Exaudi, Domine. Psalm 27
Consider, O Lord, and hear me, when I cry unto thee, alleluia: unto thee my heart hath said, Thy face, Lord, have I sought; thy face, Lord, will I seek: O hide not thou thy face from thy servant, alleluia, alleluia. The Lord is my light, and my salvation: whom then shall I fear? Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen. Consider, O Lord . . .
O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. AMEN.
I St. Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Alleluia, alleluia. [Psalm 47] God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon his holy seat. Alleluia. [St. John 14] I will not leave you comfortless: I go away and come again unto you, and your heart shall rejoice. Alleluia.
St. John 15: 26 – 16:4a
When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.
[Psalm 47] God is gone up with a merry noise: and the Lord with the sound of the trump, alleluia.
[St. John 17] Father, while I was with them in the world, I kept those that thou gavest me, alleluia: and now I come to thee: I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil, alleluia, alleluia.
Below are plainsong renditions of the Psalms as published in the Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.
The Gospel reading for today is taken from the long passage in the Gospel of St. John (chapters 13-17) in which — among many other things — Jesus tells the disciples that he is leaving them, but that they will be be sustained by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today’s verses (15:26-16:4) reaffirm the coming and coming work of the Spirit, along with a sobering warning: “the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”
The Alleluia today includes a promise to orient that prediction of martyrdom: “I will not leave you comfortless: I go away and come again unto you, and your heart shall rejoice.” This verse from St. John 14 followed the affirmation from Psalm 47: “God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon his holy seat.” The suffering to be endured by the disciples is understood in light of the cosmic rule of God — the Ascension isn’t just a departure, but ascent to a throne — and the abiding, informing presence of the Holy Spirit.
Here is the Latin and English of today’s Alleluia, which combines phrases from St. John 14 and 16:
Non vos relinquam orphanos. Alleluia.
I will not leave you comfortless. Alleluia.
Vado, et venio ad vos. Alleluia.
I go, and I will come to you. Alleluia.
Et gaudebit, cor vestrum. Alleluia.
And your heart shall rejoice. Alleluia.
Here is William Byrd’s setting of this text, sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Cleobury.
In this Ascension motet by Peter Philips (c.1561-1628), the text from Psalm 47 that forms today’s Offertory is supplemented by a verse from Psalm 103.
Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubae.
God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.
Dominus in caelo paravit sedem suam. Alleluia.
The Lord hath prepared his seat in heaven. Alleluia.
Philips’s setting of Ascendit Deus includes some joyous Alleluias, sung at the end of the piece in a triple meter. Note also how the words in voce tubae (“with the sound of the trumpet”) are repeated over and over, bouncing back and forth from voice to voice, suggesting a festive fanfare with a big brass section.
The motet is sung here by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, conducted by Graham Ross.
William Croft (1678-1727) was an English organist and composer of church music. He served as organist for many years at Westminster Abbey, where he is buried with this epitaph: “Having resided among mortals for fifty years, behaving with the utmost candor . . . he departed to the heavenly choir . . . that being near, he might add to the concert of angels his own Hallelujah.”
Croft’s best known compositions are the hymn tunes HANOVER (to which our Hymnal sets the words to “O worship the King,” hymn #288) and ST. ANNE (sung as “O God, our help in ages past,” hymn #289). Members of our parish are very familiar with one of Croft’s Anglican chant settings; as #617 in our Hymnal, we sing it with the text of the middle section of the Te Deum laudamus (beginning with the words “Thou art the King of glory, O Christ”).
Croft’s setting of the Funeral Sentences have had a central place in the public life of England since they were published in 1724. They were sung at the funderal of George Frideric Handel in 1759, as well at the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002.
William Croft composed an anthem based on Psalm 47:5-7, a passage from which today’s offertory is taken:
God is gone up with a merry noise, * and the LORD with the sound of the trump.
O sing praises, sing praises unto our God; * O sing praises, sing praises unto our King.
For God is the King of all the earth: * sing ye praises with understanding.
Croft’s “God is gone up with a merry noise” is sung here by the Choir of New College Oxford, conducted by Edward Higginbottom.
Bach wrote two cantatas for the Sunday after Ascension. They both open with the same sung text: “Sie werden euch in den Bann tun.” Google translates this phase as “They will cast a spell on you.” The Bach Cantatas website renders the German as “They will put you under a ban.” Taking into consideration the Gospel reading that inspired the cantata, the favored translation i program notes is “They shall put you out of the synagogues.”
In the first of today’s two cantatas, Bach emphasized the more distressing and threatening aspects of this prediction of persecution and suffering. The first chorus in the work is a tempestuous presentation of Jesus’ words: “But the time comes that, whoever puts you to death will think that in this way he is serving God.” That stormy chorus is followed by a serene alto aria in which listeners are reminded: “Christians must on earth be true disciples of Christ. At every hour they should expect, until they achieve the joy of victory, torture, banishment and great suffering.”
After a bass recitative that warns of the torture at the hands of the Antichrist, a lyrical soprano aria reassures us: “The consolation of Christians is and remains God’s watchful care over his church. For even though at times the clouds gather, after the storms of affliction the sun of joy has soon smiled on us.”
The complete text to this cantata is here.
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun I (BWV 44) is sung here by the Netherlands Bach Society. The soloists are Maria Keohane, soprano; Tim Mead, alto; Daniel Johannsen, tenor; and Matthew Brook, bass. Jos van Veldhoven conducts this live performance, which is part of the All of Bach series.
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun II (BWV 183) was written a year later, and in this work, Bach adopted a more positive tone. More than have of the work is taken up by a poignant tenor aria: “I do not dread the horrors of death, I do not shrink at all from any trouble. For Jesus’ arms will cover and protect me. I follow him gladly and willingly.” Even if the following means — as it certainly will — encountering suffering.
The complete text to this cantata is here.
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun II (BWV 183) is performed here by the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists. This recording was made at a concert in June 2000 that was part of their year-long Bach Cantata Pilgrimage series. The soloists are Joanne Lunn, soprano; Daniel Taylor, alto; Paul Agnew, tenor; and Panajotis Iconomou, bass. The conductor is John Eliot Gardiner.
John Keble, “Sunday after Ascension” (from The Christian Year)
[NOTE: Keble’s poem for this Sunday was inspired by a verse from today’s Epistle reading.]
As every man hath received the gift,
even so minister the same one to another,
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 St. Peter iv. 10.
The Earth that in her genial breast
Makes for the down a kindly nest,
Where wafted by the warm south-west
It floats at pleasure,
Yields, thankful, of her very best,
To nurse her treasure:
True to her trust, tree, herb, or reed,
She renders for each scattered seed,
And to her Lord with duteous heed
Gives large increase:
Thus year by year she works unfeed,
And will not cease.
Woe worth these barren hearts of ours,
Where Thou hast set celestial flowers,
And watered with more balmy showers
Than e’er distilled
In Eden, on th’ ambrosial bowers—
Yet nought we yield.
Largely Thou givest, gracious Lord,
Largely Thy gifts should be restored;
Freely Thou givest, and Thy word
Is, “Freely give.”
He only, who forgets to hoard,
Has learned to live.
Wisely Thou givest—all around
Thine equal rays are resting found,
Yet varying so on various ground
They pierce and strike,
That not two roseate cups are crowned
With drew alike:
E’en so, in silence, likest Thee,
Steals on soft-handed Charity,
Tempering her gifts, that seem so free,
By time and place,
Till not a woe the bleak world see,
But finds her grace:
Eyes to the blind, and to the lame
Feet, and to sinners wholesome blame,
To starving bodies food and flame,
By turns she brings;
To humbled souls, that sink for shame,
Lends heaven-ward wings:
Leads them the way our Saviour went,
And shows Love’s treasure yet unspent;
As when th’ unclouded heavens were rent.
Opening His road,
Nor yet His Holy Spirit sent
To our abode.
Ten days th’ eternal doors displayed
Were wondering (so th’ Almighty bade)
Whom Love enthroned would send, in aid
Of souls that mourn,
Left orphans in Earth’s dreary shade
As noon as born.
Open they stand, that prayers in throngs
May rise on high, and holy songs,
Such incense as of right belongs
To the true shrine,
Where stands the Healer of all wrongs
In light divine;
The golden censer in His hand,
He offers hearts from every land,
Tied to His own by gentlest band
Of silent Love:
About Him wingèd blessings stand
In act to move.
A little while, and they shall fleet
From Heaven to Earth, attendants meet
On the life-giving Paraclete
Speeding His flight,
With all that sacred is and sweet,
On saints to light.
Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, all
Shall feel the shower of Mercy fall,
And startling at th’ Almighty’s call,
Give what He gave,
Till their high deeds the world appal,
And sinners save.