Dominus fortitudo. Psalm 28.
The Lord is the strength of his people, and a stronghold of salvation to his Anointed One: O Lord, save thine own people, and give thy blessing unto thine inheritance: O feed them also, and set them up for ever. Unto thee will I cry, O Lord; my God, be not silent unto me: lest, if thou make as though thou hearest not, I become like them that go down into the pit. 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 is the strength . . .
O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[Psam 90] Turn thee again, O Lord, at the last: and be gracious unto thy servants. Lord, thou hast been our refuge: from one generation to another.
Alleluia, alleluia. [Psalm] 31] In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust, let me never be put to confusion: deliver me in thy righteousness: bow down thine ear to me, make haste to deliver me. Alleluia.
St. Matthew 5:20-26
Jesus said unto his disciples: except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
[Psalm 17] O hold thou my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not: incline thine ear unto me, and hearken unto my words: show thy marvellous loving-kindness, thou that art the Saviour of them which put their trust in thee, O Lord.
[Psalm 27] I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with great gladness: I will sing, and speak praises unto the Lord.
Below are plainsong renditions of the Psalms as published in the Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.
The text for today’s Offertory is from Psalm 17. The second half of this Psalm is dominated by calls for protection from enemies. The first half begins with a claim by the psalmist of a sincere and deliberate desire to be faithful to the Lord, a faithfulness which only he can guarantee:
Perfice gressus meos in semitis tuis: Ut non moveantur vestigia mea:
O hold thou up my goings in thy paths: that my footsteps slip not.
Inclina aurem tuam et exaudi verba mea:
Incline thine ear to me, and hearken unto my words.
Mirifica misericordias tuas: qui salvos facis sperantes in te, Domine.
Shew thy marvellous loving-kindness, thou that art the Saviour of them which put their trust in thee.
This text was one the basis for many Offertoria composed by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). It is sung here by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Richard Marlow.
Czech composer Otto Albert Tichý (1890–1973) studied composition at the Schola Cantorum de Paris, whose other students included Erik Satie, Edgard Varèse, and Cole Porter. An organist for a time at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, he was a long-time choirmaster and organist at St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. He taught for decades at the Prague Conservatory, offering instruction in Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony even as Czechoslovakia was ruled by the Communists.
His setting of today’s Offertory is one of many sacred works he left the Church. It is sung here by Les Chanteurs de Prague, conducted by Stanislav Mistr.
In the summer of 1726, J. S. Bach wrote two cantatas for solo alto based on texts by Georg Christian Lehms (1684-1717). Bach had already composed eight cantatas that set to music the words of this short-lived poet and novelist.
The Epistle reading for today reminds believers of the deliverance from sin that accompanies their salvation, while the Gospel reading warns of the danger of judgment meted out as a penalty for unoving acts. The lush opening aria of BWV 170 echoes the blessings celebrated in the Epistle, while the four later movements (two arias and two recitatives) stress the temptations that still surround believers in this life. And “stress” is an appropriate verb, since — in the middle aria of the cantata — Bach uses unrelenting sequences of dissonance to evoke the tensions of “satanic intrigues” and “perverted hearts.”
Here is the text to the bouyant opening aria:
Contented peace, beloved delight of the soul,
you cannot be found among the sins of hell,
but only where there is heavenly harmony;
You alone strengthen the weak breast.
Contented peace, beloved delight of the soul,
For this reason nothing but the gifts of virtue
should have any place in my heart.
The entire text of the three arias and two recitatives in this solo cantata can be read here.
Conductor John Eliot Gardiner writes: “The opening aria is pure enchantment, a warm luxuriant dance. . . . You can almost feel Bach’s benign smile hovering over this music, an evocation of Himmelseintracht, the ‘harmony of heaven.’”
The entire cantata is sung below by alto Alex Potter, with the Netherlands Bach Society. In the video below the performance video, Potter discusses how the original liturgical setting of the work informs how he prepares to sing it.
Alto Alex Potter on singing Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust.
The following poem is from John Keble’s The Christian Year (1827).
David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.
And Nathan said unto David,
The Lord also hath put away thy sin;
thou shalt not die.
2 Samuel xii. 13.
When bitter thoughts, of conscience born,
With sinners wake at morn,
When from our restless couch we start,
With fevered lips and withered heart,
Where is the spell to charm those mists away,
And make new morning in that darksome day?
One draught of spring’s delicious air,
One steadfast thought, that God is there.
These are Thy wonders, hourly wrought,
Thou Lord of time and thought,
Lifting and lowering souls at will,
Crowding a world of good or ill
Into a moment’s vision; e’en as light
Mounts o’er a cloudy ridge, and all is bright,
From west to east one thrilling ray
Turning a wintry world to May.
Would’st thou the pangs of guilt assuage?
Lo! here an open page,
Where heavenly mercy shines as free
Written in balm, sad heart, for thee.
Never so fast, in silent April shower,
Flushed into green the dry and leafless bower,
As Israel’s crownèd mourner felt
The dull hard stone within him melt.
The absolver saw the mighty grief,
And hastened with relief; —
“The Lord forgives; thou shalt not die:”
’Twas gently spoke, yet heard on high,
And all the band of angels, used to sing
In heaven, accordant to his raptured string,
Who many a month had turned away
With veilèd eyes, nor owned his lay,
Now spread their wings, and throng around
To the glad mournful sound,
And welcome, with bright open face,
The broken heart to love’s embrace.
The rock is smitten, and to future years
Springs ever fresh the tide of holy tears
And holy music, whispering peace
Till time and sin together cease.
There drink: and when ye are at rest,
With that free Spirit blest,
Who to the contrite can dispense,
The princely heart of innocence,
If ever, floating from faint earthly lyre,
Was wafted to your soul one high desire,
By all the trembling hope ye feel,
Think on the minstrel as ye kneel:
Think on the shame, that dreadful hour
When tears shall have no power,
Should his own lay th’ accuser prove,
Cold while he kindled others’ love:
And let your prayer for charity arise,
That his own heart may hear his melodies,
And a true voice to him may cry,
“Thy God forgives — thou shalt not die.”
The following hymn is from Bp. Christopher Wordsworth’s The Holy Year; or Hymns for Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year (1862).
Sixth Sunday after Trinity
The Christian’s Death unto sin, and Resurrection unto life, in the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, as presented in the Epistle of the Week; and the Christian’s prayer for Love, in the Collect of the Week.
O loving Jesu, for us crucified,
We, who are Thine, together with Thee died;
We, Lord, with Thee were buried in the grave,
When Thy Baptismal Waters us did lave.
O mighty Jesu, Who for us art risen,
We, who are Thine, then rose from sin’s dark prison;
We, by Thy help, Death’s iron bars did break,
New life is ours, and glory, for Thy sake.
O Conqueror Jesu, Who art mounted high,
Bearing with Thee Thy Members to the sky,
Lift us, O lift us, in Thy glorious flight,
From Earth to realms of everlasting light.
O King of Glory, from Thy Throne above
Who didst the Spirit send of peace and love.
That we from earth a heavenward course may hold.
Give us His wings, and feathers as of gold.
O God Triune, baptizèd in Thy Name,
We pray for heavenly light and holy flame.
That firm in Faith, and walking in Thy Love,
We may Thee ever praise in bliss above.