The Introit for the third Sunday after Easter is from Psalm 66, which begins “O be joyful in God, all ye lands.” The first words of this Introit in Latin are Jubilate Deo, so this Sunday has traditionally been known as Jubilate Sunday.
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.) The persistent presence of alleluias reminds us that we are still in Eastertide.
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. Say unto God, O how wonderful art thou in thy works, O Lord: through the greatness of thy power. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Here is the Introit for today, sung by the men of our choir:
Our opening hymn in the Jubilate Sunday service last year was “Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts and voices.” The hymn’s frequent “Alleluias” again remind us that we are still in the Easter season. The hymn 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).
Here is an exuberant rendition of this hymn by organist Paul Leddington Wright, with the Saint Michael’s Singers who sing three of the five stanzas that are in our Hymnal (#92)
If you would like to sing this hymn at home, here is a more subdued rendering, with all but one of the stanzas from our Hymnal displayed in the video. (This recording is provided by the Royal Society of Church Music, which has responded to the quarantining of many worshipers by providing a Hymn of the Day.)
In 2018, our Jubilate Sunday service ended with the singing of “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” about which you may learn more (and hear) here.
The Gospel reading for this Sunday juxtaposes the ultimate joy of believers with their provisional experience of sorrow. In the Upper Room discourse in St. John 16 is included this prediction by Jesus: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (St. John 16:20).
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote three cantatas for use on the third Sunday after Easter. Each of them focuses on the theme of sorrow being turned — eventually, not always immediately — to joy. Bach seems eager in these works to warn believers not to be surprised if they are not experiencing joy 24/7 right now.
The first of these cantatas was composed in 1714. Bach’s Cantata BWV 12 makes the experience of sorrow dramatically clear in its opening words: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing). You may read more about this moving work here, here, and here. The complete text is available here.
Below is a performance of Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen sung by Vox Luminis.
In 1725, Bach composed another cantata (BWV 103) based on the implications of Jesus’ warning and promise. Ihr werdet weinen und heulen (You will weep and howl) is similarly dramatic in its musical portrayal of the anxiety often experienced by believers; just listen to the wrenching, writhing melodic line sung in the opening chorus. But joy gets the last word (you need to listen all the way to the end!)
The cantata is performed here by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, conducted by Ton Koopman. The soloists are Bogna Bartosz, alto; Jörg Dürmüller, tenor; and Klaus Mertens, bass.
In 1726, Bach wrote yet another cantata for use on Jubilate Sunday (BWV 146). Following a long instrumental Sinfonia movement, the somber opening chorus tells us: “We must enter the Kingdom of God through much sorrow (in German, Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen).
The complete text is here. Commentaries are here and here. The cantata is performed here by the Netherlands Bach Society, conducted by Jos van Veldhoven. The soloists are Maria Keohane, soprano; Maarten Engeltjes, alto; Benjamin Hulett, tenor; and Christian Immler, bass.