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Music for the 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).

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