Miserere mihi. Psalm 86.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I have called daily upon thee: for thou, O Lord, art gracious and merciful, and plenteous in thy loving-kindness toward all them that call upon thee. Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me: for I am poor and in misery. 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. Be merciful unto me
O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church: and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
[Psalm 102] The heathen shall fear thy Name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy majesty. When the Lord shall build up Sion: and when his glory shall appear.
Alleluia, alleluia. [Psalm 98] O sing unto the Lord a new song: for he hath done marvelous things. Alleluia.
St. Luke 7:11-17
And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
[Psalm 40] Make haste, O Lord, to help me: let them be ashamed and confounded together, that seek after my soul, to destroy it: make haste, O Lord, to help me.
[Psalm 71] O Lord, I will make mention of thy righteousness only: thou, O God, hast taught me from my youth up until now: forsake me not, O God, in mine old age, when I am grey-headed.
Below are plainsong renditions of the Psalms as published in the Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.
“You cannot avoid being struck in this cantata by Bach’s most unusual use of four successive funeral hymns as the supporting pillars of his structure, giving encouragement to the (tenor) believer as he contemplates his own death.” So writes conductor John Eliot Gardiner about a cantata that J. S. Bach composed for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.
It was not uncommon in Bach’s time for the liturgy on the Sundays in the second half of the post-Trinity season to include hymns reminding believers of their death, presenting messages of comfort as much as of warning. The first of the four “funeral hymns” employed in this cantata — from which the work takes its name — is a late 16th or early 16th anonymous hymn with 8 stanzas (you can read all of them here). The opening chorus in Bach’s setting takes its text from the first stanza:
Christ is my life,
to die is my gain,
to him I surrender myself,
with joy I depart,
That last line is reminiscent of Martin Luther’s paraphrase of the Nunc dimittis, Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin (“In peace and joy I now depart”), a hymn which our parish has sung in the past. Bach clearly made the connection between the two hymns: before the opening chorus in this cantata is completed, Luther’s first stanza — sung to Luther’s wistful and hopeful tune — make an appearance with a remarkable instrumental accompaniment.
This chorus is followed by a soprano recitative and aria, the later a lilting triple-meter presentation of another early-17th-century funeral hymn, Valet will ich dir geben (“I want to bid you farewell”). The melody is the tune known as ST. THEODULPH, to which we sing — on Palm Sunday — “All glory, laud and honor.”
A tenor recitative and aria follow, again in triple meter, the soloist accompanied by a pair of oboe d’amore and gently plucked strings. The musical texture evokes a sense of happy anticipation.
Ah, strike soon, blessed hour,
the very final stroke of the bell!
Come, come, I reach my hands towards you
come, make an end to my distress,
you day of death for which I have long sighed!
A brief bass recitative precedes the final movement, a chorale featuring stanza from a fourth funeral hymn, Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist. In this text, the believer addresses the ascended Christ:
Since you have risen from death,
I shall not remain in the grave;
my greatest consolation is your ascension,
it is able to drive away the fear of death.
For where you are, there I shall come
so that with you I shall always live and be;
therefore I go from here with joy.
Here is a complete performance of Christus, der ist mein Leben. Philippe Herreweghe conducts the Collegium Vocale, with soloists Dorothee Mields, soprano; Hans Jörg Mammel, tenor; and Thomas Bauer, bass. The text for the cantata is here.
The following poem is from John Keble’s The Christian Year (1827).
I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
Ephesians iii. 13.
Wish not, dear friends, my pain away —
Wish me a wise and thankful heart,
With God, in all my griefs, to stay,
Nor from His loved correction start.
The dearest offering He can crave
His portion in our souls to prove,
What is it to the gift He gave,
The only Son of His dear love?
But we, like vexed unquiet sprights,
Will still be hovering o’er the tomb,
Where buried lie our vain delights,
Nor sweetly take a sinner’s doom.
In Life’s long sickness evermore
Our thoughts are tossing to and fro:
We change our posture o’er and o’er,
But cannot rest, nor cheat our woe.
Were it not better to lie still,
Let Him strike home and bless the rod,
Never so safe as when our will
Yields undiscerned by all but God?
Thy precious things, whate’er they be,
That haunt and vex thee, heart and brain,
Look to the Cross and thou shalt see
How thou mayst turn them all to gain.
Lovest thou praise? the Cross is shame:
Or ease? the Cross is bitter grief:
More pangs than tongue or heart can frame
Were suffered there without relief.
We of that Altar would partake,
But cannot quit the cost — no throne
Is ours, to leave for Thy dear sake —
We cannot do as Thou hast done.
We cannot part with Heaven for Thee —
Yet guide us in Thy track of love:
Let us gaze on where light should be,
Though not a beam the clouds remove.
So wanderers ever fond and true
Look homeward through the evening sky,
Without a streak of heaven’s soft blue
To aid Affection’s dreaming eye.
The wanderer seeks his native bower,
And we will look and long for Thee,
And thank Thee for each trying hour,
Wishing, not struggling, to be free.
The following hymn is from Bp. Christopher Wordsworth’s The Holy Year; or Hymns for Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year (1862).
SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
The Raising of the Widow’s Son at the Gate of Nain in the Gospel of the Week.
O Saviour, Who at Nain’s Gate
Didst dry Widow’s tears,
And raise her only son, the prop
Of her declining years ;
What joy was hers, when life return’d
Into that pallid face,
When he sat up, and when her son
The Mother did embrace!
And O, what holy raptures, Lord,
Thy saints in heaven await.
When they shall stand, uprais’d by Thee,
At Thine own City’s Gate!
Thy Nain, City of Delight,
Shall Thy blest Presence see,
Much People then will be with Christ,
A glorious company.
What ecstasies will then be theirs
In that blest City, Lord,
When Sons to Parents will by Thee
For ever be restor’d!
O grant us so together, Lord,
To live in holy love,
That we together may be join’d
In holy bliss above.
Members of Christ our bodies are,
The Holy Spirit’s shrine;
O grant us so to use them now,
That they may be like Thine!
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Let every creature bow;
The Resurrection, and the Life,
O mighty Lord, art Thou!