Have mercy, Lord! Martin Luther (1483-1546) understood the importance of music in teaching the faith. Luther wrote a hymn to go with the chief parts of the Catechism.
Today’s ENTRANCE HYMN, “These Are the Holy Ten Commands” (581) is Luther’s hymn on the Ten Commandments. Each stanza proclaims the meaning of a commandment, and then prays: “Have mercy, Lord.” Our Lord shows His mercy in His forgiveness when we fall short of the Law’s demand. “Forgive us, Lord! To Christ we flee, Who pleads for us endlessly.”
Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also should walk in newness of life. The Epistle points to our new life in Holy Baptism.
Christ’s Baptism to fulfill all righteousness gives Christians forgiveness of sins and the inheritance of heaven. The HYMN TO DEPART, “To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord” (406) recounts Christ’s baptism by John in the Jordan (St. Matthew 3.13-17).
This hymn by Luther was the last in his series of hymns on the six chief parts of the Catechism. First published in 1541, it presents the biblical doctrine of Baptism as Luther expressed it in a sermon on Baptism in 1540, as well as the Large and Small Catechisms.
The tune was written earlier for Luther’s Psalm 67 hymn, “May God Bestow On Us His Grace” (823); it became associated exclusively with “To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord” soon after its publication.
Clavier Übung III Today’s PRELUDE is a setting of Luther’s hymn on Holy Baptism (Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam) by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) from his collection Clavier Übung III. The manuals feature motives imitating the sound of water, while the pedal plays the melody on a 4-foot reed stop.
“Clavier Übung” means “keyboard practice,” and calls to mind similarly-named works of earlier composers. Parts I, II, and IV of Bach’s Clavier Übung were for harpsichord. Part III was written for organ, and contains chorale preludes on Luther’s Catechism hymns, as well as hymns on the Kyrie, “Kyrie, God Father in Heaven Above” (942) and the Gloria, “All Glory Be to God on High” (947). For each of the catechism hymns, Bach wrote both a smaller, simpler arrangement and a larger arrangement, perhaps reminding hearers of the Small and Large Catechisms.
All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall… But Christ, the Second Adam, Came The HYMN OF THE DAY, “All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall,” (562) is part of the core of Reformation hymnody by Lazarus Spengler (1479-1534). It was printed in one of the earliest Lutheran hymnals, Geystliche gesangk Buckleyn in 1524. It also has the distinction of being quoted in the Formula of Concord (1577) in the Solid Declaration I on original sin.