Moving forward from this, our hymns also reflect Christ in triumph. Crown him with many crowns begins our celebration, and Jesus shall reign where’er the sun concludes. In between, we will sing Let all mortal flesh keep silence and At the Name of Jesus, among other things. These hymns tie in the images given to us from the Book of Revelation, speaking of the majesty of Christ and of heavenly worship.
It would be a bit one sided to only focus on Christ adored by angels and enthroned in heaven, however. One of the great paradoxes of our faith is that a central image of Christ’s reign is from the cross. This image of Christ’s sacrifice is central to understanding the awesome power of his victory. Accordingly, the choir will offer Ave Verum Corpus by William Byrd (c. 1539-1623) during the offertory. Byrd was an English composer of the late Renaissance period who was miraculously able to keep his head (literally) during the English Reformation. A devout Catholic, Byrd composed many beautiful Latin pieces for sacred use. One of his most beautiful and often performed works is the Ave Verum Corpus. A translation is provided below.
Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]
in the trial of death.
O sweet Jesus, O holy Jesus,
O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.
These words may be familiar to us from Mozart’s more famous setting, but perhaps Byrd’s setting will help us reflect on them in a new light. This text speaks powerfully to Christ’s identity, mission, and uniqueness. I think this prayer would be a fitting offering for a king such as ours.
As we celebrate Christ in majesty on Sunday, the music is designed to approach this from several different viewpoints. How much sweeter our praises will be when we view the immensity of Christ’s identity. It is my hope that our varied offering of pieces will help us do just that!