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Music for the First Sunday after Christmas

He is Alpha and Omega   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (384), is by Spanish writer Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-405).  His poetic writings are contained in two collections: Psychomachia and Liber Cathemerinon.  The Liber Cathemerinon is a collection of twelve poems.  “Corde natus ex parentis,” the basis for “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” is from the ninth poem.  The poem is 114 lines and recounts the life of Christ from birth to resurrection.   In his poetry, Prudentius addressed the fourth-century Arian heresy, which is noted in the emphasis on the equality of the Son with the Father in this hymn.

The English translation is by John Mason Neale (1818-1866).  Neale was a significant translator and scholar of hymns, including eight collections of hymns with research on their origin and history.  This hymn was first included in The Hymnal Noted (1852) and was expanded in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).

The tune, “Divinum Mysterium” is an Ionian plainsong melody from the twelfth to fifteenth century, found in Italian and German manuscripts. In 1851, it was set to the text “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” by Thomas Helmore of the Chapel Royal in England.

The introduction is a setting by Ludwig Lenel (1914-2002), who served as professor of music at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.  He wrote numerous compositions for organ, choir, and instruments, and served on the hymn committee of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.

Death is but a slumber   The DISTRIBUTION HYMN, “In Peace and Joy I Now Depart” (938) is Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) hymn on the Nunc Dimittis (Latin: “Now Dismiss”), the “Song of Simeon” (St. Luke 2.29-32).

Luther connects the song of Simeon to our life:  Christ, who is our Life, is our Help in every need and finally when we face death.  Luther connects the song of Simeon to the lives of all people:  He is the Light to Lighten the Gentiles (“Now I know He is my life, My friend when I am dying”) and the Glory of His people Israel (“For Your people Israel, in Him find joy and glory”).

   Another hymn of Luther’s, “Now Praise We Christ, the Holy One” (The Lutheran Hymnal 104; insert) is a translation of a fifth-century text, “A solis ortus cardine” by Coelius Sedulius (c. 450).  Sedulius likely converted to Christianity later in life, and used his poetic gifts to show unbelievers that Christianity had much to offer.  This particular poem has each stanza beginning with the subsequent letter of the alphabet, as illustrated in the picture.

Luther abbreviated twenty-three Latin stanzas to eight stanzas in German.  Luther’s fourth stanza was omitted in the translation into The Lutheran Hymnal:

“The holy maid became the abode; And temple of the living God,

And she, who knew not man, was blest; With God’s own Word made manifest.”

Note the sublime mystery of the incarnation described in the fifth stanza.  God, the maker and sustainer of all is Himself made low and fed as an infant.  The Creator became a creature:

Upon a manger filled with hay, In poverty content He lay;

With milk was fed the Lord of all, Who feeds the ravens when they call.

The lessons are Isaiah 11.1–5; Galatians 4.1–7; and St. Luke 2.22–40.
The hymns are: 375 Come, Your Hearts and Voices Raising
384 Of the Father’s Love Begotten
938 In Peace and Joy I Now Depart
TLH 104 Now Praise We Christ, the Holy One
360 All My Heart Again Rejoices
897 O Rejoice, Ye Christians, Loudly
Prelude: Partita on Let All Together Praise Our God -J.G. Walther
Choral Voluntary: Raise a Song, Let Praise Abound –J. Eccard

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