The Only Son from Heaven The HYMN OF THE DAY (402) has its roots in the medieval hymn Of the Father’s Love Begotten: Christ comes forth from the heart of the Father (Corde natus ex parentis).
This hymn is by the first female hymn writer of the Reformation era, Elizabeth Cruciger (1500-1535). Her family fled religious persecution in Poland, and settled in Wittenberg. There, Elizabeth met her husband Casper Cruciger, one of Luther’s most promising students. He eventually became pastor in Magdeburg and professor in Wittenberg.
The Cruciger family and the Luther family were friends. Luther’s hymns were a regular part of their family life and influenced Elizabeth’s hymn writing. It is supposed that she wrote other hymns, although she died at a young age and “The Only Son From Heaven” has alone survived.
This strong Epiphany text reinforces Christ’s fulfillment of prophesy, to be the Light in the darkness, to open heaven for sinners and give life to the dead. Christians journey through life with Christ before us, allowing us a foretaste of heaven until we “may reap its fullness there.” The tune was an existing tune chosen by Cruciger for her text.
The PRELUDE is a partita (multi-movement musical composition with variations on a theme) on this tune by Donald Rotermund (b. 1932). He served as director of music of Zion—Dallas and was a member of the music editorial advisory committee of Concordia Publishing House. The partita we hear today has five movements:
- Chorale – simple, four-part harmonization of the hymn
- Triplum – three independent voices
- Bicinium – melody and counterpoint
- Trio – counterpoint voices on the manual with melody in the pedal
- Toccata – free-style virtuosic movement with melody in the pedal
Today’s VOLUNTARY is a setting of an ancient Vespers antiphon, “O admirable commercium,” by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612). With six choral parts, today we hear the soprano part sung by the soloist with the organ playing the other parts.
O admirabile commercium! O wondrous exchange:
Creator generis humani, the Creator of humankind,
animatum corpus sumens, taking upon him a living body,
de Virgine nasci dignatus est: vouchsafed to be born of a Virgin
et procedens homo sine semine, and, without seed, becoming a man,
largitus est nobis suam Deitatem. hath made us partakers of his Divinity.
Born in Germany, he went to Venice to study music, where he became friends with Giovanni Gabrieli, and studied with his uncle, Andrea Gabrieli. Hassler went on to serve as an organist in Augsburg and Kapellmeister in Nuremberg and Dresden. He as also an expert in organ design.