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In Thee is Gladness

 

“In Thee is Gladness” This quintessential Easter hymn encompasses the joy of Easter morning, a joy which continues this Third Sunday of Easter, just as we celebrate the risen Christ every Sunday morning. We reiterate Easter joy by singing, “Since He is ours, we fear no powers, not of earth nor sin nor death.” The text is replete with the scriptural imagery of the Easter season. The poetry comes from Johann Lindemann (1549-1631) who was born in the cradle of the Reformation, Thuringia. In the 1570s he began a career as a Kantor in the German town of Gotha (“Kantor” is the old Lutheran term for “music director,” but encompassed much more—from organist, choir director, singer, the Kantor generally coordinated the congregation’s, and community’s sacred singing. This is not to be confused with a cantor as found in the modern day Catholic Church, who are oftentimes just glorified lounge singers, or cantors in the Jewish synagogue, who are simply singers.) Lindemann actually composed this particular text for this tune, which was a bit of a rarity in the day. The tune was contemporary, having been composed by Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi, an Italian priest, who was born in 1556 and worked most of his life in Mantua. Gastoldi composed a number of light, dance-like pieces called balletti. These secular pieces lent themselves well to sacred words, and when Lindemann published a collection of his hymns in 1598 in Erfurt, he included two tunes from Gastoldi, including the one we sing this morning set to this text.

            The practice of taking an existing secular melody and adding sacred words is an age-old practice called contrafactum. The final hymn we sang on Good Friday, “Upon the Cross Extended,” is such an example, having originally been composed in the late 15th-century by Heinrich Isaak but associated with the secular text “Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen.” (“Innsbruck, I’m leaving you now”). Later, this became “O Welt, ich muss dich lassen” (world), and eventually many other sacred texts were sung to that old secular tune. Here the circumstance might have been somewhat different because the tune was contemporary and probably would not have been known by anyone in northern Germany (remember, this was the time before copyright law and composers and text-writers were free to use each other’s works without financial burden. In many instances, such appropriations would help a composers tune (or a poet’s text) spread beyond narrow geographic boundaries. Here Lindemann takes a secular tune he would have known as a church musician aware of the latest music from Italy, and creates sacred words for liturgical use. Interestingly, although this tune did not find its way into The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and was therefore not used for several generations, it had been in Lutheran hymnals without break back to the seventeenth century. Bach has an organ setting of the tune. It appears as a listed text and tune throughout the early American Lutheran hymnals. Its inclusion in Lutheran Worship (1978) was a late rectifying of an injustice for having not been included in TLH. An entire generation had not grown up singing this tune, they didn’t know it, and then they thought it a novel innovation in 1978. With its further inclusion in LSB, hopefully it has regained a bit in popularity since then, as the sprightly tune wonderfully encompasses the joy of Easter.

 

Posted by Benjamin Kolodziej with

Ye Sons and Daughters of the King

 

“Ye sons and daughters of the King”  This text was written by Jean Tisserand, a friar who died in 1494.  Little is known about Tisserand except that he was a Parisian and founded a monastery for “penitent women.”  (One does wonder for what they were penitent.) 

            There are several notable elements of this hymn, and one can get a glimpse into the mind of the medieval/Renaissance writer.  This hymn is not primarily a catalogue of doctrine (“We all believe in one true God”), an abstruse expression of feelings (“I love You, Lord”), or a theological but poetical explication of Scripture (“Holy, Holy, Holy.”)  Rather, this hymn faithfully tells the story of Jesus’ appearing to His disciples a week after the resurrection, the account of which we read in the Gospel of John this morning.  From the apostles meeting “in fear,” to Thomas’ doubting, to Jesus’ showing His wounds, and to Thomas’ believing, we are led in this story through song (and there are manifold stanzas that are omitted this morning which would tell even more of the story.)  The “verses” of each of these stanzas attempt to recount the story faithfully, while we are given a chance to respond to these objective facts with a tripartite “alleluia” at the end of each stanza.  Medieval hymnody, in general, was “objective” in the sense that the hymn was not meant to codify one’s personal feelings about anything and one did not sing necessarily to express one’s feelings.  Rather, one sang in order to begin to comprehend the incomprehensible as exemplified in the final stanza:

Blessed are they that have not seen
And yet whose faith has constant been;
In life eternal they shall reign.  Alleluia!
 

Faith is the belief in something not understood or seen fully.  In one way, this hymn (and Jesus’ words in this Scripture reading) exemplifies medieval worship.  The glorious cathedrals were meant to inspire.  From the tower which beckoned for miles around, to the bright stained-glass windows meant to encapsulate bible stories for a pre-literate culture, to the smells of incense, candles and aged wood (and probably smelly people and farm animals, but those do not fit my analogy), to the serene chants reverberating through the nave, the cathedral was meant to be otherworld and mystical, yet also completely concrete and real.  One could see it, touch it, smell it, and even sleep and live in it, as many pilgrims would do for weeks.  Yet, at least in the view of their builders, these were buildings whose architectural groundplans and geometric ratios were taken directly from the mind of God (from I Kings 6).  They were as close to “heaven” as one could find on earth.  They were visible, tangible representations of what otherwise could only be known in faith.  Thomas doubted even after Christ appeared;  only after touching His wounds did Thomas believe.  The medieval mind, just as with the modern mind, can do its best to exemplify God’s presence through physical representation;  however, it is not possible for us to “prove” our faith as it was for Thomas.  This, perhaps, is a good thing.  And certainly bestows upon us Christ’s promise, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” 

 

Posted by Benjamin Kolodziej with

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