Music Notes | Third Sunday After Pentecost

Eric Mellenbruch
Associate Director of Music
and Organist

Sunday’s Epistle (Romans 6.1–11) comprises St Paul’s fine meditation upon Christ’s death and resurrection and our participation in it through baptism: a text quoted repeatedly in the Prayer Book (it is part of the canticle ‘Christ our Passover’; parts of it also appear in the Good Friday Anthems; it is quoted in the invitation to the Renewal of Baptismal Vows and in the prayers at the Burial of the Dead; and the phrase ‘newness of life’ appears in several forms of Confession). 

Sunday’s anthem quotes this passage; the text is also paraphrased in Hymn 296, ‘We know that Christ is raised and dies no more’, in striking modern terms (though the of-the-moment 1960s language was toned down; note also the lack of rhyme, still unusual for English-language hymnody). Here the Apostle’s message is linked to the ‘new creation’ of II Corinthians 5 and expanded to include ‘the universe restored and whole’; the brief text thus encompasses the individual, the ecclesial, and the cosmic ramifications of Christ’s saving and sacramental work. The tune, Stanford’s ‘Engelberg’, was written for ‘For all the saints’, but, being supplanted by Vaughan Williams’s ‘Sine Nomine’ for that purpose, has found a place serving several other texts, including three in the Hymnal 1982. 

‘O Jesus, I have promised’ (655) matches Sunday’s Gospel passage, in which Our Lord warns of dangers, but also promises rewards, for those who follow him. The text was written around 1868 for the Confirmation of the author’s children, an occasion perhaps reflected most in the second stanza. The last stanza, of course, draws upon Christ’s words to the repentant thief at the Crucifixion, lending a more corporate note to this otherwise quite subjective text. The shapely Finnish folk tune is friendly to the ear though perhaps not, because of its wide range, to every voice!

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