Prelude: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland [BWV 659]* Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) Based Veni Redemptor Gentium by St. Ambrose [Aurelius Ambrosius] ( c. 340 – 397). Here is a link to the original: Latin. This music is from a large body of monophonic music (one line) that is called Ambrosian Chant. It is particular to the Arch-Diocese of Milan. It is very different from Gregorian chant that is used in the rest of Italy and indeed the rest of the world. That is because St. Ambrose and St. Gregory, the Great, were contemporaries of each other and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a bird, sang different melodies into the ears of the two saints.Image result for st gregory and the bird  Here is Martin Luther’s hymn: Note that it is sung without accompaniment. The German chorales were never accompanied. Here is the translation:

1. Now come, Saviour of the gentiles,
recognised as the child of the Virgin,
so that all the world is amazed
God ordained such a birth for him.

2. Not from man’s flesh and blood
but only from the Holy Spirit
has God’s Word became man
and flourishes as the fruit of a woman’s body.

3. The virgin’s body was pregnant,
but her chastity remained pure,
in this way her many virtues shine clearly,
God was there on his throne.

4. He went forth from his chamber,
from the royal palace so pure,
by nature God and man, a hero,
he hastens to run his way.

5. His course came from the Father
and leads back to the Father,
he went down to Hell
and back to God’s throne.

6. You who are equal to the Father,
be victorious in the flesh
so that your eternal divine power
may support our weak flesh.

7. Your crib shines bright and clear,
in the night there is a new light,
darkness must not overpower it,
faith remains always radiant.

8. Praise be given to God the Father,
praise be to God his only Son;
praise be to god the Holy Ghost
for ever and always.

From the very simple hymn melody, Bach turns it into a very highly decorated version. It is so ornate that it is difficult to hear the original. It is very beautiful. Here is a link: Note the ever moving bass.

Offertory: Rejoice in the Lord * Anon. 16th Century

Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men, The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in ev‘ry thing by pray’r and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The link is to Guildford Cathedral Choir, directed by Barry Rose Recording in Guildford Cathedral, June 1965: