Lo, the full final sacrifice

The Director of Music writes:

The First World War came as an intense and irreparable shock to all aspects of British life, with many musicians seeing active service. In the decades between the wars, British music began to diversify; an ‘English Pastoral’ style developed, partly from the invocations of Englishness in the music of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, but also from the study of English folk music. This pastoral style predominated in British music throughout the 20th century. Vaughan Williams remained the figurehead of this school, but it also found a talented exponents in Gerald Finzi (1901-1956). In 1946, Finzi wrote what has become one of the stalwarts of the Anglican ‘cathedral’ repertoire (and the anthem at Evensong at St Peter’s on Sunday 11th March), Lo, the full full final sacrifice – one of a distinguished series of choral works commissioned by the Reverend Walter Hussey for performance by the choir of St Matthew’s Church, Northampton. In terms of Finzi’s output, this was the longest single span of music he had yet written. It contains some of his finest music, portraying the liturgical drama of the Eucharist in a series of characterful sections. The text is the seventeenth century poet’s Richard Crashaw’s Hymn for the Blessed Sacrament (a translation from the Latin of St Thomas Aquinas). The whole piece turned out to be on a larger scale than Finzi had originally envisaged, and so the year after its first performance, when it was performed at the Three Choirs Festival, he re-scored the highly involved organ part for orchestra.

Lo, the full, final Sacrifice
On which all figures fix’t their eyes.
The ransomed Isaac, and his ram;
The Manna, and the Paschal Lamb.

Jesu Master,  just and true!
Our Food, and faithful Shepherd too!

O let that love which thus makes thee
Mix with our low Mortality,
Lift our lean Souls, and set us up
Convictors of thine own full cup,
Coheirs of Saints. That so all may
Drink the same wine; and the same Way.
Nor change the Pasture, but the Place
To feed of Thee in thine own Face.

O dear Memorial of that Death
Which lives still, and allows us breath!
Rich, Royal food! Bountiful Bread!
Whose use denies us to the dead!

Live ever Bread of loves and be
My life, my soul, my surer self to me.

Help Lord, my Faith, my Hope increase;
And fill my portion in thy peace.
Give love for life; nor let my days
Grow, but in new powers to thy name and praise.

Rise, Royal Sion! rise and sing
Thy soul’s kind shepherd, thy heart’s King.
Stretch all thy powers; call if you can
Harps of heaven to hands of man.
This sovereign subject sits above
The best ambition of thy love.

Lo the Bread of Life, this day’s
Triumphant Text provokes thy praise.
The living and life-giving bread,
To the great Twelve distributed
When Life, himself, at point to die
Of love, was his own Legacy.

O soft self-wounding Pelican!
Whose breast weeps Balm for wounded man.
All this way bend thy benign flood
To a bleeding Heart that gasps for blood.
That blood, whose least drops sovereign be
To wash my worlds of sins from me.
Come love! Come Lord! and that long day
For which I languish, come away.
When this dry soul those eyes shall see,
And drink the unseal’d source of thee.
When Glory’s sun faith’s shades shall chase,
And for thy veil give me thy Face.