Service music

Third Sunday after Easter (May 12, 2019)

This Sunday is known as “Jubilate Sunday,” because the first word in the Introit (when sung in Latin) is Jubilate, “Be joyful.” (By the way, if you’re explaining this to your kids, remember that the initial “J” in the word is silent.) In English, the first phrase of the Introit (from Psalm 66) is: “O be joyful in God, all ye lands, alleluia: sing praises unto the honor of his Name, alleluia: make his praise to be glorious, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” The persistent presence of alleluias reminds us that we are still in Eastertide.

Our opening hymn is also replete with Paschal alleluias. “Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts and voices” was written by Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885), the bishop of Lincoln, the nephew of the poet William Wordsworth, and the most celebrated Greek scholar of his day. In 1862, he published a collection of his verse in The Holy Year, or, Hymns for Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year. This hymn was one of the two Easter hymns in that collection. The tune used in our Hymnal — LUX EOI — is by Arthur S. Sullivan (1842-1900) and was originally written for the Advent hymn, “Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding” (# 9).

Our Sermon hymn — “O God of Bethel, by whose hand” — was inspired by the vow of Jacob in Genesis 28:20-22: “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” The text to our hymn is by the nonconformist pastor Philip Doddridge (1702-1751). The sturdy tune — DUNDEE — is from the Scottish Psalter of 1615. You may recognize the similarities between this melody and another Scots tune, CAITHNESS, to which we frequently sing “O for a closer walk with God” (#416).

Both pieces sung by the choir today are by Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500-1553), who is widely regarded as the most significant Spanish composer before Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548-1611). Before describing the pieces the choir will sing, here is a performance of Morales’s setting of the text from Psalm 66 that forms today’s Introit: Jubilate Deo. It is sung by the Chapelle du Roi, conducted by Alistair Dixon.

The Offertory anthem today is Morales’s setting of In illo tempore modicum, a text taken from today’s Gospel reading from St. John 16. But the title of the work is a series of words that are not actually in the Biblical passage. Let me explain.

In illo tempore means simply “In that time,” a phrase which is used to introduce the passage from the Gospel. While these words aren’t in the Biblical text, they are sometimes inserted into liturgical readings to set the stage for the text to follow. In our Prayerbook, the Gospel reading today begins with “Jesus said to his disciples,” but if you look in your Bible, you’ll notice that these words aren’t in verse 16 of chapter 16, where our reading begins. In fact, the Gospel narrator hasn’t been heard from since chapter 14; all of chapter 15 and 16 of the Gospel are the words of Jesus to the disciples, “in that time.”

So, while the main text to our anthem is from St. John 16, the opening words that we sing — “In that time, the Lord Jesus said to his disciples . . .” — are interpolations to set the stage for what’s actually in the Biblical text. The first thing Jesus says is, “In a little while,” and that’s where the word modicum comes in. So the title to this work is literally “In that time in a little while.”

The 16th chapter of St. John’s Gospel is part of a long sequence of words and events that occurred on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. Throughout the entire passage, Jesus signals his imminent going away, a going to the Father who would then send the Holy Spirit to continue the work of redemption. The disciples are confused, and Jesus knows it. He also warns them that they will be sorrowful, “but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. . . . Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Remember, this is Jubilate Sunday.

Morales’s setting of the opening verses of this passage is a fairly straightforward example of “imitative polyphony,” with many instances of a small melodic passage introduced by a single voice, and then imitated by one of the other voices a few seconds later. You’ll hear dozens of examples of this during the work.

At Communion, the choir will sing Morales’s jubilant setting of the motet, O sacrum convivium. Last week, we sang Thomas Tallis’s treatment of this text, about which you may read more here. This text has an abundance of Alleluias, which makes it especially appropriate during Eastertide.

Given the Gospel’s attention to whether or not the Lord will be seen, it is fitting that one of our Communion hymns is “Here O my Lord I see thee,” affirming that Christ is seen in the Eucharist. The four stanzas of this deeply Christo-centric hymn are taken from ten-stanza hymn by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), originally published in 1855 with the caption: “This do in remembrance of me.” Three of the other stanzas are used in hymn #206, “This is the hour of banquet and of song.” Here are the stanzas not featured in either hymn:

I have no wisdom, save in him
who is my wisdom and my teacher, both in one;
no wisdom can I lack while thou art wise,
no teaching do I crave, save thine alone.

I know that deadly evils compass me,
dark perils threaten, yet I would not fear,
nor poorly shrink, nor feebly turned to flee;
you, O my Christ, art buckler, sword, and spear.

But see, the pillar-cloud is rising now,
and moving onward through the desert-night;
it beckons, and I follow, for I know
it leads me to the heritage of light.

Our second Communion hymn is “Wherefore, O Father.” This was written for the first edition of the English Hymnal (1906) by William H. H. Jervois (1852-1905), a London vicar who was on the committee that compiled that historic hymnal. The tune — OBLATION — is a melody by Johann Crüger, composer of some of the finest Lutheran chorales (see hymns #71, #144, #190, #210, and #453, for example).

Our closing hymn is “Thy kingdom come! on bended knee,” originally written in 1891 for the commencement exercises at the Meadville Theological School in Chicago. As this institution was a Unitarian school, the text lacks some specificity which our fully Trinitarian and Christocentric imaginations must insert.