I was reflecting on our choir anthem for this Sunday, Bruckner's motet Os Justi. I want to share some thoughts on this piece since it has been a central part of the choir's life for the last couple of rehearsals.
First, in the title of this post, I put the word “little” in quotation marks because of the inherent irony of the word in this context. To perform a Bruckner Motet in worship would be to provide a “little” Bruckner for the service. It is four minutes long, and Bruckner wrote symphonic music that often lasted longer than an hour, so in comparison this motet is "little." However, it is also the longest and most difficult of all of the motets he wrote, which numbered over 40. It divides into 8 parts; it contains a very demanding fugue section; and is sung without accompaniment so the choir must stay in tune. When you hear this motet this weekend, parts of it will sound very difficult, but often the parts that sound the easiest are actually harder than the difficult sounding parts.
Bruckner wrote his motets for the choirs of St. Florian's Monastary where he worked on and off throughout his life. He was a very religious man which was evident even in his "secular" symphonies. His symphonies used devices like fugue and imitation that one generally associated with church music at this time. No matter what Bruckner wrote, he could not shy away from his religious roots.
We will sing it in Latin, but we can seek the translation in English from Psalm 37:30-31.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.
The law of his God is in his heart;
and his steps will not be impeded.
Os Justi is a new piece for our choir. Considering how much music our choir has sang it was a real feat to find something that we have not performed. Because of its difficulty we have worked very hard on it and we hope that our rendering of this piece will bring you spiritually closer to the Lord. Communion weekend is a wonderful time to reflect on the gifts that are all around us. We can reflect on the beautiful music that is sung. We can reflect on the people of this church and the gifts that we give the community. Most importantly we can reflect on the gift of Jesus and how he is central to our lives. That is the message of Os Justi. Despite all of the “notes” we must remember the key line: The law of God is in our hearts, and we will not be impeded. Alleluia.