Deus in adjutorium. Psalm 70
Haste thee, O God, unto my rescue, and save me: O Lord, make haste to my deliverance: let mine enemies be ashamed and confounded, that seek after my soul. Let them be turned backward, and put to confusion: that wish me evil. 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. Haste thee, O God . . .
Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
II Corinthians 3:4-9
Brethren: such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
[Psalm 34] I will alway give thanks unto the Lord: his praise shall ever be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.
Alleluia, alleluia. [Psalm 88] O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee. Alleluia.
St. Mark 7:31-37
At that time: Jesus, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
[Exodus 32] Moses besought the Lord his God, and said: Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people? Turn from thy fierce wrath: remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest to give a land flowing with milk and honey. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
[Psalm 104] The earth, O Lord, is filled with the fruit of thy works: that thou mayest bring food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man: and oil to make him a cheerful countenance, and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
The text for today’s Introit is from Psalm 70. The text we typically chant is translated from the traditional Latin text of the proper; in the Coverdale Psalter used in our Prayerbook, the text begins: “Haste thee, O God, to deliver me.”
This Psalm is relatively short — only 6 verses — and since it remains well-focused, it lends itself to musical settings that include the entire text. One English-language setting is by Pelham Humfry (1647–1674), who came of age and musical prominence during the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy. He was about a decade older than one of the most brilliant of English composers, Henry Purcell (1659–1695, also relatively short-lived), and if Humfry hadn’t died at the age of 27, he may have rivalled Purcell in achievement.
Here is his setting of Psalm 70, Haste thee, O Lord, performed by the Consort of Voices and the Instruments of Time and Truth, conducted by Edward Higginbottom.
First performed on the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity in 1725, Bach’s cantata BWV 137 is a jaunty, jazzy, and joyous expression of praise. As John Eliot Gardiner explains, “It is based entirely on the five stanzas of Joachim Neander’s thanksgiving hymn of 1680 and its associated melody. This means that there are no recitatives, no biblical quotes, no poetic commentary; but on the other hand, this being one of the most glorious of all hymn tunes, familiar to English congregations as ‘Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation,’ there are immense and satisfying music delights.”
Just to demonstrate how glorious this hymn tune — and its text — can be in one of the most English of ceremonial settings, listen to the singing of Neander’s five stanzas as sung at the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey, on Monday March 9th, 2020.
Joachim Neander (1650–1680) based his hymn on Psalm 103:1-6 and Psalm 150, two expansive Psalms of praise. When Bach set out to arrange a cantata around Neander’s text and tune, he knew that the grand spirit of the hymn required the use of trumpets and timpani, instrumental features typically reserved for the most festive of occasions. As Gardiner observes, “He knew exactly how best to use the resources of the ceremonial trumpet-led orchestra and choir of his day to convey unbridled joy and majesty.”
He also knew that the finest level of craftsmanship was called for, and so although the cantata is relatively short — only five movements — the structure of the work is masterful. Julian Mincham concludes that Cantata BWV 137 “has a claim to be one of the most perfectly unified of the entire canon.” The chorale melody, that familiar hymn tune which serves as a prime source of unity, is used in a different way in each movement. And there is an artful symmetry evident in the work’s overall structure:
Chorus — Aria — Duet — Aria — Chorale
During the three middle movements, all four soloists get a chance to shine: the first aria belongs to the alto, the second to the tenor, while the soprano and bass sing the middle duet. The inner voices sing the outer movements, while the outer voices hold down the center of the piece.
The three middle movements employ virtuoso instrumental partners to the singers in different ways. In the alto aria, the metaphor of being upheld by “eagle’s wings securely” is suggested by the soaring lines of a lively violin obbligato. In the soprano and bass duet, the instrumental accompaniment features a pair of oboes whose imitative interaction echoes the virtual dance of the singers. The instrumental spotlight during the tenor aria is held on the trumpet soloist, who presents the chorale melody simply (in C major) while the soloist (in A minor, a related key) sings the hymn’s fourth stanza with acrobatic verve.
Here is the text of the cantata’s five movements
Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren,
Praise the Lord, the mighty king of honour,
Meine geliebete Seele, das ist mein Begehren.
My beloved soul, that is my desire.
Kommet zu Hauf,
Psalter und Harfen, wacht auf!
Psaltery and harps, awake!
Lasset die Musicam hören.
Let the music be heard.
Lobe den Herren, der alles so herrlich regieret,
Praise the Lord who rules all things so excellently,
Der dich auf Adelers Fittichen sicher geführet,
Who bears you on eagle’s wings securely,
Der dich erhält,
Who supports you,
Wie es dir selber gefällt;
As you yourself wish;
Hast du nicht dieses verspüret?
Have you not felt this?
Lobe den Herren, der künstlich und fein dich bereitet,
Praise the Lord who endows you with such subtle art,
Der dir Gesundheit verliehen, dich freundlich geleitet;
Who grants you good health and guides you in a friendly way;
In wieviel Not
In how many desperate circumstances
Hat nicht der gnädige Gott
Has not God in his mercy
Über dir Flügel gebreitet!
Spread his wings over you!
Lobe den Herren, der deinen Stand sichtbar gesegnet,
Praise the Lord, who has clearly blessed your position,
Der aus dem Himmel mit Strömen der Liebe geregnet;
Who from heaven has rained down streams of love upon you
Was der Allmächtige kann,
What the Almighty can do,
Der dir mit Liebe begegnet.
Who meets you with his love.
Lobe den Herren, was in mir ist, lobe den Namen!
Praise the Lord, all that is in me, praise his name!
Alles, was Odem hat, lobe mit Abrahams Samen!
Let all that has breath praise him with Abraham’s seed!
Er ist dein Licht,
He is your light,
Seele, vergiss es ja nicht;
My soul, do not forget this;
Lobende, schließe mit Amen!
End your praise with Amen!
Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren (BWV 137) is performed below by the Netherlands Bach Society, in a concert given in February 2017 as part of the All of Bach project. The soloists are Miriam Feuersinger, soprano; Alex Potter, alto; Thomas Hobbs, tenor, and Peter Kooij, bass. The ensemble is conducted by Peter Dijkstra.
The following poem is from John Keble’s The Christian Year (1827).
And looking up to heaven, He sighed, and saith unto him,
Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
St. Mark vii. 34.
The Son of God in doing good
Was fain to look to Heaven and sigh:
And shall the heirs of sinful blood
Seek joy unmixed in charity?
God will not let Love’s work impart
Full solace, lest it steal the heart;
Be thou content in tears to sow,
Blessing, like Jesus, in thy woe:
He looked to Heaven, and sadly sighed —
What saw my gracious Saviour there,
“With fear and anguish to divide
The joy of Heaven-accepted prayer?
So o’er the bed where Lazarus slept
He to His Father groaned and wept:
What saw He mournful in that grave,
Knowing Himself so strong to save?”
O’erwhelming thoughts of pain and grief
Over His sinking spirit sweep; —
What boots it gathering one lost leaf
Out of yon sere and withered heap,
Where souls and bodies, hopes and joys,
All that earth owns or sin destroys,
Under the spurning hoof are cast,
Or tossing in th’ autumnal blast?
The deaf may hear the Saviour’s voice,
The fettered tongue its chain may break;
But the deaf heart, the dumb by choice,
The laggard soul, that will not wake,
The guilt that scorns to be forgiven; —
These baffle e’en the spells of Heaven;
In thought of these, His brows benign
Not e’en in healing cloudless shine.
No eye but His might ever bear
To gaze all down that drear abyss,
Because none ever saw so clear
The shore beyond of endless bliss:
The giddy waves so restless hurled,
The vexed pulse of this feverish world,
He views and counts with steady sight,
Used to behold the Infinite.
But that in such communion high
He hath a fount of strength within,
Sure His meek heart would break and die,
O’erburthened by His brethren’s sin;
Weak eyes on darkness dare not gaze,
It dazzles like the noonday blaze;
But He who sees God’s face may brook
On the true face of Sin to look.
What then shall wretched sinners do,
When in their last, their hopeless day,
Sin, as it is, shall meet their view,
God turn His face for aye away?
Lord, by Thy sad and earnest eye,
When Thou didst look to Heaven and sigh:
Thy voice, that with a word could chase
The dumb, deaf spirit from his place;
As Thou hast touched our ears, and taught
Our tongues to speak Thy praises plain,
Quell Thou each thankless godless thought
That would make fast our bonds again.
From worldly strife, from mirth unblest,
Drowning Thy music in the breast,
From foul reproach, from thrilling fears,
Preserve, good Lord, Thy servants’ ears.
From idle words, that restless throng
And haunt our hearts when we would pray,
From Pride’s false chime, and jarring wrong,
Seal Thou my lips, and guard the way:
For Thou hast sworn, that every ear,
Willing or loth, Thy trump shall hear,
And every tongue unchainèd be
To own no hope, no God, but Thee.
The following hymn is from Bp. Christopher Wordsworth’s The Holy Year; or Hymns for Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year (1862).
TWELFTH SUNUDAY AFTER TRINITY
The Epistle for the Week compares the glory of the Mosaic Law with that of the Gospel, and contrasts the condition of the Israelites at the Delivery of the Law, with the privileges of those who live under the Gospel; and suggests their consequent duties.
Moses from Sinai brings the Law,
His face with glory gleams;
The People’s eyes, bedimm’d by sin,
Are dazzled by its beams.
To shroud the Glory of the Law,
Shining with heavenly grace,
And spare their feeble eyes, he puts
A Veil upon his face.
Beam with Thy Spirit on our hearts,
Take off the Veil, that we
May see the Glory of the Law,
Jesu, reveal’d in Thee!
Light up its Types and Prophecies,
Its moral code unfold,
That we may all their glimmerings
Sunn’d forth in Thee behold.
If, in the twilight dim, the Law
Gleam’d with such lustre bright,
How glorious is the noonday sun
Of Evangelic Light!
If Thy bright beams on Moses’ face
Did with such splendour shine,
How may we hope to gaze upon
Thy countenance divine?
Thou sayest, “without Holiness
No eye shall look on Thee,”
And “blessed are the pure in heart,
For they God’s face shall see.”
O, therefore, cleanse our sullied hearts,
Soften these hearts of stone.
That we may see Thee, and may know
As we, O Lord, are known.
To Father, Son, whose Gospel gilds
The Law with glorious rays,
And Holy Ghost Who in them shines,
Be everlasting praise.