This Sunday’s Music: Sunday V of Lent

Oh yes, SFDS, we celebrated Laetare Sunday! Like the merciful father who threw a party in honor of his returning son, we rejoiced heartily. Today, we leave behind the glamorous joy of yester-week and return to our introspective path toward the Resurrection. Next week, Jesus will ride on into Jerusalem to initiate His Passion, but this week, we look almost past that event and focus on our upward goal by clinging to the Rock, in Whom we must place our trust.

You can check out our music on our weekly Youtube playlist below and also by visiting our growing Youtube channel (at


This is the final week, in which we will sing our Lenten processional hymn, Raise Me Up. We have used this mantra for the past five weeks, calling upon the Lord. We have heard the voice of our Savior. We find refuge in His goodness. And in today’s First Reading from Isaiah 43, we are reminded of the new Exodus promised to the Jewish people. In the Paschal Mystery, we are freed from the bondage of sin and given second birth. Truly He will raise us up to our skyward goal!


A key feature of the Easter Vigil, which is approaching rapidly this year at 7:30 PM on April 20th, is the extensive Liturgy of the Word, in which we recount the marvellous deeds of the Lord throughout history. It’s as if this week’s Psalm were prepping us for that very night… and this setting of Psalm 126 by Jaime Cortez definitely hits home that point with its bright Calypso-esque feel. No, this is not an adaptation of Under the Sea.


The current generation may be immediately familiar with this song since it was performed by none other than the famous Chaka Khan at the equally famous Aretha Franklin’s funeral; however, this song, famously interpreted by Tramaine Hawkins, has earned itself a place in the legacy of gospel music. In today’s Second Reading, Paul tells us: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians‬ ‭3:14‬ ‭KJV‬‬). Our “upward calling”, as some have translated this passage, energizes us, the very people, for whom the Lord gave His only Son. Where are we going? Up a-yonder to be with our Lord!


This may sound like a biased opinion, but beauty doth lie in the ear of the beholder. Without further ado, this is one of the most beautifully composed hymns in the English-language tradition. Its melody and its text incomparably set the image of consecration unto the Lord. This sounds so Ash Wednesday-esque, but we are at the end of our Lenten journey, reminded in the Gospel versicle taken from Joel: “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” The Lord awaits us graciously and mercifully. Let us surrender our all to Him, offering our rent hearts as our sacrifice. As it is said later in the Psalm from Ash Wednesday, “[t]he sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psalms‬ ‭51:17‬ ‭KJV‬‬).


In today’s Gospel (according to John), we read the famous story of the adulterous woman. Jesus commands those who wish to stone her: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John‬ ‭8:7‬ ‭KJV‬‬), upon which He commands her to “go and sin no more.” Even at the seemingly darkest hour, the Lord shows unmerited mercy, choosing to forgive and to challenge rather than to condemn. The scribes and Pharisees sought to stone her by adhering stringently to the Mosaic Law, but we are charged by Paul in his Letter to the Philippians to cling to our faith in God and the righteousness that flows therefrom.


Here’s the interesting part about this hymn: how most churches sing it is entirely different from how it was written. Originally called I Will Call Upon the Lord, with words and music by Michael O’Shields, the song draws heavily from Psalm 18 and Samuel 22. The quote-unquote real refrain is:

The LORD liveth,
And blessed be the Rock;
And let the God of my salvation be exalted.

We, however, like most churches, will sing this refrain:

Blessed be the the Rock,
Blessed be the Rock of my salvation!

Even the verse is almost unrecognizable in regards to the original. Such is the rich history of oral tradition! Ain’t it a beautiful thing? It’s like the musical version of Telephone. Regardless of how the song has changed over time, the central theme remains the same: praise for the One who is the constant, the One who will never change, the One who is our rock in this pilgrimage called life. Let us raise our voices and let us bless Him!