• Service music

    Fifth Sunday after Trinity (June 21, 2019)

    The author of our opening hymn was identified simply as “K” when “How firm a foundation” was first published in 1787. The text’s remarkable popularity may account for the large number of tunes associated with it. In every previous edition of our Hymnal, a different tune was used. The tune appointed in this edition is LYONS, although in the Supplemental Tunes section in the back of the Hymnal, the more primitive and familiar FOUNDATION is available (and we sometimes sing it). Like many tunes based on folk melodies, FOUNDATION uses a pentatonic (five-note) scale, which means you can play it using just the black keys on the piano. (Try it,…

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    Fourth Sunday after Trinity (July 14, 2019)

    The Processional hymn for this Sunday — “Immortal, invisible, God only wise” — is based on I Timothy 1:17: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God . . . ” The text is by Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, and a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. The tune ST. DENIO is one of the many traditional Welsh ballads which have been adapted to sustain vigorous hymn-singing. Each Sunday in the Creed, we affirm that Christ is “Light of Light.” In the Bible, the imagery of light is applied both to Christ and to the revelation we receive in Scripture. The first…

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    Third Sunday after Trinity (July 7, 2019)

    The Processional hymn for this Sunday is “O God, our help in ages past.” On the page devoted to this hymn, you may read the text of three additional stanzas that Isaac Watts originally included in the hymn, and learn about compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Ralph Vaughan Williams that used its melody. The Sermon hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus,” is sometimes claimed to be a 12th-century Crusader hymn. In fact, it is a translation of hymn from a 17th-century German Roman Catholic hymnal. The tune, ST. ELISABETH, dates to the 19th century, and is so named because of its use in The Legend of St. Elizabeth,…

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    Second Sunday after Trinity (June 30, 2019)

    Our Processional hymn — “When morning gilds the skies” — is a translation of an anonymous German hymn dating from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. It is one of many hymns describing the inescapability of song in the life of the believer. Worship, especially through music, is the fitting response to Jesus Christ not only by believers but — as the hymn’s final stanza declares — by all of Creation. In 1899, the poet laureate of Great Britain, Robert Bridges (1844-1930), translated this hymn for use in English-language hymnals. Other translations by Bridges in our Hymnal include “Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended” (#71) and “O sacred head, sore…

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    First Sunday after Trinity (June 23, 2019)

    Which came first, the text or the music? With hymns, texts are often written first, then tunes selected because they capture the spirit of the text. But sometimes, the text of a hymn is written with a very specific tune in mind. Our Processional hymn — “All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine” — is a case in point, but as it happens, we are not singing the tune that the poet had in mind when he wrote these stanzas. The story of text and tune in this case is complex. Born in Norfolk and a graduate of the University of Virginia (1914), F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984) was…

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    Trinity Sunday (June 16, 2019)

    In the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, priests are instructed to substitute the Athanasian Creed for the Apostles Creed within the Morning Prayer liturgy on certain feast days. Trinity Sunday was one of those days. Given the fact that over half of the text is devoted to combatting heresies concerning the Trinity, its use on this day is most fitting. Here is the first section of that Creed: Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith unless every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: that…

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    Pentecost, commonly called Whitsunday (June 9, 2019)

    The “pente-” in Pentecost refers to the 50 days since Easter. The “whit-” comes from the white garments worn by those baptized during vigil on the night before this feast day. The celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost has a particular relevance during times of heightened social division. At Pentecost, we learn that the often violent fragmentation of the human race (evident in the diversity of languages present when the mighty wind and tongues of fire suddenly appeared) can only be healed by God’s power. Peter Leithart has observed that secular programs and strategies to combat tribalism are destined to fail; the division of Babel and…

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    Sunday after Ascension (June 2, 2019)

    Our opening hymn is one of the most popular Ascension hymns in the English language: Charles Wesley’s “Hail the day that sees him rise.” Wesley’s original poem (first published in 1739) contained ten stanzas (we sing four of these). The hymn affirms Christ’s kingly rule (he is seated at the right hand of the Father to rule, not to relax), his continued full humanity (his human hands still bear the scars of his crucifixion), and our destiny to behold him face to face. Wesley’s grasp of all that is conveyed in the reality of the Ascension is so rich, I’ve copied all ten stanzas here: Hail the day that sees…

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    Fifth Sunday after Easter (Rogation Sunday) May 24, 2019

    The Gospel for this Sunday continues our engagement with the Farewell Discourse, Jesus’ instruction to the disciples in the Upper Room on the night he was betrayed. The reading this week again alludes to the Ascension (which we celebrate on Thursday), but at the beginning of the reading, the theme is asking. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” In Latin, the verb “to ask” is rogare, which is why this Sunday is known as Rogation Sunday. Our…

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    Fourth Sunday after Easter (May 19, 2019)

    The Propers and Gospel for this Sunday situate us between Easter and the Ascension/Pentecost events that we will celebrate soon. The Introit — with its phrases from Psalm 98 — celebrates the salvation-victory of God, a victory made certain by the Resurrection: O sing unto the Lord a new song, alleluia: for the Lord hath done marvelous things, alleluia: in the sight of the nation hath he shewed his righteous judgments, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. With his own right hand and with his holy arm: hath he gotten himself the victory. Derek Kidner points out that the term translated “marvelous things” stresses the supernatural aspect of God’s victory; the term is “more…