Service music

Second Sunday in Lent (March 17, 2019)

The Epistle and Gospel readings for this Sunday present an exhortation toward sanctification and an account of a healing miracle. The Collect speaks of both themes, in asking that God would “keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls.” The Introit also echoes the idea of being kept from dangers by God with phrases from Psalm 25: “Let not our enemies triumph over us: deliver us, O God of Israel, out of all our troubles.”

Our opening hymn — “Spread, O spread, thou mighty word” — is a call to convey the Gospel’s message of deliverance from sin and death, and of the possibility of holy living (“Man can will and do the right”) to the whole world.

Our sermon hymn — “Blest are the pure in heart” — describes the blessings that attend our sanctification.

The Offertory anthem sung by the choir is a setting of Meditabor in mandatis tuis by Franz Xaver Witt (1834-1888). The text is the traditional Offertory proper for this Sunday from Psalm 119: “I will meditate on thy commandments, which I have loved exceedingly: and I will lift up my hands to thy commandments, which I have loved.” The composer was a Roman Catholic priest who was active in the Cecilian Movement of the late 19th century, a movement dedicated to reforming church music in light of the effects of the Enlightenment.

Our Communion motet is a setting of St. Thomas Aquinas’s eucharistic hymn Pange lingua by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896). (The congregation sings this text regularly in hymns #199 and #200.) To learn more about Bruckner’s faith and his church music, read “A Mysterious Sense of Rightness.” That essay also links Bruckner with the Cecilian Movement, establishing a kinship with our Offertory anthem and the Communion motet.

Our closing hymn this Sunday is “Jesus, Lover of my soul.” In Charles Wesley’s poetry (and in the hearty Welsh music of Joseph Parry) the theme of God’s protection with which our service opened is revisited. The second stanza echoes the imagery from Psalm 91 which pervaded last week’s liturgy:

All my trust on thee is stayed,
all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenceless head
with the shadow of thy wing.