Winslow Homer (1836-1910) is one of America’s greatest watercolorists. This well-known painting titled “After the Hurricane, Bahamas” was painted in 1899 and was inspired by Homer’s travels around the Caribbean. A self-taught artist, Homer had a keen sense of the expressive possibilities of color. The contrast of light and dark in this piece displays a storm recently passed but still threatening, with the bright sun illuminating the destruction left in its wake.
2,953,747: Global COVID-19 deaths as of April 12, 2021 
2nd: 2020’s rank among the warmest years on record 
>172,000: Migrants apprehended at the US-Mexico border in March 2021 
2.6 times: the relative rate of Black people killed by US police as compared to white people, from 2015-2020 
>1,000,000: Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China detained in reeducation camps since 2017 
The U.S. public is served a steady diet of numbers. This year, the menu greatly expanded. In addition to daily numbers about the stock market, political polls, and unemployment, we devoured numbers about COVID-19 infections, deaths, and positivity rates. There were also numbers about the rate of incarceration for Black American males, about migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and about global sea level rise.
There were so many numbers to consume, numbers that spoke of disaster. And in this age of the Anthropocene, no disaster is merely “natural”: all are tinged with the flavor of human malice, greed, and stupidity.
Numbers are helpful, even necessary. Throughout this plague year, they have helped us make decisions that could save lives. They have helped us calculate the risks involved in what were once mundane acts: shopping, exercise, visiting friends and family, working at the office, and praying at houses of worship.
Modern, neoliberal societies like ours use numbers not only to communicate facts about markets and the weather, but also to account for the deeper stuff of humanity: success and failure, happiness and grief, life and death. Yet more often than not, the daily barrage of numbers has masked the suffering, traumatized people who are enduring these overlapping disasters.
The moments of humanity that did manage to peek through the dim veil of numbers often revealed tragedies more unspeakable than numbers could convey. It was in these moments that disaster became real. Disaster was visible on the face of George Floyd as his last breath was taken from him by Derek Chauvin, and in the rare but horrifying photo essays from inside hospital COVID wards. It was audible in the songs of protest and the rituals of socially-distanced funerals. It was palpable in the parched California ground and forests of ash. Disaster, in the end, cannot be accounted for by numbers alone.
But it remains difficult to talk about disaster without recourse to the coldness of numbers. As philosopher Maurice Blanchot wrote in his aphoristic 1980 book, The Writing of the Disaster, disaster “is the limit of writing.” It seems to rob us of the ability to inscribe our world with meaning. While enduring disaster, one realizes that a world that once made sense no longer does.
And yet, in a world that has stopped making sense, something must be done to keep the forces of irrationality and senselessness at bay. Something must be done to make a home in a world bent on eviction. Even as it robs us of the words, disaster demands that we give an expression that can account for the sense of irreversible loss and, often enough, unshakeable hope. In so many ways, this kind of expression—from the depths of disaster—is sacred expression.
In my own research into early Christian responses to disaster, I have discovered that it is precisely from disastrous situations that new traditions are born: new prayers, new songs, new rituals—or, at least, new ways of doing the old. This is because disasters make it necessary to create new ways to adjust to a world that no longer makes sense, to remember a past made strange and foreign, and to pray to God when it seems God is distant, absent, or (frighteningly, perhaps) nearer than ever.
This issue of the Yale ISM Review explores sacred expression amidst disaster. The expressions discussed in this issue, from painting to preaching, singing to praying, shine a light on disasters from the inside, from the places where numbers cannot go. These are expressions that reach out toward the infinite in grief, desperation–and hope.
In This Issue
The first section of this issue considers rituals created to respond to disaster. The rituals here discussed respond to two very different moments of disaster, but both knit past, present, and future together in profound ways, showing the work of memory and hope that ritual can do in these moments.
New disaster rituals are always connected to what came before. As LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant writes, rituals “live deep within us, waiting to be unlocked.” Rituals can connect the present with the past, the living with ancestors who have passed over. In her moving essay, recounting how she cared for her mother as she passed over, Dr Manigault-Bryant explores the ritual practices she retrieved from an unforgotten past and recrafted for the present moment of death and dying in a COVID-19 world. In the process, both she and her mother were changed.
The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE shattered existing forms of Jewish worship. But as liturgical scholar Ruth Langer shows, rabbis recast Jewish worship in new verbal forms, drawing lines of continuity with Temple worship. Hearkening back to memories of Temple ritual, they transferred what was salvageable to new forms of prayer. Alongside old prayers, Jewish communities created new expressions of penitence, mourning, and lament for the disaster, but also new expressions of messianic hope that God will end the ongoing catastrophe and restore an ideal earthly existence.
The second section of this issue of the Review homes in on congregational life. This year, two disasters in particular–the pandemic and the ongoing disaster of racism in American society–have confronted worshipping communities to a degree unprecedented in recent memory. How can congregations best respond to the realities of worship during disaster today? Our authors examine this question as it relates to singing, preaching, and community life more broadly.
Perhaps the most noticeable change in the life of worshipping communities this year has been physical separation and the use of streaming technologies. This format, created out of necessity to respond to the risks of gathering in person, possessed the real advantages of accessibility and mobility. I could visit churches and see friends I haven’t seen in years! But it had its disadvantages as well. The digitalization of communal worship and the absence of physical, face-to-face encounter created a strain in faith communities.
The sense of community so important for religious congregations is rooted in the experience of response and reciprocity, an experience that was sorely missing this year. Choral director and music educator Robin Freeman examines what this has meant for group singing in congregations. Singing during streaming services, whether in a nearly empty church building as a soloist or alone at home while watching a livestream, often lacked the reciprocity and feeling of community inherent to group singing. Freeman shows that group singing sessions on Zoom, despite the technology’s limitations, can allow for the reciprocity and responsiveness that streaming worship is missing. Even if the physical elements of community are elusive, real sociomental spaces of community are possible through digital technology.
This year has not been a year for congregations to learn new music. They have had to rely on the songs they already know and, as scholar of liturgy and music Antonio Alonso discusses in his article, on the memories those songs contain. How have those songs’ memories prepared congregations for this pandemic year? Alonso calls for those in charge of making and curating music for congregational worship to be better stewards of the community’s musical memory. This means taking stock of memories we admit and those we deny in a congregation’s repertoire, and being willing to give up one’s place in the center of communal memory.
Marcia Mount Shoop, a white female pastor and theologian committed to racial justice in churches, writes about the road she has travelled to dismantle racism in her majority-white congregation. It is a road of radical inclusivity, equal sharing of power, partnerships and trust-building, and servant leadership. This article provides a rich example for congregations—especially majority-white congregations—looking for a place to begin to cultivate antiracist practices in worship and beyond.
The proclamation of the word is another dimension of congregational life that has been greatly affected by this year’s disasters. To better understand the role of preaching during the twin pandemics of COVID and racism, I sat down with two scholars of preaching and liturgy: Lisa Thompson and Andrew Wymer. Our conversation centered around these questions: what does it look like to preach during these twin pandemics? How can the preacher connect to the embodied experience of traumatized members of their congregations? How can the pulpit be a place where equity is embodied and promoted? In addition to discussing these important issues, Lisa and Andrew offer helpful advice for preachers to take care of themselves, even as they minister to those around them.
This issue continues with two photo essays. Both direct our attention to works of art created in liminal spaces: occupied Palestine, and the U.S.-Mexico border. These are spaces deeply affected by ongoing disaster where creation is an act of survival.
Margaret Olin, a scholar of art and visual culture, writes about the portraits that populate the outdoor walls of Dheisheh, a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem. These striking public portraits created by local artists depict the faces of martyrs. These were local men and boys killed by Israelis while caught in the act (or under suspicion) of throwing stones or Molotov cocktails during demonstrations, or even simply helping wounded Palestinian demonstrators. This disaster art is complicated, to say the least. Olin reveals the dense layers of significance these martyr portraits hold, from the political and the artistic to the familial and religious.
Valarie Lee James’s photo essay shows us art created by migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border that demonstrates the “inexorable relationship between hope and fear” in the in-between space of migration. As volunteer Arts Coordinator at Casa Alitas, Tucson’s primary short-term migrant shelter, James facilitated art projects where traumatized refugees used the language of art to communicate when words often failed. Even as they bear witness to tragedy and ruin, these pieces display seeds of hope beginning to bloom.
Environmental ethicist and theologian Daniel Castillo closes this issue of the Review with the “One Final Note” feature. He asks, what can sacred architecture teach us about how to engage the climate crisis? Do stained glass windows and secluded sacred spaces direct our attention away from the earth, pushing worshippers to indifference toward habits of consumption and exploitation that continue to damage it? Castillo responds in a way that might surprise us. While some sacred spaces can sometimes seem to embody a reclusive escapism, he shows that the “flight from the world” can become an impetus for liberating engagement with the world on a more profound level.
Finally, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Dr Gennifer Brooks and Dr Roberto Goizueta for offering their professional and editorial insights for this issue, in addition to our editorial board.
Mark Roosien is Lecturer in Liturgical Studies at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School. He is a scholar of liturgy, theology, and ecology and translator of Russian religious texts. He is working on a book, based on his dissertation completed at the University of Notre Dame, tentatively titled The Discipline of the Land: Earthquakes, Liturgy, and the Environment in Constantinople. He has two forthcoming translations of the Russian theologian Sergius Bulgakov, The Eucharistic Sacrifice (University of Notre Dame Press, 2021) and Spiritual Diary: 1924-1925 (Angelico Press, 2022), the latter with Roberto De La Noval. He is an ordained deacon in the Orthodox Church in America.
 Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, 7.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Recommended Citation: Roosien, Mark (2021): “Guest Editor’s Introduction” The Yale ISM Review: Vol. 6: No. 1, Article 1. Available at https://ismreview.yale.edu.
Tracy Ellyn, an internationally known Miami-based artist, is deeply interested in healing traditions. She frequently uses colors, patterns and textures to bring together “holistic experiences.” Many of her works are displayed in hospitals and health care centers. She is also the creator of the Stephen Sotloff memorial.
Ellyn is the Founder and Director of The Zen Tov Project, which she began in 1996. Its mission is to promote healing through the arts and through arts education. Ellyn “is fluent in the effects that the arts can have in a variety of healing settings, and channels her desire for tikkun olam through The Zen Tov Project.” (From the project’s website.)
Recommended Citation: Ferrone, Rita (2019): “On the Cover,” The Yale ISM Review: Vol. 5: No. 1, Article 2. Available at https://ismreview.yale.edu
The world is a place of suffering. And no one can live long without being touched by suffering in some way, whether that suffering is physical, emotional, or spiritual. Every one of us carries wounds.
Yet, in a powerful way, prayer and worship, music and the arts, can touch our wounded souls and bodies, releasing the power to heal. This issue of The Yale ISM Review is devoted to exploring various aspects of this reality.
We are pleased to feature, as our cover art, Tracy Ellyn’s “Trees Immersed in Pattern.” Ellyn is the founder and director of the Zen Tov project, whose mission is to promote healing through the arts.
The articles in this issue fall roughly into three sections.
A particular realization that has gained prominence in our time is that the earth itself is wounded, due to reckless human exploitation of natural resources. In our first section, ecofeminist literary scholar Karen Kilcup, and Dorothy Bass, an expert in congregational life, reflect on the healing of creation. From their different vantage points, they both observe that healing our relationship to the created world around us is an essential step in renewing the face of the earth. Poetry can help. So can the learned skills of honoring creation within faith communities.
In our second section, art historian Lee Jefferson takes us on a journey through ancient Christian art to discover how Jesus was portrayed as a healer, and why this was important. His essay leaves us at the doors of the church of Santa Sabina in Rome, gazing at the staff of healing being passed from Jesus to his disciples, with the tantalizing implication that the charism of healing has been passed on from the Master to the church.
Liturgical historian Lizette Larson-Miller then picks up the ecclesial theme through her insightful overview of the development and meaning of the Sacrament of the Sick, from its scriptural roots to its essential elements in practice today. Anointing, prayer, and the laying on of hands hold a privileged place in the church’s exercise of a sacramental ministry of healing.
Poet, pastor, and liturgical theologian Jill Crainshaw reflects with us on the healing of our sacramental and dialectical imaginations, “dancing with skeletons in unlikely ballrooms” in order to help us imagine anew the life-giving mystery of God-with-us.
The section closes with a perceptive analysis by liturgical theologian and musician Judith Kubicki concerning the singing of hymns, a performative act that binds communities together, overcoming the wounds of social fragmentation and transforming disparate individuals into one body. This essay is adapted from the plenary address she gave to the National Association of Pastoral Musicians on the occasion of receiving the Jubilate Deo award, their highest honor, for her contributions to pastoral liturgy.
Our third section takes us to places where artists, musicians, and liturgists may rightly be considered bridge-builders and cultural translators within a broken world. No more “drive-by Beethoven,” violinist and social justice advocate Vijay Gupta explains, as he tells the remarkable and deeply human story of how he founded Street Symphony in Los Angeles, and how his encounter with the community at Skid Row changed him.
Healthcare chaplain Kathleen LaCamera challenges us to think hard about what sort of human experiences may be excluded or overlooked when we stay within the confines of established patterns of language and prayer within liturgy. She invites us to acknowledge the real when we gather in “hard times” to honor a life, a death, or a moment of passage.
Finally, liturgical anthropologist Rebecca Spurrier raises critical questions about what we are praying for when we pray for someone’s healing, as she shares what her sustained involvement with a community of persons with disabilities taught her about ableism and the authentic desire for wholeness.
Our last feature, “One Final Note,” engages the theme of our issue from a different vantage point, opening up new insights. In this issue, physician and ethicist Lydia Dugdale confronts us with what is perhaps the most challenging question of all: What constitutes a good death? With help from the ars moriendi and the writings of Michael Ignatieff, she offers a thought-provoking answer.
— Rita Ferrone, editor
Recommended Citation: Ferrone, Rita (2019): “In This Issue,” The Yale ISM Review: Vol. 5: No. 1, Article 1. Available at https://ismreview.yale.edu
Our issue on the Beatitudes begins with two articles that consider the Beatitudes as a whole. Peter Hawkins surveys Dante’s brilliant vision of the Beatitudes from the Mountain of Purgatory, and Christopher Irvine explores the embodied reality of blessedness through a reflection on Antony Gormley’s works of sculpture.
In the second section of this issue, our contributors draw attention to each of the Beatitudes, one by one. Cathy George reflects on poverty of spirit and the faith of children, drawing on her experiences of their prayers in the children’s Liturgy of the Word. Swee Hong Lim then takes us to the Global South to show that we have much to learn from believers who create sacred music in some of the poorest parts of the world.
In reflecting on “blessed are they who mourn,” Tom Long invites us into a deeper appreciation of the difference between grief and mourning, and gives us a profound context for understanding the Christian funeral. Teresa Berger then describes a new practice of creating a space for mourning, which turns our attention to contemporary experiences of displacement known to migrants and refugees.
Michelle Lewis asks how blessings of animals and the cultivation of community gardens can help to put us in touch with the meekness of nature itself and thus enable us to share more deeply in the inheritance of the earth that God promises.
To help us better understand the beatitude “blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice,” we have reprinted a seminal address on “Preaching the Just Word” by the eminent scholar and preacher, Walter J. Burghardt, SJ (d. 2008). He later developed this theme for the Beecher Lectures at Yale Divinity School. Those lectures were subsequently expanded into a book, published by Yale University Press. It is worth noting that “Preaching the Just Word” also became the title of a series of seminars which he conducted across the United States for more than twenty years. It all started with this text, which we share with the kind permission of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.
Next, Paul Inwood recounts his extraordinary experience of composing the hymn for the Year of Mercy in 2015. Be sure not only to read this fascinating account, but also to note the video recordings (one in Slovak, and one in Arabic) which show the hymn being performed variously in different parts of the world.
Purity of heart is an essential theme in the story told by Hyuk Seonwoo, whose Korean Methodist congregation has come to treasure the celebration of weekly Communion. Read “Sacramental Jars of Clay” to see how the celebration of Eucharist has invited personal transformation and supported this community’s sense of mission.
The work of transformation is also important to Benjamin Bergey’s essay on building peace through music. Conflict transformation, an outcome of the patient work of building peace at the grassroots level, can be fostered in concrete ways through music. The author shows us how.
Cheryl Cornish’s essay on “blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” does not let us off the hook of ambiguity in assessing the difference between righteousness and self-righteous behavior. The key—revealed poignantly at a moment in worship—is the cross.
Our closing feature, “One Final Note,” is an extract from a book-length poem entitled Beatitudes. This work has been called “a postmodern Sermon on the Mount.” In it, the Canadian poet, Herménégilde Chiasson, describes a longing for heaven in a wide range of everyday moments—interwoven with aches, doubts, tedium, and hope. Both a cry and a prayer, Beatitudes is an unfinished litany.
Rita Ferrone, editor
November 28, 2018
The cover of this issue offers a detail from the page of The Saint John’s Bible on which the Beatitudes according to Saint Matthew are illuminated. The detail is taken from the “fractured blesseds” on the right hand side. The full image is reproduced here, below, along with the text. Some information about The Saint John’s Bible in general and this page in particular can also be found below.
©Beatitudes, Thomas Ingmire, 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:3–12, NRSV)
About The Saint John’s Bible
The Saint John’s Bible, commissioned by St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville Minnesota in 1995, is the first completely handwritten and hand illuminated manuscript of the Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey since the invention of the printing press. The Bible, written on vellum, measures two feet tall by three feet wide when open. There are seven volumes, containing a total of 160 illuminations.
The work, produced by several artists and calligraphers, was overseen and carried out by master calligrapher Donald Jackson, in Wales. It was advised by a theological Committee on Illumination and Text. Michael Patella OSB, chair of this committee, commented: “The illuminations are not illustrations. They are spiritual meditations on a text.”
About this Page
The website of The Saint John’s Bible describes this particular page as follows:
. . . Artist Thomas Ingmire gives special attention to the Beatitudes, writing them with a style and movement that allows the words to become the art itself. The color and electricity of the page catches the eye; however, it is always the text and its challenging meaning that reaches us.
You see two sides in this special treatment. The right side is a repetitive, jagged, and colorful treatment of the word blessed. The letters are scattered randomly in a multicolored pattern, here and there coming together to form the word. The overall effect recalls mosaic decoration, a traditional artistic medium dating to the pre-classical times in the Near East. It was widely used in early Christian churches for both decorations and narrative scenes. It also reminds many people of the glass windows in Saint John’s Abbey Church.
Although readers notice the gold lettering first, with closer observation they discover fractured blesseds on the right side. Together they express Jesus’ rich teaching in the Beatitudes.
“Poverty, in the sense of simplicity and freedom from the desire for material wealth, is an ancient virtue and a requirement for the religious life. Poverty, in the sense of deprivation and a depth of suffering inflicted on individuals and vast groups by the negligence and malice of those in positions of abusive power, however, is not to be confused with the understanding of poverty as freedom and simplicity. One form of poverty liberates. The other crushes.”
This observation of Ayla Lepine, in her discussion of church architecture and poverty, sets out one of the tensions discussed in this issue of The Yale ISM Review. To consider poverty, one must acknowledge deep and often complex conditions that cause real human suffering. Yet even in the midst of such conditions, it is possible to discover glimmers of the divine presence. Music, worship, and the arts have the potential to mediate and deepen such discoveries.
Our first three articles arise within specific contexts in the United States. Sara Miles shares her perspective on the Eucharist in connection with her experience of feeding the hungry at her parish in San Francisco. Patrick Jordan writes about Dorothy Day and how liturgical prayer was formative in her life and in the Catholic Worker movement that she co-founded in New York. Ron Jenkins describes what happened to inmates in a Connecticut prison when they read and explored Dante’s Divine Comedy in poetry and drama.
Our next two contributions hail from Central America. Spencer Reece’s translation of a poem (“Los Pobres”) by acclaimed Honduran poet Roberto Sosa, offers us haunting verbal images of life and death among the poor. Carlota Duarte’s reflection on the Chiapas Photography Project, which she began in 1992, introduces us to the hardships as well as the beauty of that region of Mexico. Her article is accompanied by a series of stunning photographic images from the project, whose goals of justice and empowerment reach beyond the art itself.
Faith invites us to step into a new world where the poor, as much as the rich, are valued and respected—as the reign of God requires. We therefore have included four articles that concern how Christians at worship celebrate the reign of God in ways that challenge us concerning poverty.
- Hymn writer Adam Tice wrestles with provocative questions about what believers at worship might sing, and to whom our hymn texts are addressed. Are we to sing “blessed are the poor” while omitting “woe to you who are rich”?
- Theologian Don Saliers draws our attention to the psalms, and discusses how they reveal a divine preference for the poor. The psalms stand as a powerful witness to this preference. How do we hear their message in cries of desolation and lament?
- Ayla Lepine takes us on a tour of several church structures located at crossroads of human need, each revealing a different synthesis of architecture, poverty, and the call to holiness. What sort of story does a chapel made with scrap wood and duct tape by migrants at Calais have to tell?
- Finally, Ruth Myers looks at ways that clothing in worship has played a role through the ages in crafting symbolic structures of meaning in communities of faith. From baptismal garments to clerical vesture, how might our decisions about what to wear in worship relate to the church’s mission?
In “One Final Note,” Helen Rhee then changes the direction of our theme by looking not at poverty but at wealth—specifically the role that wealth played in the transformation of early Christian worship. There are moral tensions here, which church theologians and pastors identified from an early date: “Material possessions and wealth in God’s creative intent are not intrinsically evil although through them their possessors may encounter a real and powerful temptation, danger, and a potential for wickedness and destruction.” How they understood and addressed these tensions in a critical time of transition has had consequences ever since.
There are no easy answers to the problems and struggles associated with poverty in the world today. The contributors to this issue of The Yale ISM Review show nonetheless that sacred music, worship, and the arts remain part of our human response and attempts at faithful grappling with this reality. We hope that what you read in these pages will spark new insights and enrich your own views.
Rita Ferrone, editor
February 14, 2018
Albert Schilling’s “Suffering Christ” altar cross, pictured on the cover, stands in the Basilica Church of the Redeemer, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Trier, Germany.
The Basilica Church of the Redeemer was formerly the throne room of the Emperor Constantine. It was badly damaged when the city was bombed during World War II. In its reconstructed form the interior is exceedingly spare and simple. The bare character of the space today is intentional. It expresses the worshipping community’s acute awareness of the need to distance themselves from the building’s former pomp and splendor. Their own description of the church interior expresses it well:
In its unadorned size, the rebuilt Basilika [sic] has reaped the necessary consequences from the experiences of the Nazi era. If the altar of the Protestant church stands where formerly the throne of Roman emperors stood, then the structure must emphasize in its entirety that the power emanating from Jesus Christ differs fundamentally from all worldly claims to power. . . . For what Jesus Christ began is founded not on the power of wealth and money. It is founded on love, the love that God gives to individuals, the love which becomes real in Christ Jesus.
The Schilling altar cross, depicting the suffering Christ, brings into focus the close connection between deprivation and blessing:
This fundamental theological conviction is illustrated by the altar cross. The figure created by Albert Schilling embodies the solidarity of Christ with those who suffer. With his representation of Christ the Basel artist also demonstrates that the compassion of Jesus for the suffering people of the world leads beyond the most extreme consequence of death. The power of powerless love is stronger than the power of death. Thus the Crucified Christ becomes the Resurrected One offering his blessing. The altar cross reveals exactly this, as seen from the side. Schilling’s Christ figure is not hanging on the cross—it is standing in front of it, with hands raised in blessing. Thus the cross becomes the central symbol of Christian hope: death does not have the last word. God’s love leads beyond death.
We are pleased to present the Fall 2016 issue of The Yale ISM Review. Published by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, the Review is an open-access online publication serving practitioners in the fields of sacred music, worship, and the related arts. You are invited to join us for stimulating discussions, enriched by contributions from Yale faculty and others who are leaders in their fields.
This issue of the Review is organized around the theme of Christmas. The first section begins with an essay by Markus Rathey, who explores the riches of Bach’s musical-theological synthesis in his Christmas Oratorio. Felicity Harley-McGowan and Andrew McGowan trace the origins of the liturgical feast of Christmas and discuss the development of the iconography of Christ’s birth in ancient Christian art. The visual feature that follows gives us a closer look at some of the splendid mosaics of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo that are discussed in their essay. Finally, Wendy Farley’s lyrical reflection on the meaning of the Incarnation weaves together current events, scripture, and hymns to make a powerful statement about what is at stake in our observance of Christmas today.
Our second section is devoted to how we keep the feast. It opens with an essay by Nicholas Denysenko discussing the relationship between Orthodox liturgical hymns and popular carols. Christmas is a celebration of “joy and light,” linking home and church observances. Susan Roll picks up on a darker theme, raising the challenge of how we can celebrate Christmas today in a violent world; she draws our attention to the earliest extant Christmas sermon, which takes as its text Matthew’s terrifying account of the Massacre of the Innocents. Bruce Gordon dispels the myth of Calvin as the Reformation figure who rejected Christmas on religious grounds, and explains what actually happened. And Oana Marian takes us on a personal and literary journey that reaches its destination at a Christmas hearth.
In “One Final Note” Guy Irwin invites us to consider the relationship of Christmas to the Crucifixion—a connection too often overlooked or forgotten. He writes: “From the grotto to the hill, from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross, from swaddling cloths to a seamless garment, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem: Jesus and Mary move through Jesus’s life with the inexorability and gravity of a liturgical procession. And we move with them, from Christmas to Easter, every year.”