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Music for the Transfiguration of Our Lord

Your life our lives supplying   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (395) is the “Queen of Chorales,” one of the most significant hymns of the Church.  It also serves as the Hymn of the Day for Epiphany (January 6), and provides a fitting “bookend” to summarize themes of the Epiphany season.

Each stanza is rich in scriptural imagery and serves as a method of proclaiming and teaching doctrine for every Christian.  Stanza two, for example, describes Christ as the Vine and Christians as branches of Him, the Vine, as Jesus teaches in St. John 15.1-7.  Our only life is in Him: “As living branches of a tree, Your life our lives supplying.”  We live in Him until we rest in Him forever.

The PRELUDE is a setting by Jan O. Bender (1909-1994).  Born in the Netherlands, he studied organ in Germany.  He was a professor of music at Valparaiso University, Concordia University—Seward, and Wittenberg University—Springfield, Ohio.

With shining face and bright array, Christ deigns to manifest today   The DISTRIBUTION HYMN, “O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair!” (413) is a Latin hymn from England in the 1495 Sarum Breviary, written for the Transfiguration.  As it recalls the account of Jesus’ transfiguration, it also shows its connection in the life of a Christian: “We pray Thee, bring us by Thy grace; To see Thy glory face to face.”  Christ’s transfiguration is an event that gives hope and comfort to the Christian in this life to sustain us unto eternal life.

The tune Deo gratias was used to celebrate the return of England’s King Henry V from his victory over France in the 1415 Battle of Agincourt.  When adapted in the twentieth-century to serve this hymn text, it was described as “a magnificently direct and stirring tune, with a vehement dignity, and remarkable expression of triumphant pride.”

“Farewell to Alleluia” and Septuagesima: The remnant of Israel (Judah) was taken captive and exiled in Babylon for 70 years until Cyrus, king of the Persians, conquered the Babylonians and set them free. This foreshadowed what Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection, freeing His people from our bondage to sin, death, and hell. The Christian Church celebrates her deliverance by Jesus especially in the last three days of Holy Week: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter.

Next Sunday is nearly 70 days before Easter, and it bears the name Septuagesima, which means “seventieth.” The Epiphany season proclaimed the significance of Bethlehem for the Gentiles; now we set our faces toward Jerusalem (St. Luke 9.51).

In imitation of exiled Judah, our services give up some of their songs. Think of Psalm 137: By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There we hung our harps on the willows. For those who carried us away captive required of us a song, saying, “sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? The first song that is omitted is the Gloria in Excelsis. The other “song” is the word Alleluia, which means, “Praise the Lord.”

The Hymn to Depart today bids a farewell to Alleluia (stanza 3), and we set it aside for a time. (The next time we sing it will be in triumphant, full-throated joy at the Easter Vigil!) Following Transfiguration, we pause to hear our Lord’s teaching on grace, His holy Word, and saving faith (the three “Gesima” Sundays). Then we will follow Him for 40 days through the desert (Lent) and at last to deliverance (Holy Week and Easter). -Adapted from the Rev. Sean C. Daenzer, Director of Worship, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

The lessons are Exodus 34.29–35; 2 Peter 1.16–21; and St. Matthew 17.1–9.
The hymns are: 810 O God of God, O Light of Light
415 Jesus on the Mountain Peak
395 O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright
TLH 130 O Jesus, King of Glory
413 O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair!
533 Jesus Has Come and Brings Pleasure Eternal
417 Alleluia, Song of Gladness
Choral Voluntary: Arise, Shine, for Thy Light Has Come -Healey Willan

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