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Sunday Devotion: 24 January 2021, Third Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday Devotions

Sing to Him a new song

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Written by clergy and lay people across our Diocesan community, ‘Sunday Devotions’ is a column of short reflections based on a Lectionary reading of the day, suitable for small group discussion or personal use.

Main Readings: Jonah 3.1-10; Psalm 62.5-12; 1 Corinthians 7.29-31; Mark 1.14-20

Supplementary Readings: Psalm 119.97-104; John 4.13-26; Leviticus 19.1-4, 9-18; Psalm 33.1-12; 1 John 2.12-17

“Praise the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings. Sing to him a new song” (Psalm 33.2-3)

I sing in the evensong choir at St John’s Cathedral and my favourite part of Evensong is the Nunc Dimittis (Canticle of Simeon). At every Evensong you hear these same words, quietly sung in beautiful choral harmony.

The words, from Luke, in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation; Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.”

The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis settings (known affectionately as ‘the Mag & Nunc’) have been set to music for centuries, from William Byrd in the 1500s, to other great composers such as Charles Villiers Stanford and Herbert Howells. For me, Evensong is a chance to reflect on the week that has passed and contemplate what is coming up in the forthcoming week. A chance for stillness and beautiful music – a chance to pray, to give thanks, to confess, to praise God.

“Sing to Him a new song.” Or praise God through another instrument.

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