The processional hymn is, Come, thou fount of every blessing, a hymn that speaks about our journey to and sometimes away from God, “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.” This supplication made to God is probably something we all can relate to on some level. Like the woman at the well, we behold the mystery of the eternal fountain of grace and, “Streams of mercy never ceasing” do indeed “call for songs of loudest praise.”
The sequence hymn is perhaps the best possible choice for this Sunday. Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless speaks directly about water from the rock and eternal food. It also ties in the mystery of the Eucharist. As we sing together this week, can the following verse be our prayer? The author has made a connection between Sunday’s gospel reading and the last supper, the Eucharist.
“Lord, sup with us in love divine,
thy Body and thy Blood,
that living bread, that heavenly wine,
be our immortal food.”
- James Montgomery (1771-1854), alt.
The recessional hymn, Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, is also a great illustrator of Sunday’s lessons. It speaks of being a “pilgrim through this barren land,” and it also sings of the “crystal fountain.” There are plenty of opportunities for you to sing the themes from our scriptures yourselves this week, but there is also a special organ prelude to reflect on divine providence.
Psalm-Prelude No. III, Book I, by Herbert Howells (1892-1983), is an extraordinary organ composition. Howell’s psalm-preludes are all very beautiful, but this one stands out. It is based on the fourth verse of Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Expressed through the beauty of English tone-painting, one can hear the plodding footsteps through the valley along with a theme of heaviness and sadness. Gradually, the piece crescendos into one of the most heartfelt depictions of God’s presence with us that I have heard in an organ piece. The “plodding footsteps” theme is transformed into an expression of heroism and confidence before the piece dies away much in the same way it began, but without the same heaviness. Howell’s music is designed to wash over the listener and create a sound-space for reflection. I hope it will have this effect for you on Sunday.
Remember that our Lenten Music at Noon series continues this Wednesday, March 22nd, with a concert featuring Gosia Leska, violinist, and Katherine Powell, soprano. There will be some very interesting music that you won’t want to miss!