These are the Holy Ten Commands As our Lent midweek Vespers this year focuses on catechesis on the Ten Commandments, we sing the corresponding hymn stanzas from Luther’s commandments hymn (581). Despite the existence of medieval hymns on the commandments, Luther wrote his own in 1524. Along with hymns on the other chief parts, it was sung as part of catechetical sermons and instruction in Luther’s day and continues, as we do this evening, to this day. After a stanza summarizing the teaching of each commandment, the final two stanzas teach the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.
The PRELUDE is by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) from his collection Clavier-Übung III. Sometimes called the German Organ Mass, it includes 21 chorale preludes on hymns on the parts of the Mass (Divine Service) and Luther’s hymns on the six chief parts. For each of the hymns on the chief parts, Bach writes a shorter setting (corresponding to the Small Catechism); and a longer setting (corresponding to the Large Catechism). Tonight, we hear the longer setting of “These are the Holy Ten Commands” (BWV 678). The ritornello in the right hand and pedal is independent from the chorale melody played in the left hand, in a canon (round). The except at the right demonstrates the patterns throughout the prelude. The final phrase of the melody “Have mercy, Lord!” is shown in the middle staff, played by the left hand. The melody is followed by the melody in canon at the octave in the following measure.