• Service music

    Sexagesima (February 24, 2019)

    A theme present in the opening hymn, the Introit, and the Collect for today is God’s defense and protection of his people. Our processional hymn is “We gather together.” In the final stanza of this hymn, we sing a prayer that God will continue to be our defender, and that we might escape tribulation. The Introit sung by the choir is known by its Latin name as Exsurge; quare obdormis Domine? The plea in this prayer is taken from Psalm 44: Arise, O Lord, wherefore sleepest thou? Awake, and cast us not away for ever: wherefore hidest thou thy countenance and forgettest our adversity and misery? Our belly cleaveth unto the…

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    Septuagesima (February 17, 2019)

    This Sunday, we begin the pre-Lenten season, a period in which the structure of our liturgy changes. The name suggests that this Sunday is 70 days before Easter. Actually, it is only 63 days before Easter, but the name is still fitting, since the day falls within the 7th (septimus) decade or 10-day period (the 61st to the 70th day) before Easter. Our opening hymn — “Give praise and glory unto God” — presents 3 of the 9 verses of a hymn by Johann Jakob Schütz (1640-1690). First published in 1675, the German original has inspired at least 6 different English translations. In addition to the version in our Hymnal, there are translations…

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    Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (February 10, 2019)

    This is the last Sunday before the pre-Lenten season, hence the last Sunday until Easter in which “Alleluias” will be heard in our liturgy. Our opening hymn — “Praise the Lord through every nation” — punctuates its praise in both verses with an enthusiastic Alleluia. It also boasts a wonderfully ecumenical genealogy. The tune to this hymn is best known as WACHET AUF, though for some reason is designated in English in our Hymnal as SLEEPERS, WAKE. We more typically sing this during Advent with the text “Wake, awake for night is flying.” It was written by Lutheran pastor Philip Nicolai (1556-1608). The text to the present hymn was written…

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    Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (February 3, 2019)

    February 2nd marks the feast day known variously as Candlemas (sometimes spelled Candlemass), the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus, and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Book of Common Prayer (see the table page xliv) and Hymnal uses the latter term, which reflects the reason for Mary and Joseph’s presentation of their Son as prescribed in Leviticus 12. It is an event in the life of Jesus that has been depicted in countless paintings and icons. Musically, every setting of the Nunc dimittis — the song Simeon uttered on this occasion — commemorates this moment and its cosmic significance. Our service acknowledges the events remembered…

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    Third Sunday after Epiphany (January 27, 2019)

    The Collect for this Sunday pleads with God for protection: “in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us.” Such a prayer can be uttered in confidence because God’s people have been assured (in Psalm 46) that “God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea.” The familiarity of our opening hymn — “A mighty fortress is our God” — may disguise the fact that the first three verses of Luther’s text were inspired by Psalm 46. Luther’s…

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    Second Sunday after Epiphany (January 20, 2019)

    Since our Gospel reading is the account from St. Matthew of Jesus’s baptism, our service features two hymns that are centered around the baptism and the Baptist. Our Processional Hymn is one we could have sung during Advent, but I saved it for this week. Despite his profound role in the history of redemption, John the Baptist doesn’t have a lot of hymnody connected with him, at least not in our Hymnal. But we do have “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry.” The text is by Charles Coffin (1676-1749), who was noted in his lifetime for his Latin poetry. John Henry Newman published a collection of a number of Coffin’s…

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    First Sunday after Epiphany (January 13, 2019)

    On the Sunday after Epiphany, our congregation will sing as its processional hymn “All people that on earth do dwell” (#278). The text for this familiar hymn is a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 100, which — along with Psalm 93 and Psalms 95-99 — celebrate God’s rule over all of Creation. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 40 declared that the glory of the Lord would be revealed, “and all flesh shall see it together.” Likewise, the angels told the shepherds that the joy introduced by Christ’s birth “shall be to all people.” As we sang last week on Epiphany, the coming of the wise men from the east signaled the…

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    Epiphany (January 6, 2019)

    The star of Christmas becomes the star of Epiphany as the Magi arrive in Bethlehem. The Greek word behind our English “epiphany” means literally a “showing forth.” What is shown to these Oriental travelers is not simply the presence of God in human form, but — what they were seeking — the “King of the Jews.” And their coming to honor him is a sign that the King of the Jews is in truth the King of all kings. During Advent, we sang “Savor of the nations, come,” Epiphany is the season in which the universality of Christ’s rule is celebrated. It seems that this aspect of Christ’s birth is…

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    Sunday after Christmas (December 30, 2018)

    The text to our first hymn  “Of the Father’s love begotten,” dates to the late third or early fourth century. It is part of a longer poem by Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413), a Romano-Spanish magistrate who retired from public service at the age of 57 to dedicate his life to prayer and the composition of devotional verse. While his poetry was not intended for liturgical use, some of the stanzas have been adapted for use as hymns. In his Sacred Latin Poetry (1874), Abp. R. C. Trench noted that Prudentuius “writes as a man intensely in earnest, and we may gather much from his writings concerning the points of conduct which were…

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    Fourth Sunday in Advent (December 23, 2018)

    Our opening hymn on this final Sunday in Advent, “How bright appears the Morning Star,” is another one of Philipp Nicolai’s stirring Advent hymns (we sang “Wake, awake, for night is flying” two weeks ago). It turns out that the text we sing is inspired by a poem by Nicolai, but it is actually quite a bit different (see here for an explanation). The Introit for this Sunday is from Isaiah 45 and Psalm 19: Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open and bring forth a Saviour. The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handy-work. That text…