Have mercy, Lord! The hymn for our focus during Lent Vespers this year is Martin Luther’s hymn on the Ten Commandments: “These Are the Holy Ten Commands” (581). This is the longer of Luther’s two hymns on the commandments. Written in 1524, it was sung by 1525 as part of Lent services with preaching based on the catechism.
The first stanza being an introduction to the historical narrative of Moses’ reception of the commandments, each of the following stanzas focuses on the succeeding commandments, with the ninth and tenth commandments combined in stanza ten.
Luther saw the importance of instruction and prayer through music, and so he wrote hymns on the six chief parts of Christian doctrine. To express both Law and Gospel and ground hearers in the whole plan of salvation, Luther includes stanzas eleven and twelve as a summary:
“Our works cannot salvation gain; they merit only endless pain.
Forgive us, Lord, to Christ we flee, Who pleads for us endlessly.”
Luther set his text to an existing hymn from the thirteenth century: “In Gottes Namen fahren wir.”
Prelude: A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth -Johann Pachelbel (1648-1694)
Voluntary: These are the Holy Ten Commands -Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)