The Passion and Holy Week

Agios Demetrios No 12
St Demetrios disused Skete on the Holy Mountain

The  last two weeks of Lent are also called Passiontide. Daily Prayer provides different canticles from the rest of Lent, though there is some overlap. There are also some suggestions in the Collection for psalms that are particularly suitable for some of the events of Holy Week. Those for Daily Prayer come first.

Morning Prayer

Opening –

Daily Prayer provides A Song of Lamentation, Lamentations 1.12,16a,b; 3.19,21-26,31-33.  The rendering in this Collection takes its title from its first half line Is it nothing to you? It is in Double Short Metre, and is set to a beautiful Welsh tune in E Minor, LLanllyfni by John Jones (Talysarn) (1797-1857) and arranged by David Jenkins (1849-1915).  John Johns was a Calvinist Methodist Minister and celebrated preacher. He lived at Talysarn, which is traditionally linked to his name to distinguish him from the many other John Jones there were in North Wales at the time. Talysarn and Llanllyfni are near Caernarfon. Both communities are predominantly Welsh speaking and Llanllyfni is one of the places where the Christmas singing tradition of Plygain survives to this day.  Here  is a link to a copy of a painting of him in the National Library of Wales,

Canticle between the Readings –

This is Isaiah 63.1-3a,7-9, called in CWDP A Song of the Lord’s Gracious Deeds and in the Collection, Who is this from Edom?  after its first line. These are powerful words.  Here are the first three stanzas in Common Metre.

1. Who is this that from Edom comes ~ from Bozrah, robes stained red?
Who is this clad so splendidly ~ striding in power and dread?

2. “It is I shouting righteousness. ~ I am mighty to save.”
“And why are your clothes red like one ~ who treads the winepress brave?”

3. “The winepress I have trod alone. ~ No one stood there with me.
I trampled them in anger and ~ in wrath trod grapes with glee”.

It is set to Evan by Revd W. H. Havergal (1793-1870). There are two versions of that tune in the tunebook, recommended for different canticles. One is as the composer originally wrote it.  The other, provided for this canticle, was converted into triple time by a mid-nineteenth American composer Lowell Mason. This may be cheek coming from someone with as few musical talents as me, but I have to admit that I do not generally rate Lowell Mason very highly. For once, though, I have to admit that I think the time change works. I also think it fits this canticle well. However, I still think there are other features 0f his arrangement that remain, as I put it in the tunebook, “embarrassingly trite”.  The triple time version in the Collection, therefore adopts Lowell Mason’s timing, but reverts to Havergal’s harmonies.

DP suggests three possible alternatives.  That is quite generous for a season that only lasts a fortnight. One is Solomon’s Seal, Song of Solomon 8:6-7 which in the Collection is in 11, 11, 11, 11 and is set to the tune of ‘She moved through the Fair’.  The Collection suggests this as a solo item for weddings.  Another is Jonah’s Prayer, Jonah 2: 2-7, 9, CM in the collection and set to Stroudwater, a tune which despite its name seems to be better known in Scotland than Gloucestershire.  The third is the Prayer of Habakkuk, Habakkuk 3.2-4,13a,15-19.  As yet I have not put that into metre, but it is the extract ends with the inspirational words, ‘Though the fig tree may not blossom …. etc …. yet I will rejoice in the LORD’.

Evening Prayer

Opening –

Daily Prayer provides the hymn, The royal banners forward go, a versification in Long Metre by J. M. Neale of an ancient Latin hymn.

Canticle between the Readings –

This is what CWDP calls The Song of Christ’s Glory and the Collection, Philippian Hymn, Philippians 2.5-11.  The version in the Collection is one of the first that I wrote, several years ago.  It is in Short Metre, and is set to the very simple tune Franconia, well known as the usual tune for Blest are the pure in heart. Daily Prayer also allocates this to Thursday evenings in Ordinary Time.  Many commentaries think that it is an ancient hymn. Here are the words,

1.    Though with the form of God  ~ to it he did not cling,
2.    Emptied Himself in guise of man  ~ as servant suffering,

3.    And found in human form  ~ his glory laid aside;
Obediently he bowed his neck  ~ and on a cross he died.

4.    So God has raised him up  ~ bestowed on him a name.
What is that name above all names?  ~  Christ Jesus is the same.

5.    To it each knee and tongue  ~ in heaven earth or hell
6.    Shall bow and vouch him as their Lord  ~ the Father’s glory spell.

There is an optional additional verse 7, which is transposed from the verses immediately preceding the hymn,

7.   Consider not your own  ~ but others’ needs accord
And have this mind among yourselves ~ the mind of Christ the Lord.

This is also one of the alternatives suggested for the same position in ‘just-Lent’ – see the previous post.  As it happens, For you Christ suffered, – again see the previous post – is suggested as an alternative canticle here for this season. The other is Jesus Saviour of the World otherwise known as Salvator Mundi  and Friday hymn because it used to be provided for Fridays in the Alternative Service Book. The version in the collection is in 7777 D, and set to Parry’s Aberystwyth, (Jesu Lover of my soul.). CWDP also provides it as a possible alternative to the Benedictus in this season at Morning Prayer.

Night Prayer (Compline)

Psalm 139 carries on through this season – again see the previous post.

Holy Week

Here are some suggestions from the collection.

Evening Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday

However one conducts this, it should be special. It should strongly express a sense of “Why is this night different from all other nights?”.  Matt 26:30 says “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”.  I have heard it said that what they sang could well have been all or part of Psalm 118. Book 5A provides vv 14-24 of that psalm set out to be sung to Richmond, the tune usually associated with Come let us join our joyful songs. This is suitable either to be sung in the service, or if the service concludes with a watch in the garden, at that point.

A second possibility, this one from the lectionary, is that Psalm 116: 10-end is suitable for a service that recalls the institution of Holy Communion. It includes these lines,

10.    So what return to him can I ~ for all his bounty make?
11.    On the name of the LORD, I’ll call; ~ salvation’s cup I’ll take.
12.    And public’ly shall I repay ~ my vows unto the LORD.
So all his people shall behold ~ the acts that I record.

It has its own proper tune in DCM.

The other suggestion in the Collection is that there are two related ideas for Good Friday. I have described elsewhere on this site how singing sections from the Collection’s version of Psalm 22 at key points in a Good Friday service, to the tune St Anne, O God our help in ages past sent shivers up my spine and make my hair stand on end. It was the combination of how the simple words identify with the Crucifixion with the austerity of the tune.

Psalm 22, though, is not the only psalm which is particularly linked to the Crucifixion. Another is Psalm 69.

1.    Save me O God, the waters rise; ~ they overwhelm my breath:
They swamp my soul, and reach my eyes, ~ bring me to brink of death.
2.    I sink in depths of mire and clay, ~ where I can feel no ground:
And in deep waters, where I may ~ be swept away and drowned.

In the Collection, it is in DCM and is set to Third Mode Melody by Thomas Tallis. It has four parts, which could be linked to sections of a Good Friday service. Psalm 22 has three sections. By using both psalms, they could provide transition points for seven sections of a service, say, for example, one built round the Seven Last Words.


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