Friday, December 16, 2005

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

A reprint from one year ago...

On my earlier Fernando Ortega on Baptism post, Chris Jones added...
"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" is certainly not a Baptist hymn, whatever Mr Ortega's denominational affiliation may be. I'm not finding the source where I read of his Baptist background, so don't quote me on that one. (You know how that goes; you read an article once...) However, he collaborates with many Baptist artists and organizations; it is a fair association, I think. A person's denominational association does not always determine their theology, I have learned. This man's gift of songwriting, song selection and music style has richly blessed my life and faith. On a Fernando Ortega CD, you will hear soft and lovely piano playing "accented by cello, fiddle, and Irish flute, creating a beautiful blend of Spanish, Celtic, and American folk music. With his velvet voice, Ortega celebrates God's majesty and faithfulness and paints vivid images of the Southwestern landscapes of his own childhood. " (from a Today's Christian Woman, November/December 1997 review) Read more reviews of his music at Christianity Today. You can sample or buy the CD, Storm, from his website,

Chris also wrote of the hymn, "It comes from the Liturgy of St James of Jerusalem, and dates from the 4th century (if not earlier). It is sung in the liturgy while the priest and acolytes enter the altar with the bread and wine to be consecrated. Some Protestants alter the words of the hymn because it teaches the Real Presence. I wonder if Ortega's version includes these words:
Lord of Lords in human vesture, In the body and the blood
He will give to all the faithful, His own self for heavenly food"

I decided to research Chris' question. I just listened to the song. He sings every verse that was printed on Twylah's post. Indeed, Fernando Ortega does sing the verse referring to Holy Communion! By singing that verse, he may or may not indicate that he believes in the Real Presence of Christ at Holy Communion. He may have just wanted to be true to the original lyrics, although I don't know what Christian could sing words of worship which he didn't mean. What a beautiful verse that is, His own self for heavenly food, especially when you first read Chris Jones' description: It is sung in the liturgy while the priest and acolytes enter the altar with the bread and wine to be consecrated. If anyone has ever been in an Orthodox service, you can imagine the sense of the holiness and worship of our God present there. You can hear ancient voices worshiping the one True God a thousand years before you were born. With that in mind, read the verses to this song again, singing it softly to yourself. When Fernando sings this hymn, he softly and slowly plays the piano and is accompanied by a quiet mandolin. At the last verse, he sings nearly accapella, with only a few piano chords, of the seraphim and cherubim hiding their faces in the presence of God as they sing "Alleluia Lord Most High". I have the feeling that this is a clearer picture of worship, in quietness and utter humbleness.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
from the Liturgy of St. James
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,

Lord of lords in human vesture,
In the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
His own Self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way;
As the Light of light, descending
From the realms of endless day,
Comes, the powers of hell to vanquish,
As the darkness clears away.
At his feet the winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the Presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
"Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, Lord Most High!"

You can listen to this hauntingly beautiful liturgy here.
Ortega's version is here.
This clip reveals some of Ortega's guitar work.
Originally posted 12-22-04

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