Holy Week and Easter Sunday

also known as Holy Week, contains some of the most dramatic music from the pens of great comp

     The final week of Lent, closes, with the focus being on the suffering, Passion, and crucifixion of Christ.  Our Palm Sunday worship starts with the great triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, as Jesus is proclaimed King of Israel by the gathered crowds at Jerusalem, the same crowd whose cries of “Hosanna!” will all too soon turn to “Crucify!”.   Our liturgy thus begins with the great processional hymn “All Glory, Laud and Honor”, with a text written by the 9th-century priest Theodulph of Orleans.  These words were later sung as a Palm Sunday processional in such diverse locations as Hereford, England, and Tours and Rouen in France, being sung first at the town’s gates and later at the entrances to the churches themselves.  In our liturgy, this mood of triumph changes after the Passion gospel is read, and a more sober and introspective tone takes over for the remainder of the service, which is reflected in the hymns and music.  The final hymn of the day, “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded”, is an observation of, and prayer to, Christ on the cross.  The text comes from the hand of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and the German translation of his original Latin became the ultimate expression of Holy Week in the Lutheran churches of the Reformation.  The English translation in our Hymnal 1940 was made by Robert Bridges, poet laureate of England in the early 20th-century.  Lastly, the organ postlude for Palm Sunday is quiet and introspective, as befits the conclusion of a service that ushers us into Holy Week; Bach’s great prelude on the Passiontide chorale “O Man, bewail thy great sin” will be heard this year.

     Maundy Thursday’s hymns reflect both the Epistle’s focus on the institution of Christ’s body and blood as the Holy Eucharist, and the Gospel’s continuing Passion narrative.  The great plainsong hymn Pange lingua is sung as a fitting conclusion to the liturgy, with words that comment on the final meal shared by Jesus with the disciples before going into the garden of Gethsemane to begin his final agony. 

     Our celebration of Easter Day is appropriately filled with great music, including hymns both beautiful and familiar.  “Jesus Christ is Ris’n Today”, “He is Risen” and “At the Lamb’s High Feast” are among the great hymns for the day, with texts from Latin originals translated by Miles Coverdale and John Mason Neale, among others.  Careful observers will note that the composer of the well known “Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain” is none other than Sir Arthur Sullivan, of “Gilbert and Sullivan” fame!  Sullivan composed some of the best Victorian hymn tunes, and was actually a bit frustrated that he was known principally as the composer of the Savoy operas, and not for his more serious undertakings.  How many of us know that the music for arguably the most famous Victorian hymn was actually written by Sullivan?  The tune is St. Gertrude, and the hymn we all know is “Onward, Christian Soldiers”!

     Texts and music from the great heritage of church history all combine to assist us in delving deeply into this, the richest and most profound time in our liturgical year, as celebrated at Trinity Anglican Church.

Holy Week 2023

Palm Sunday Holy Eucharist 9:30 AM

Monday Morning Prayer 10:00 AM

Tuesday Morning Prayer 10:00 AM

Wednesday Morning Prayer 10:00 AM

Maundy Thursday Morning Prayer 10:00 AM

Holy Eucharist 5:00 PM

Mass / Vigil ends 10:00 PM

Good Friday Morning Prayer 8:00 AM

Divine Liturgy 10;00 AM

Seven Last Words 12:00 – 3:00PM

Evening Prayer 5:00 PM

Stations of the Cross 5:00 PM

Sunday Holy Easter Eucharist 9:30 AM

Music at Trinity

Lent 2023

     Our annual observance of the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday (this year falling on 22 February), with its emphasis on repentance and contrition in the face of human sin.  Since the season is one of discipline, restraint and self-examination, exuberant music is out of place (we’ll have to wait until Easter for that!), so the organ music and the manner of hymn playing will reflect this.  The postludes, for example, are chorales (hymns of the Lutheran church, whose texts relate to the day’s theme), rather than larger concert works.  This music serves to conclude each service with beauty and definition but without any sense of extrovert celebration, which would be out of place in the Lenten observance.  Also, the word “alleluia” is not heard during Lent, as it is a word of Easter jubilation.

     The five Sundays in Lent explore various aspects of God’s call to repentance, and the Gospel themes include Christ’s temptation in the wilderness, the driving out of the dumb spirit, God’s call to holiness, and Christ as both Priest and Victim.  The focus on God’s calling of His people to repentance is first heard on Ash Wednesday, and continued on the first Lenten Sunday with the further reading of Jesus’ temptation after forty days of fasting in the wilderness.  Because of this, we will sing two particular hymns on the Wednesday and again on the Sunday, namely “The glory of these forty days” and “Lord, who throughout these forty days”, as this is a wonderful opportunity to sing each hymn in midst of different services with their own particular focus.  The former hymn has a text dating to the tenth century, and the words of the latter hymn originally appeared in a hymnal for children in 1873, yet both texts enumerate the ideas of fasting and temptation in a distinctive yet complementary manner.  The fourth Sunday in Lent is traditionally known as “Laetare” (rejoice) Sunday, from the first word of the Latin introit for the day.  On this day the strictness of the Lenten fast is somewhat relaxed, as this is the midpoint of the Lenten journey to Easter.  Purple hangings are often replaced by rose colour, itself a shade that falls “halfway” between Lenten purple and Easter white.

     Some of the great hymns for Lent are also some of the most familiar and well loved:  “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” (with a text by John Greenleaf Whittier), “O for a closer walk with God”, “Turn back, o man, forswear thy foolish ways”, and the well-known “My faith looks up to thee” all explore different aspects of the Lenten message.  The organ music also illustrates the many aspects of Lenten devotion, whether personal prayer or corporate liturgy.  Music based on many of the hymn tunes provides the listener with the opportunity to hear a familiar tune in an artistic and more complex musical garb, and the great repertoire of the 18th-century masters provide a comprehensive musical canvas for the Lenten observance.

     Next month’s music column will focus on the great drama of Holy Week, and the joyous celebration of Easter,