Feast of Timothy Rees (April 29)   1 comment

Above:  Timothy Rees

Image in the Public Domain

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TIMOTHY REES (AUGUST 15, 1874-APRIL 29, 1939)

Welsh Anglican Hymn Writer and Bishop of Llandaff

Bishop Timothy Rees comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via hymnals.  One of my occasional projects is reading about the lives of authors and translators of hymns, for hymnody matters that much to me.  I know of seven hymns Rees wrote, for those are the ones hymnary.org lists.  Unfortunately, the dreaded notation “alt.” follows our saint’s credit on his hymns in most hymnals that contain any of his texts, and I cannot find the original versions of four of those seven hymns.  I want to know what Rees wrote, not what hymnal editors and committees wish he had written.

Consider, this text, O reader:

God is Love:  let heav’n adore him;

God is Love:  let earth rejoice;

Let creation sing before him,

And exalt him with one voice.

He who laid the earth’s foundation,

He who spread the heav’ns above,

He who breathes through all creation,

He is Love, eternal Love.

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God is Love:  and he enfoldeth

All the world in one embrace;

With unfailing grasp he holdeth

Every child of every race.

And when human hearts are breaking

Under sorrow’s iron rod,

Then they find that selfsame aching

Deep withing the heart of God.

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God is Love:  and though with blindness

Sin afflicts the souls of men,

God’s eternal loving-kindness

Holds and guides them even then.

Sin and death and hell shall never

O’er us final triumph gain;

God is Love, so Love for ever

O’er the universe must reign.

–Quoted in The New English Hymnal (1986)

Typical of the alteration of this text in other contemporary hymnals is this portion of the second stanza, from The Hymnal 1982 (1985), of The Episcopal Church:

God is Love:  and love enfolds us,

all the world in one embrace;

with unfailing grasp God holds us,

every child child of every race.

Really, is -eth really so incomprehensible?  And is masculine language so bad?  In the final stanza, in that altered version of the hymn, sin afficts

all human life,

not

the souls of men,

as in the original text.  Lest one imagine inaccurately that I am picking on one theological orientation, I offer another example.  The Lutheran Service Book (2006), of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, offers an altered version of “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling.”  The end of the first stanza, in the original version, reads,

Holy Spirit, ever raising

Sons of earth to thrones on high;

Living, life-imparting Spirit,

Thee we praise and magnify.

That text, as the Lutheran Service Book presents it, however, is different:

Holy Spirit, ever raising

Those of earth to thrones on high;

Living, life-imparting Spirit,

You we praise and magnify.

In the English language the masculine gender remains the default gender, inclusive of more than boys and men.  This does not bother me.  It is certainly better than the singular they, which leads one to use “are” when one should use “is.”

Timothy Rees, son of David and Catherine Rees, entered the world in Llain, Llanon, Wales, on August 15, 1874, and went on to become a prominent Anglican clergyman.  He studied at Ardwyn School, Aberystwyth, before matriculating at St. David’s College, Lampeter (B.A., 1896), then attending seminary at St. Michael’s College, Abendare.  Our saint, ordained to the diaconate in 1897 and to the priesthood the following year, served as the Curate of Ash Mountain, Glamorganshire, from 1897 to 1901.  Then, from 1901 to 1906, Rees was a lecturer and the chaplain at St. Michael’s College.  He joined the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, Yorkshire.  For the Community he went on missions to New Zealand (1910 and 1913), Canada (1914), and Ceylon (1929).  From 1915 to 1919 Rees served as a military chaplain; he received the Military Cross for his wartime service.  In 1922 our saint became the Principal of the College of the Resurrection.  Our saint doubled as the Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Bangor from 1925 to 1928.  In 1931 he left he College of the Resurrection to become the Bishop of Llandaff.  Rees died at Llandaff on April 29, 1939.  He was 64 years old.

Our saint’s hymns live on fortunately, if if primarily in altered forms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Timothy Rees and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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One response to “Feast of Timothy Rees (April 29)

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  1. Pingback: Timothy Rees | GATHERED PRAYERS

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