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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 composition is by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) from his collection Orgelbüchlein (“Little Organ Book”), organ settings of the chief hymns of the Church designed to teach organ technique while providing rich, accessible music for Divine Service.

Four of the seven chorales of Christ’s Passion in the collection are canonic (round), perhaps related to the emphasis on sacrifice—the Lamb being led to the slaughter; or obedience—the Son following the will of the Father.  In this organ composition (BWV 618), the melody is heard first in the bass (pedal) and then two beats later in the alto.  The soprano (right hand) and tenor (left hand) play an imitative counter melody.  Listen for the melody, slightly more dominant, yet still quiet, in the long notes in the pedal.

In the Very Midst of Life   Although we’ve planned to sing this hymn (755) for months as part of our hymn plan for the Sundays and festivals of the church year, it squarely addresses our current situation in society:

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 choral setting is by Caspar Othmayr (1515-1553), who served as rector, provost, and musician in Ansbach, Germany.

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 and God of Our Salvation
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
Prelude: O Lamb Gottes, unschuldig (“Lamb of God, Pure and Holy”) (BWV 618) -J.S. Bach
Voluntary: In the Very Midst of Life – J.G. Walther

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