He saw the feet, the hands, the side;
’Thou art my Lord and God,’ he cried.
- Verse five of O Sons and Daughters. Tr. John Mason Neale (1818-1866)
Alleluia, indeed! This week at Christ Church, we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter (the first Sunday was Easter Day) also known as “Low Sunday” and “Thomas Sunday”. Often, there is low attendance at churches on this day because it is the week after Easter. The clergy and musicians are usually tired, and nothing terribly special happens. At least, that is too often the assumption. However, this is one of my very favorite Sundays of the year, and I am excited about our music and liturgy this week! We will still sing Easter hymns with gusto on Sunday, and even though the choir has last Wednesday off, they will present a beautiful offertory chant that is specifically designed for this Sunday above all others. The organ, although much of it is non-functional due to very necessary maintenance and repairs, will resound with gorgeous church music composed by J. S. Bach during the prelude and postlude.
The role of the church organist is often mysterious. The pipe organ, the most complex machine invented by humankind prior to the Industrial Revolution, is one of the most unique, tremendous, and beautiful instruments one could wish to play or hear. Our organ truly is the voice of our sacred space. Every time the organ sounds, our historic edifice reverberates and serves as the “mixing bowl” for this music. In this way, the room is almost as much a part of the organ’s sound as the pipes themselves. Such a complex instrument requires a lot of attention to detail on the part of the organist! Often one thing or the other is in need of tuning or repair, and the organist, like a good shepherd, must know his or her instrument completely. Then they should use this knowledge to blend and draw out the best sounds for Divine worship. The organist serves not only as a musician, but as a minister of the very voice of the church building. When so much of the organ is silent due to repairs, I see this as a puzzle. Come and hear a different side of our organ this Sunday. I think you’ll like it.
Earlier, I mentioned that the choir will offer a special chant at the offertory. This piece, O Sons and Daughters, is an old French church melody with nebulous roots in and allusions to ancient chant. The text, written by Jean Tisserand (died 1494), expresses the beautiful story of Christ appearing to the apostles after the Resurrection. The middle verses focus on St. Thomas, the main character in Sunday’s Gospel reading. Hopefully, we will all find renewed inspiration in this simple but beautiful “Low Sunday” liturgy!