Service music

Maundy Thursday (April 18, 2019)

This service’s Processional hymn — “Go to dark Gethsemane” — invites us to meditate on, vicariously experience, and so learn from the physical and emotional sufferings that Christ endured in the hours culminating on the cross. The point-of-view enjoined in the hymn moves from that of an observer  (“Your Redeemer’s conflict see,” “View the Lord of life arraigned,” “Mark the miracle of time”) to that of an imitator (“Learn of Jesus Christ to pray,” etc.).

1. Go to dark Gethsemane,
ye that feel the tempter’s power;
your Redeemer’s conflict see,
watch with him one bitter hour;
turn not from his griefs away,
learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

2. Follow to the judgment hall;
view the Lord of life arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
learn of him to bear the cross.

3. Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
there, adoring at His feet,
mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete;
“It is finished!” hear him cry;
learn of Jesus Christ to die.

The author of this hymn, James Montgomery (1771-1854), was the son of a Moravian minister. His father wanted young James to follow in his footsteps and sent him to school in anticipation of a pastoral vocation. But the boy was more interested in writing poetry than in studying and was soon dismissed from the school. He ended up working as a newspaper editor, writing poetry — including over 400 hymns — on the side. Thirteen of these are in our Hymnal, including “Angels from the realms of glory” and “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed.”

Our Sequence hymn in this service — sung just before the account of Christ’s crucifixion from St. Luke’s gospel — is “Ah, holy Jesus.” It is by the Lutheran pastor and poet Johann Heermann (1585-1647). This moving hymn first appeared in German 1630, and was a paraphrase in verse of a passage from a 15th-century Latin devotional text, which in turn seems to have been taken from a work by St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033/4–1109). The English words we sing were crafted by Robert Bridges (1844-1930), English poet laureate, to whom we own gratitude for enriching our Hymnal and our devotion.

1. Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted!

2. Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
’Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

3. Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

4. For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.

5. Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.

The anthem sung by the choir is a recently composed setting of the traditional Maundy Thursday antiphon, Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est (“Where charity and love are, God is there”). For centuries this text has been sung in association with the foot-washing rites of Maundy Thursday, as well as during Maundy Thursday masses. Our setting was composed in 2001 by the contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978). As the composer has noted, “As with Maurice Duruflé’s beautiful Ubi Caritas from 1960, this setting also draws inspiration from the Gregorian chant tradition. While reflective of the chant style this composition is entirely original and is not based on any existing chants.”

Where charity and love are, God is there. Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him. Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart. Where charity and love are, God is there.

The hymn sung by the choir during Communion is also by James Montgomery. While many Communion hymns make reference to the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, Montgomery’s hymn — as does the hymn with which our service opens — focuses attention on the Cross and Christ’s suffering.

1. According to thy gracious word,
in meek humility,
this will I do, my dying Lord,
I will remember thee.

2. Thy body, broken for my sake,
my bread from heav’n shall be;
thy testamental cup I take,
and thus remember thee.

3. Gethsemane can I forget?
Or there thy conflict see,
thine agony and bloody sweat,
and not remember thee?

4. When to the cross I turn mine eyes,
and rest on Calvary,
O Lamb of God, my sacrifice,
I must remember thee.