- – Adoration of the Magi”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons