In safety Christ is borne away. The Hymn of the Day, “Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band,” is included in the electronic version of our hymnal, Lutheran Service Builder (969). It is based on today’s Holy Gospel, the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt and Herod’s murder of the infants of Bethlehem.
This hymn by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413) is from the twelfth poem of his collection called Cathemerinon, written for various hours throughout the day. The poem is called “Hymnus Epiphaniae.” Our version is lines 125-136 and a doxological stanza, and tells the story of Herod’s rage to attempt to murder the young Christ child, killing all boys two years old and younger. The church calls these the Holy Innocents, martyrs whose lives were given for Our Lord, that He might escape in God’s will. The hymn depicts them rejoicing in heaven with palm and crown.
The tune, “Das walt Gott Vater” was originally written by Daniel Vetter (d. 1721), who was organist at St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach would later serve.
Prudentius is perhaps better known for his other hymn that we also sing today as the ENTRANCE HYMN, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (384). This hymn is also part of his series of poems Cathemerinon.
Today’s VOLUNTARY is Psalm 72 by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672). This setting is from the Becker Psalter, a metrical paraphrase of the Psalms by Leipzig theologian Cornelius Becker (1561-1604). Schütz and other composers set the texts to music in various collections, the final one published in 1661.