Factus est Dominus. Psalm 18
The Lord was my refuge and my upholder; and he brought me forth into a place of liberty: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength: the Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Saviour. 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. The Lord was . . .
O Lord, who never failest to help and govern those whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love; Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I St. John 3:13-24
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
[Psalm 120] When I was in trouble I called upon the Lord: and he heard me. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
Alleluia, alleluia. [Psalm 7] O Lord my God, in thee have I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me. Alleluia.
St. Luke 14:16-24
At that time: Jesus spake unto the Pharisees this parable: A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
[Psalm 6] Turn thee, O Lord, and deliver my soul: O save me for thy mercies’ sake.
[Psalm 13] I will sing of the Lord, because he hath dealt so lovingly with me: yea, I will praise the Name of the Lord Most Highest.
Below are plainsong renditions of the Psalms as published in the Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Ad Dominum cum tribularer
Orlande de Lassus, Ad Dominum cum tribularer
Hans Leo Hassler, Ad Dominum cum tribularer
Heinrich Schütz, Ad Dominum cum tribularer
J. S. Bach, Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (BWV 76)
The Gradual for this Sunday is taken from the first two verses of Psalm 120. Many Latin-language settings of the text for this Gradual are designated as Ad Dominum cum tribularer, “To the Lord, in trouble,” which omits the verb clamavi (“I called”) used in the opening verse.
Here is the text of the entire Psalm:
Ad Dominum cum tribularer clamavi, et exaudivit me.
When I was in trouble I called upon the Lord: and he heard me.
Domine, libera animam meam a labiis iniquis et a lingua dolosa.
Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips: and from a deceitful tongue.
Quid detur tibi, aut quid apponatur tibi ad linguam dolosam?
What reward shall be given or done unto thee, thou false tongue:
Sagittae potentis acutae, cum carbonibus desolatoriis.
even mighty and sharp arrows, with hot burning coals.
Heu mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est! habitavi cum habitantibus Cedar;
Woe is me, that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech: and to have my habitation among the tents of Kedar.
multum incola fuit anima mea.
My soul hath long dwelt among them:
Cum his qui oderunt pacem
that are enemies unto peace.
eram pacificus; cum loquebar illis, impugnabant me gratis.
I labour for peace, but when I speak unto them thereof: they make them ready to battle.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) set this entire Psalm to music. It is sung here by the Choir of New College, Oxford, conducted by Edward Higginbottom.
Psalm 120 is a relatively short Psalm, but it describes a lot of tension: trouble, lying lips, deceitful tongues, enemies, and battles. Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594) set to music only the verses of Psalm 120 that are used in the Gradual. But his use of unpredicatable harmonies is one of the devices he uses to capture the sense of uncertainty in this moving text, which (it must be admitted) does not end on a triumphant note.
Lassus’s setting of Ad Dominum cum tribularer is sung here by the Collegium Vocale Gent, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.
Like the setting by Lassus above, Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) also captures the tension of Psalm 120 with both harmonic and melodic surprises. Most notable is Hassler’s use of melodic phrases that creep up (and later, down) in very small steps. Hassler’s Ad Dominum cum tribularer is sung here by the Ensemble Vocal Européen de la Chapelle Royale, conducted again by Philippe Herreweghe.
Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) was born exactly 100 years before Johann Sebastian Bach, and is often regarded as the greatest German composer before Bach. His setting of Ad Dominum cum tribularer is sung here by the Dresden Chamber Choir, directed by Hans-Christoph Rademann.
Bach composed two cantatas for use on this Sunday. The earliest of the two dates to 1723, and it was only the second cantata to be sung in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church after Bach began his productive years at Kapellmeister there.
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (“The heavens declare the glory of God”) opens with a joyous and confident chorus. The use of a trumpet — relatively uncommon in Bach’s cantatas — clearly conveys the proclamation of the proclamation of God’s glory in the opening text from Psalm 19. Conductor John Eliot Gardiner comments about this first movement: “We have no means of knowing how it was received at the time, bu there is nothing in the suriviving music of Johann Kuhnau, Bach’s predecessor, to match this in complexity or fowardly propulsive energy.”
The Gospel and Epistle reading in Bach’s day were the same as in ours (one of the reasons your editor presents Bach’s cantatas so frequently in these pages), and it may not be immediately clear what the familiar claim in Psalm 19 about God’s glory being evident in Creation has to do with either reading. But a tenor recitative following that opening chorus explains the connection between this Psalm and the parable in the Gospel reading about invitations being sent out to a great banquet:
Therefore God does not leave himself without witness! Nature and Grace speak to all men: all this God has indeed done so that the heavens move and spirit and body have motion. God himself bends down towards you and calls through countless messengers: Arise, come to my love feast!
Later a bass recitative and aria makes it clear that not everyone accepts the invitation to God’s banquet. “The oldest idol of his own pleasure controls the heart of man.” And in the second half of the cantata, a tenor aria presents echoes of the opening of the Epistle reading in which St. John warned: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” The tenor soloist recognizes the persecution that believers experience, and accepts it:
Just hate me, really hate me,
You hostile generation!
To embrace Christ in faith
I shall abandon all joys.
You may read the rest of the text to this cantata here, and listen to all of Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (BWV 76) in the recording embedded below, which features a performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, conducted by Ton Koopman. The soloists are Ruth Ziesak, soprano; Elisabeth von Magnus, alto; Paul Agnew, tenor; and Klaus Mertens, bass.
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
We know that we have passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren. 1 St. John iii. 13, 14.
The clouds that wrap the setting sun
When Autumn’s softest gleams are ending,
Where all bright hues together run
In sweet confusion blending:—
Why, as we watch their floating wreath
Seem they the breath of life to breathe?
To Fancy’s eye their motions prove
They mantle round the Sun for love.
When up some woodland dale we catch
The many-twinkling smile of ocean,
Or with pleased ear bewildered watch
His chime of restless motion;
Still as the surging waves retire
They seem to gasp with strong desire,
Such signs of love old Ocean gives,
We cannot choose but think he lives.
Wouldst thou the life of souls discern?
Nor human wisdom nor divine
Helps thee by aught beside to learn;
Love is life’s only sign.
The spring of the regenerate heart,
The pulse, the glow of every part,
Is the true love of Christ our Lord,
As man embraced, as God adored.
But he, whose heart will bound to mark
The full bright burst of summer morn,
Loves too each little dewy spark,
By leaf or flow’ret worn:
Cheap forms, and common hues, ’tis true,
Through the bright shower-drop’ meet his view;
The colouring may be of this earth;
The lustre comes of heavenly birth.
E’en so, who loves the Lord aright,
No soul of man can worthless find;
All will be precious in his sight,
Since Christ on all hath shined:
But chiefly Christian souls; for they,
Though worn and soiled with sinful clay,
Are yet, to eyes that see them true,
All glistening with baptismal dew.
Then marvel not, if such as bask
In purest light of innocence,
Hope against mope, in love’s dear task,
Spite of all dark offence.
If they who hate the trespass most,
Yet, when all other love is lost,
Love the poor sinner, marvel not;
Christ’s mark outwears the rankest blot.
No distance breaks this tie of blood;
Brothers are brothers evermore;
Nor wrong, nor wrath of deadliest mood,
That magic may o’erpower;
Oft, ere the common source be known,
The kindred drops will claim their own,
And throbbing pulses silently
Move heart towards heart by sympathy.
So it is with true Christian hearts;
Their mutual share in Jesus’ blood
An everlasting bond imparts
Of holiest brotherhood:
Oh! might we all our lineage prove,
Give and forgive, do good and love,
By soft endearments in kind strife
Lightening the load of daily life.
There is much need; for not as yet
Are we in shelter or repose,
The holy house is still beset
With leaguer of stern foes;
Wild thoughts within, bad men without,
All evil spirits round about,
Are banded in unblest device,
To spoil Love’s earthly paradise.
Then draw we nearer day by day,
Each to his brethren, all to God;
Let the world take us as she may,
We must not change our road;
Not wondering, though in grief, to find
The martyr’s foe still keep her mind;
But fixed to hold Love’s banner fast,
And by submission win at last.