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About Today’s Music – Annunciation

With milk was fed the Lord of all, Who feeds the ravens when they call   The HYMN OF THE DAY “Now Praise We Christ, the Holy One” (The Lutheran Hymnal 104) is part of a larger work by Coelius Sedulius (c. 450).  This hymn is from Lauds on Christmas Day in the Antiphonale Romanum.

Notice the beautiful way the mystery of the Incarnation is professed:  He who is the Creator of all things becomes a creature.  He who controls everything is fed with milk and laid in a manger.  Stanza three focuses on the wonder of the Annunciation we commemorate today: “The grace and power of God the Lord, Upon the mother was outpoured; A virgin pure and undefiled in wondrous wise conceived a child.”  And for all this the heavenly choirs rejoice and raise songs of praise.  Today we join with them to celebrate this miraculous gift!

Martin Luther (1483-1546) translated this Latin text by Sedulius in the 1524 Enchiridion in Erfurt.  Although several German tranlations were made before Luther, he reversed the halves of the first stanza so that “Christ” was at the head of the whole hymn (“Christum wir sollen loben schon”).

The tune is based on the ancient plainsong melody for this hymn, described as “an elegant example of the Phrygian tone.”  Some early versions keep the more complex original form, while it is thought Luther himself adapted a simpler version for congregational singing that we use today.

The introduction to the hymn is by Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748).

The PRELUDE is a setting of this hymn by Healey Willan (1880-1968).

Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary, and Made Man   “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10.4). But “nothing will be impossible with God” (St. Luke 1.37). He opens ears to hear and wombs to conceive. “Let it be to me according to your Word,” says St. Mary (St. Luke 1.38). The Most High who once dwelt in the tabernacle comes to overshadow Mary, who believes the angel’s “annunciation” (St. Luke 1.35). “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7.14). In Jesus Christ, God is with us—even from the moment of His conception. This miracle, that Mary should become the mother of God, will be a sign against the proud in Israel; but it is the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah and David. “I delight to do Your will, O my God,” says Christ (Psalm 40.8). From Mary’s flesh, the Most High has prepared a body for His Son (Hebrews 10.5), a body to be offered “once for all” as the sacrifice that alone takes away sins and gives a righteousness apart from the Law (Hebrews 10.10). Through His conception, life, and death, we have been sanctified. God favors us in this child. And like the Blessed Virgin Mary, blessed “are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (St. Luke 11.28).

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