Music Notes | Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

Eric Mellenbruch Associate Director of Music and Organist

This Sunday’s Introit (entrance) chant likely continues the series of Introits taken from the Psalms in numerical order which we discussed in the notes for June 13. Some of these Ordinary Time Introits can seem to have little to do with the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist in general (the Psalmists seem to have had an awful lot of enemies, which we must often understand as those forces spiritual or internal, societal, or sometimes indeed interpersonal or international, which work against the Lord’s intentions for human flourishing), and many of the Introits do not connect with the readings of a particular day, especially in the modern lectionary. This Sunday’s selection from Psalm 74, however, is a worthy prayer at the start of the liturgy:

Look upon your covenant, O LORD, and the congregation you once purchased: do not forsake the lives of your poor. Arise, O LORD our God, and maintain your cause, and do not neglect the voices of those who seek you. 

Remember the tribe you redeemed to be your inheritance, and Mount Zion where you dwell.

This prayer for the people of Israel may equally apply to those who, by the work of Christ, the sacrament of Baptism, the gift of faith – ultimately in God’s mysterious grace – have belatedly joined the assembly of those in covenant relationship with the LORD. It applies to those who are attending the Sunday Eucharist in our historic church building – which, after the institution of the Eucharist, Christ’s Ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is, like every other house of God, an outpost of Zion – and to those who for whatever reasons remain outside, literally on our doorsteps, whom God especially (more infinitely?) loves. 

Another Psalm, appointed in the lectionary to be sung between the Lessons this Sunday, also forms the text of our Offertory anthem (by contemporary artists Shane & Shane) at 11:15. Psalm 34.8 – ’O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are they who trust in him’ – was frequently sung at Communion in the early Church and is appropriate at any Mass; here it accompanies this week’s Gospel in the series from the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse (John 6, also the text of our Communion anthem by Sr Suzanne Toolan). This verse, along with the first verse of the Psalm, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth’, postulates the mouth as an interface between ourselves and the divine: we feed upon the Lord, and in response our mouth is filled with praise. We feast upon God’s Word (and the liturgical word indeed becomes flesh on the lips of the reader; words are physical things in the oral-aural realm), and the words that then come out of our mouths are less likely to be ‘evil talk’ and more likely to be those which ‘build up’ and ‘give grace to those who hear’, as the Apostle admonishes in Sunday’s Epistle. We offer the Eucharist and it is offered for and to us; with it we offer our thanks and praise, and we respond with thanks and praise. Happy – blessed – indeed are they who trust in the LORD. 

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