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About Sunday’s Music – Fourth Sunday after Trinity

O God, My Faithful God (696), today’s HYMN OF THE DAY is by Johann Heermann (1585–1647), a Lutheran pastor in Silesia during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). During his time as pastor many from his congregation died from pestilence, especially during 1631. It is no wonder that Pastor Heermann could write such words as comfort as are found in this hymn.

We find true comfort in the merciful God alone, in the fountain ever flowing! A prayer for all times is for a “healthy frame,” not only to be healthy, but also to help others through one’s calling and vocation. It is so tempting to curse, swear, or speak out of turn; these betray a mistrust that God actually would work good in this vale of tears. Only forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross can set aside this mistrust. The final two stanzas are pure comfort, echoing the Nunc Dimittis (Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace). Death for the Christian body is but sleep; the Christian soul does not die, but immediately is drawn to heaven at the death of the body. Christians now commend themselves to their Savior. Then, in splendor, Christians will rejoice over their salvation with all those who love his name. —Rev. Thomas Lock, Kantor of Trinity—Denver, for LOGIA Online

Johann Gottfried Walther
Johann Gottfried Walther

The VOLUNTARY is a setting of this hymn by Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748), a cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach.  Walther was the compiler of the Musicalisches Lexicon, a dictionary of music and musicians.  His compositions and transcriptions include 132 organ preludes on Lutheran chorales.

In Him, Our Lord, With All Our Might Confide!   The PRELUDE is a setting of Martin Luther’s “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord” (497), the hymn of the day for Pentecost, and also sung at many ordinations.  The service music in coming weeks will feature some additional organ settings of this hymn demonstrating how different composers set this tune.  Meditate on Luther’s text on the Holy Ghost: “Holy Light, Holy Fire, Comfort True… that we in living faith abide.”

Luther based this hymn on a German version of an earlier Latin antiphon for Pentecost Eve, “Veni Sancte Spiritus.”

Luther remarked that the German antiphon “was composed by the Holy Ghost himself, both words and music.”  This, however, did not keep Luther from adding two more stanzas of his own to the original medieval German stanza.

Today’s setting is by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707).  Born in Denmark, he was organist at Marienkirche in Lübeck.  He is one of the most important mid-Baroque composers, writing for choir, organ, and harpsichord, and influencing later composers like Bach and Telemann.  Today’s Prelude is among his 40 organ compositions based on Lutheran chorales.

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