Tuesday, April 10, 2012

4 Song EP: "August 24th" - Final song!

The final post in the 4 Song Ep is here and it ends with a doozy!

This is my favorite song by far.

Erin and I spent a lot of time on these and are now sharing them. We hope you enjoy!

This song based on this saint and Bishop, Ignatius, who wrote some letters in the early 100's on his way to facing the lions in Rome for his faith. His writings are beautiful and they really touched me as they have the whole Christian faith for the last 2000 years.

The interesting thing about Ignatius is that he wanted to die. He thought it was a great honor to die for the faith and often talked of fighting the beasts, provoking them, hoping they weren't too full from eating other people already. In his final letter, to the Romans where he was going to be executed, he asked them not to interfere or try to stop his execution. If anything he asked them to come to the arena and provoke the beasts to eat him. He did not want them to cry but to sing hymns of Jesus. Below is the song and full explanation of what I was trying to do.



August 24th (Finest Bread) (Going to the Lions)
Take me on a journey, from morning dawn to setting sun.
Take a choir and please sing, a hymn of praise to Jesus for allowing me this peace.
Take this passion burning deep, fulfill it like a lover’s leap
Take the Word straight from your lips,
if the world has made it’s home underneath of your skin

I know that I am going to the Lions
Please, Dear Romans, allow me this passion
I hear the whisper “come to the Father”

Farewell now until the end
And wait with Patience all for Him!
As I write, it’s August twenty fourth!

Take this wine aged to its peak, pour it out in offering
Take my body or what’s left, send it to my brother’s, bury it in hope
Take this flour ground in stone, finest bread I can bring over
Take my lead to taunt the beasts, I don’t want to be a burden when I fall asleep

Are these pearls on my neck? Or chains there wrapped instead?
I can’t tell by the way you lift my head.

            This song seems to be best explained with a line-by-line commentary. Some initial thoughts that may be helpful before beginning this commentary include: (1) Everything is taken directly from St. Ignatius’ letter to the Romans with as little artistic variance as possible and (2) the first line of each verse is directed towards Jesus with the counter (or second) line being directed towards his church family in Romans, the eventual place of his martyrdom. Let us begin:

Take me on a journey, from morning dawn to setting sun [Lyric].
·      “…sing hymns of praise to Jesus Christ to the Father, for permitting Syria’s bishop [Ignatius], summoned from the realms of the morning, to have reached below the world’s horizon towards God, to rise again later into the dawn of His presence!” (86)[1] [Ignatius’ actual words].
o   It would seem that the Syria is representative of the east, where the sun rises or “the realms of the morning.” This language serves as another metaphor, morning is the beginning of life and the sun’s journey across the sky is life’s journey. So it stands to reason that Rome is the west and the horizon. For Ignatius, it is also represents death as it will be the location of his eventual martyrdom. After the darkness of death or sleep, he will raise to a new dawn, new life, in the presence of Christ. [Commentary].

Take a choir and please sing, a hymn of praise to Jesus for allowing me this peace.
·      “Then you may form a loving choir around it  and sing hymns of praise to Jesus Christ to the Father…” (86).
o   It refers to the libation poured out and sacrifice placed on the altar which is a metaphor for Ignatius’ body.

Take this passion burning deep, fulfill it like a lover’s leap
·      “Here and now, as I write in the fullness of life, I am yearning for death with all the passion of a lover” (87).
o   This phrase is juxtaposed to Ignatius’ other thoughts, which he says that if he comes to the Romans and pleads for his life - do not listen to him. Now, while his mind and heart are clear, he establishes his true desire.

Take the Word straight from your lips, if the world has made it’s home underneath of your skin
·      “Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart…” (87).
o   This line isn’t just pastoral advice. The context is that if the Romans really love Jesus, they will let Ignatius die. If they do anything to stop this martyrdom, they better do some soul searching to see if they are really a disciple of Christ.

I know that I am going to the Lions
·      “How I look forward to the real lions that have been ready for me! All I pray is that I may find them swift. I am going to make overtures to them, so that, unlike some other wretches whom they have been too spiritless to touch, they may devour me with all speed. And if they are still reluctant, I shall use force to them. You must forgive me, but I do know what is best for myself.” (87).
·      “I am His wheat, ground fine by the lions’ teeth to be made the purest bread for Christ” (86).

Please, Dear Romans, allow me this passion
·      “…but for me it is going to be very hard to get to the God unless you spare me your intervention” (85).
·      “For my part, I am writing to all the churches and assuring them that I am truly in earnest about dying for God – if only you yourselves put no obstacles in my path” (86).
·      “Leave me to imitate the Passion of my God” (87).

I hear the whisper “come to the Father”
·      “Earthly longings have been crucified; in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, ‘Come to the Father’”(87).

Farewell now until the end, and wait with Patience all for Him!
As I write, it’s August twenty fourth!
·      “As I write this, it is the twenty-fourth of August. Farewell now until the end, and wait with patience for Jesus Christ” (88).

Take this wine aged to its peak, pour it out in offering
·      “This favor only I beg of you: suffer me to be a libation poured out to God, while there is an altar ready for me.” (85-86).

Take my body or what’s left, send it to my brother’s bury it in hope
·      “…in which I hope to rise again through the help of your intercessions” (Letter to the Ephesians, 64).

Take this flour ground in stone, finest bread I can bring over
·      “…pray leave me to be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am His wheat, ground fine by the lions’ teeth to be made the purest bread for Christ” (86).

Take my lead to taunt the beasts; I don’t want to be a burden when I fall asleep
·      “Better still, incite the creatures to become a sepulcher for me; let them not leave the smallest scrap of my flesh, so that I need not be a burden to anyone after I fall asleep” (86).

Are these pearls on my neck? Or chains there wrapped instead? I can’t tell by the way you lift my head.
·      “Apart from Him, nothing else should have any value in your eyes; but in Him, even these chains I wear are a collar of spiritual pearls to me” (Letter to the Ephesians, 64).

As you can see, there are some variances on the phrases and words, but the meanings are kept intact. In fact, many of the lines were preserved almost word for word.
            Though competing heavily with Psalm 46, this song is probably my favorite. The reason I love it so much is that I struggle with Ignatius so much. The whole class struggled with the whole of the martyrdom series in Global Christian Heritage 1. The martyrs were not only willing, but also desired to be a witness for Christ through the death of their literal bodies. I tried to hold the tension we all felt when reading this letter, namely that the words and subject are inexplicably sad yet the tone is rejoicing. The song is upbeat set to the melancholy words of Ignatius. I really do feel that we have lost a great deal in our evangelical churches by cutting out our historical parents. If we are going to have earthly heroes, it should not be whichever quarterback is doing best this year. Our earthly heroes should be the saints gone before us.
            The bridge falls from the upbeat nature of the rest of the song. This is the part where we sing about the tension felt in the chains. It is a breaking point. It causes us to reflect. The beat can’t carry us anymore. The weightiness of the subject matter takes its toll. We are left looking at a naked man in chains. Our heart breaks. The first phrase resolves on a minor chord. But then we realize what we are singing, that the chains are actually pearls; that the Lord Jesus has promised blessing to those who suffer for His name’s sake, that the world and our bodies will perish and so let it be done to the glory and witness of the Lord. The beat is building back in, hopefully, with the realization that Ignatius is right; with the realization that sacrifice and suffering are the ways that the Lord has decided to perfect our faith. It is the way of the cross. In the upside down kingdom, entry into the martyr’s coliseum is a red carpet into Jesus’ presence.
            The role this song plays in the worship service, this album, is the dedication and rededication to the God for whom we have waited and fellowshipped. We have met with the Lord, experienced God in a real way through our koinonia and we can’t leave unscathed. We dedicate our lives to be lived in the example of Christ, a life of sacrifice shaped by the cross, through the medium of Ignatius. It is a radical call to discipleship that ends only in the death or parousia; and, for most of us, it is likely going to be death. Though death is the enemy, last to be destroyed in the end, we confront it boldly in the grand sense and through small acts of service to our spiritual family and secular community in the present: to our neighbors.
            May we come weary but we leave renewed, recreated and ready to face the world around us in a way that cooperates with the work of Christ to bring kingdom to our neighborhoods.


[1] All references to Ignatius’ actual words are taken from: Louth, Andrew, ed. and Maxwell Staniforth, trans. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1987). Page numbers will be in parentheses after the quote.

No comments:

Post a Comment