My cup overflows

One of my favourite anthems is an obscure little gem by the former organist of Manchester Cathedral, Stuart Beer, called “The cup of blessing which we bless”. A sample can be heard here.

A few years ago, this anthem played a significant role in shaking my impeccably Anglican evangelical views on the Lord’s Supper, in particular my rejection of “the real presence”. It achieved this by a combination of factors: by bringing me face to face with 1 Corinthians 10:16 (which I’d previously not really paid much attention to, and which the anthem uses as its refrain), by skilfully juxtaposing this with Psalm 116, and by doing so with music of sufficient beauty to overwhelm my theological defences. My heart probably believed in the real presence from the first time I listened to this anthem; my head took a few years to catch up.

Here is the text of the anthem: if you’ve listened to the sample, the rest of the anthem follows a similar pattern:

The cup of blessing which we bless,
is it not a share of the blood of Christ?

How shall I repay the Lord
for all his benefits to me?
I will take up the cup of salvation
and call upon the name of the Lord.

The cup of blessing which we bless,
is it not a share of the blood of Christ?

I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful ones.

The cup of blessing which we bless,
is it not a share of the blood of Christ?

O Lord I am your servant,
     your servant and the son of your handmaiden:
You have unloosed my bonds.
I will lift up to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and call upon the name of the Lord.

The cup of blessing which we bless,
is it not a share of the blood of Christ?

I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
In the courts of the house of the Lord,
even in the midst of Jerusalem, praise the Lord

The cup of blessing which we bless,
is it not a share of the blood of Christ?

This comes from a CD called “Sing Praises”, a collection of twentieth-century English cathedral music sung by Manchester Cathedral Choir.

Full disclosure: this CD was recorded and published on Foxglove Audio, a small classical record label owned by one of my uncles. However, reverse-nepotism aside, it’s still a cracking collection, including pieces by Herbert Howells, Bernard Rose, John Tavener (with his crowd-pleasing William Blake adaptation, “The Lamb”) and William Mathias. A full listing can be found here. Stuart Beer’s “Cup of blessing” is probably the stand-out track, though, not least because it is unlikely to be available anywhere else.

Foxglove Audio don’t have a website (I’ll have to have words with my uncle about that at Christmas), but they can be contacted by email at foxgloveaudio [at] gmail.com. Be sure to say who sent you. 😉

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