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 ground: arise, and save us, O Lord, our helper and our deliverer.

Today’s Collect also asks for God’s protection in the face of trouble:

O LORD God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do: mercifully grant that by thy power, we may be defended against all adversity. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel reading today is the Parable of the Sower from St. Luke 8:4-15. The Sermon hymn, “Behold a Sower!” connects this story with Psalm 97:11: “There is sprung up a light for the righteous, and joyful gladness for such as are true-hearted.”

Both the Offertory anthem and Communion motet are familiar works by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) based on sayings of Jesus. If ye love me is a text from St. John 14: “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may ‘bide with you forever; E’en the spirit of truth.”

Of this anthem, conductor Peter Phillips comments: “All the basic ingredients in the music are well-managed: the melodies and their relationship with the text, the spacing of the parts, the alternation of homophony and brief imitation, the harmony.”

Verily, verily, I say unto you takes its text from St. John 6:

Verily, verily I say unto you,
except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink His blood, ye have not life in you.
Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood
dwelleth in me, and I in him.

Our Communion hymns this Sunday are “Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest” and “O food of men wayfaring.” You may read more about each of these at the pages linked to the hymn titles.

There is a lot of motion implied in today’s hymns. We opened with a hymn that acknowledged our gathering together. We sang about a sower who went out to sow. We invited our Lord to come and be our guest/host at our/his table. He is the food of pilgrims, of “men wayfaring.” And we close with “Go forward, Christian soldier,” a hymn originally written to commission newly Confirmed believers. Those who have been defended are now exhorted to go on the offensive: “Cease not to watch and pray.”