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Music for Ascension (Thursday, May 30, 2019)

Ascension Day is Thursday, May 30, 2019.  Divine Service is at 7pm.

In like manner this same Jesus shall so come.   The setting of the INTROIT is by Lucas Lossius (1508-1582).  While a student in Wittenberg, Lossius met Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon.  After completing his studies, he became a teacher and rector at the school in Lüneberg, where he served for almost fifty years until his death.  He was the cantor responsible for liturgical music in the church and school.

Among his publications contributing to theological and musical scholarship in the Lutheran church was his Psalmodia hoc est Cantica sacra veleris ecclesiae selecta.  With a preface by Melanchthon, the work has four parts: 1- Latin texts and plainsong (Gregorian chant) of the antiphons, responsories, hymns, and sequences for Sundays and festivals; 2- the same for minor feasts; 3- chant settings for the Divine Service and funerals; 4- Psalms and canticles with antiphons according to the eight Gregorian tones.  It was published in Nuremberg in 1553, with subsequent revisions.

The Psalmodia… is a combination of two genres of medieval liturgical chant books: the Gradual (musical items for the Mass) and the Antiphonale (musical items for the Divine Office).  Lossius’ work is significant because it prepared the ancient Gregorian chant for use in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church, free from medieval theological error and true to the style of the church catholic.

By Our Mighty Lord’s Ascension, We by faith behold our own.   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “See, the Lord Ascends in Triumph” (494) brings together various Old Testament types of Christ: Enoch, Aaron, Joshua, and Elijah.  John Julian, editor of A Dictionary of Hymnology, writes: “The amount of Holy Scripture compressed into these forty lines is wonderful.  Prophesy, types, historical facts, doctrinal teaching, ecstatic praise, all are here; and the result is one grand rush of holy song.”

Author Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) was a priest and bishop in the Church of England, and nephew of poet laureate William Wordsworth.  Gifted in writing, he wrote The Holy Year, a collection of hymns for seasons and Sundays of the liturgical year. He said that it should be “the first duty of a hymn-writer to teach sound doctrine, and thus to save souls.”  He strove to write hymns that were grounded in the Holy Scriptures, in the writings of Christian antiquity, and in the poetry of the ancient church.  He wrote around 125 hymns.

Hark those bursts of acclamation!  The ENTRANCE HYMN “Look, Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious” (495) sings of Our Savior’s exultation to sit at the right hand of the Father.  Thomas Kelly (1769-1854), an Irish hymnist, published it in a collection in 1809, based on Revelation 11.15: “He shall reign forever and ever.”

It is set to a Welsh tune by William Owen (1813-1893).  The strong and grand tune was described by Eric Routley (1917-1982) as “a piece of Celtic rock.”  The PRELUDE is a setting of this tune by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

The lessons are: 2 Kings 2.5-15; Acts 1.1-11; and St. Mark 16.14-20.

The hymns are: 495 Look, Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious; 493 A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing; 494 See, the Lord Ascends in Triumph; 564 Christ Sits at God’s Right Hand; 491 Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels; 525 Crown Him with Many Crowns; 492 On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build

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