Grant Us Thy Peace
Felix Mendelssohn, arranged by Walter Ehret
Before I begin, I have to admit, I felt a bit silly programming two anthems focused on the idea of Peace in a row. However, before you claim it an oversight, let me explain.
In contrast to last week’s modern anthem, this week’s music is an absolute masterpiece of the Romantic era. Robert Schumann, a famed contemporary composer said of the piece: “The small piece deserves to be world famous and will become so in the future; the Madonnas of Raphael and Murillo cannot remain hidden for long.” History proved him right.
Though the English translation is somewhat new, the contours of this music are virtually untouched from its Romantic origins. The original Mendelssohn chorale cantata was a German paraphrase by Martin Luther of the Latin prayer, “Da pacem Domine,” from the 6th or 7th Century. Luther, the champion of vernacular worship that he was, would’ve appreciated that our musical offering on Sunday comes to us in our Native tongue.
On to the topic of Peace. In contrast to the large-scale, worldwide peace mentioned in last week’s anthem, the peace prayed for through this week’s anthem is an internal, personal peace. In the Gospel reading from Mark 10:35-45, we see the Disciples scrambling for, essentially, the position of top Disciple. It’s amazing how intrinsically human it is to create a rat race out of anything, isn’t it?
With that instinct in mind, perhaps then, the peace sought out through the choir’s sung prayer this week is the peace of not being in competition with our neighbors. A peace found when life is not a series of positions to jockey for, but an opportunity to work, as a team, to make the running of the race a bit more bearable…maybe even beautiful.
Grant us that Peace, O Lord.
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church