Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Songs of Ascent: An Introduction


From now until Great Lent is over, my daily postings will be from a set of songs I wrote a long, long time ago. These are based on the Song of Ascents in the Psalms. This is an appropriate time to revisit them, since we sing these Psalms in their entirety weekly during this time, during the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

I wrote these originally in 1995\1996. At the time I was attending Faith Baptist Church in Taylors, SC, and Dr. John Vaughn was preaching through the Old Testament poetic book, using the commentaries of John Phillips. I don’t remember what the sermons were like, and probably would not fully agree with much of what was taught anymore, but I was struck by the picture of hundreds (or more) of pilgrims, walking along the roads on their way to Jerusalem, singing these songs like a chorus in a musical. In the Christian tradition in which I grew up, we didn’t have these songs in a sung format, so I decided to write them. A friend, Johnny Larrabee, wrote music for a few of them, and these will be the tunes I will use for them as I attempt to sing them for you. I will also include my recordings of him singing and playing them with the bandcamp album.

The Song of Ascents was sung by the Jews as they travelled toward Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifices. Due to the location of Jerusalem, this always meant an “ascent” - they literally had to go uphill to get there. As Christians, Great Lent is the time of our journey to the Cross, where Christ our Paschal Lamb was slain for our salvation.

There are 15 songs in this set, plus a summary song I wrote at the end. I will include the  text of the Psalm from this translation, which is the King James Version with some (very few) corrections based on the Septuagint.

The songs begin with a prayer for deliverance from trouble, as they are surrounded by those who wish to see them destroyed. They are reminded that their help comes from God when they look to the hills (Jerusalem). They are called to go to the house of God, and follow Him to His holy temple. Their journey brings their families close as they draw near to God. They unite with their brethren in Jerusalem in the promise of God, and worship Him together, shining forth the glory of God from the city set on a hill.

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