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Music for Maundy Thursday

Let this food your faith so nourish   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior” (627), is on the Holy Sacrament by Martin Luther (1483-1546).  It is loosely based on the work of an earlier reformer, John Hus (1369-1415).  Hus was a reformer who eventually was martyred by the papal hierarchy for teaching that the Church is the communion of all the saints, and that Christ—and not the Pope—is the head of the Church.  He was burned at the stake following his trial by the Council of Constance on July 6, 1415.

Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday

Sources from Luther’s time describe the hymn as “The Hymn of St. John Huss, revised.”  Luther’s revision moves the text from ideas of medieval mysticism to God’s love and mercy in the Sacrament to be received by faith.  The phrases in the hymn are similar to words and phrases Luther used in his Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday sermons in 1524, which indicate it may have been written around that time.  Luther’s ten-stanza hymn replaced earlier Huss versions of either seven, nine, or ten stanzas.

As you sing the hymn, notice how Luther connects the teaching on the Lord’s Supper—“Gives His Body with the bread, And with the wine the Blood He shed”— to the life of a Christian both troubled by sin—“Those who feel no pain or ill, need no physician’s help or skill”—and desiring to lead a godly life—“And your neighbor learn from you, How much God’s wondrous love can do!”

The DISTRIBUTION MUSIC, “Thee We Adore, O Hidden Savior,” is about the real presence of the Body of Blood of Christ in the Sacrament.  It is based on a plainsong chant from 1697, “Adoro te devote.”  It was written by the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), and translated from the Roman Missal by Anglican clergyman James Woodford (1820-1885).

Aquinas is also the author of the DISTRIBUTION HYMN, “Now My Tongue, the Mystery Telling,” based on Venantius Fortunatus’ hymn “Pange, lingua, gloriosi.”  Fortunatus’ hymn has been translated “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle,” and will be sung during the Tre Ore tomorrow.  Aquinas’ version was translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866), who considered that “Now My Tongue” “contests the second place among those of the Western Church with Vexilla Regis [The Royal Banners Forward Go], the Stabat mater [At the Cross Her Station Keeping], the Jesu dulcis memoria [Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee], … and one or two others, leaving the Dies irae [Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning] in its unapproachable glory.”

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