Episco-Fact #93
May 24, 2018

In this Sunday's Order of Service there is a response to the first reading with a designation, S236. What does the S mean and where do I find it in the hymnal?

Of the liturgical reform enacted in the Episcopal Church during the Twentieth Century, as well as other traditions, including Roman Catholicism, music was given great attention. That attention included not only the congregational hymns, but it also included words from the Prayer Book, set to music, or Service music. Those words, with musical settings are found immediately after the title page, Hymnal 1982 and are numbered sequentially S 1 through S 288. Congregational Hymns, numbered sequentially 1 through 720, follow immediately after the service music.

 Hymn S 236 is a musical setting for Canticle 13 found on page 90 of the BCP in the service for Morning Prayer. It is so very appropriate to pair as a response to the call of Isaiah recorded in Isaiah, chapter 4. There, the prophet has a vision of the awesomeness of God's presence in the temple in Jerusalem. God is surrounded by incense, Cherubim (think powerful composite animal human creatures, not round little chubby babies), and the glory of God's heavenly realm. Even though the words come from a piece of Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal literature (books of the Episcopal Bible between the prophet Malachi and the Gospel of Mark), it coincides with the vision of this major classical prophet. On this Sunday, dedicated to the theological concept, the Trinity, the reading from Isaiah and the musical response reflect on the vastness and power of God. Other readings deal with God's immanence and closeness.

 Service Music may be better known to those Episcopalians who regularly participated in Morning Prayer as the main service on Sunday mornings. In those services, Service Music took a prominent place. Although there are settings for many of the words of the Eucharist, a great many churches transitioned to the Eucharist through spoken words and lost some of the tradition of service music, always a confusing part of the Hymnal 1982 when someone is first learning their way around Episcopal Worship. Usually, we (St. Francis) print the service music in the Order of Service so that the transitions from spoken to chanted or sung music in the liturgy occur with minimal interruption

 On a weekly basis we print the hymn of praise that occurs immediately after either the opening acclamation (i.e. "Blessed be God . . ."), the Sanctus (i.e. "Holy, holy, holy . . ."), and the "Amen." You will see the S designations of those hymns of the people noted in the Order of Service.

 Why did we not print S 236, like we print the other service music? Well, when set out to the music, it is a very long piece that does not fit in our tri-fold Order of Service.