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Music for Oculi-Third Sunday in Lent

Lord of Our Life and God of Our Salvation   The HYMN OF THE DAY (659) praises Jesus Christ, the Lord Who has the words of eternal life (St. John 6.68). Christ is the One Who defeats Satan, the accuser, and helps His saints (Revelation 12.10). Though they are surrounded by foes with unfurled banners, yet the Lord’s banner of love waves over His Church (Song of Solomon 2.4) and preserves Her. Though darkness surrounds the believers, His Light of the Gospel shines through the darkness. Though the Church is assaulted by devils, still the Lord’s armor (Ephesians 6) defends Her. This hymn is unusual in that the second stanza of the text is sturdy and loud; the text then tapers off from billows to prayers for peace. He brings His peace to our hearts, to the Church, to the world, and is in fullness in heaven.

—Adapted from the Rev. Thomas Lock, Kantor; Trinity—Denver, for LOGIA Online

Lamb of God, Pure and Holy   The PRELUDE is based on Nicolaus Decius’ (1485-1546) trope of the Agnus Dei, “O Lamb Gottes, Unschuldig” (literally, O Lamb of God, innocent [one]), translated as “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” (434).  The setting is by Johann Pachelbel, a leading composer in the south German organ school of the Baroque era.

In the very midst of life;

   In the midst of death’s dark vale;

      In the midst of utter woe… where shall we for refuge go?

To Thee, Lord Jesus, only!

Whether things are going well or not, whether we realize it or not, snares of death constantly surround us in the very midst of life.

This hymn by Martin Luther directs us to our only constant source of comfort: To Thee, Lord Jesus, only! Thy precious blood was shed to win, Full atonement for our sin.

“In the Very Midst of Life” is based on a medieval hymn about death sung on days of supplication and prayer and before battle: “Media vita in morte sumus.”  Other German translations appeared before Luther’s, but Luther emphasizes the nearness of death and deliverance from the body, confidence of faith in the grace of God through the blood of Christ, and pleas for forgiveness.

Luther’s version was published in the Enchiridia of Erfurt in 1524, and was part of Joseph Klug’s collection of burial hymns in 1542.  It is an excellent hymn for use at the deathbed and for the funeral service.

The tune is adapted from the plainsong tune from the medieval Latin text by Johann Walter (1496-1570), Luther’s kantor.

The repeated “Holy and righteous God! Holy and mighty God!  Holy and all merciful Savior!  Eternal Lord God!” portion is from the fifth-century Trisagion from the Greek liturgy.

The lessons are Exodus 8.16–24; Ephesians 5.1–9; and St. Luke 11.14–28.
The hymns are: 420 Christ, the Life of All the Living
659 Lord of Our Life
423 Jesus, Refuge of the Weary
531 Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus
755 In the Very Midst of Life
666 O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe
Choral Voluntary: Ave Verum Corpus -W.A. Mozart

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