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One Equal Music 6

Written by Philippa White, posted on Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Sixth Sunday of Easter: O Saviour of the World

Salvator Mundi, Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585)

Soundcloud icon Salvator Mundi 

You may think that my choice of anthem for this last Sunday before Ascension is cheating slightly. Its text is part of the Good Friday liturgy, not from the liturgies of the Easter season:

Salvator mundi, salva nos, qui per crucem et sanguinem

redemisti nos. Auxiliare nobis, te deprecamur, Deus noster.

Saviour of the world, save us, thou who by thy cross and blood

hast redeemed us. Come to our rescue, we beseech thee, our God.

But the joy of the Easter season, giving thanks for the resurrection of Jesus, only makes sense in the context of Jesus’ death – and this exquisite piece of polyphony contains just as much of the joy of the Resurrection as it does the muted anguish of Good Friday. As we move towards the conclusion of the Easter season in this time when the joy of Easter has been hard to see for many people, perhaps what we need most is music and liturgy that acknowledges complexity.

On Thursday we will keep Ascension Day, and move from the season of rejoicing at Christ’s presence and risen life to an acknowledgement of his absence. But acknowledging that Christ isn’t with us in the same way that he was with his friends in Galilee doesn’t lead us to despair: instead, it leads us to prayer. The ten days after Ascension are days in which, traditionally, we pray that God’s blessing would come in the shape of the Holy Spirit, God amongst us, turning us from a scattered group of solitary disciples into the universal Church.

Let us also pray, in the words of this anthem: Saviour of the world, save us. Come to our rescue. Come to the rescue of those who are sick, anxious or alone; come to the rescue of essential workers in supermarkets, hospitals, care homes or rubbish collection; come to the rescue of those whose homes are far from safe; come to the rescue of those who have nowhere to turn.

Come, O Lord, and save your people, that we may join in the song of your praise; for you are the Saviour of the World.