God of Justice
composer: Nancy Galbraith (2004)

text sources: "The Gospel According to Matthew"
"The Gates of Prayer"
"Economic Justice for All"
genre: oratorio
length: 10 movements, 40:00 minutes
publisher: Subito Music Publishing (ASCAP)
60 Depot Street, Verona, NJ 07044
mail@subitomusic.com • 973-857-3440
orchestration: SATB(div), children's choir (or trebles), mez-sop,
boy-sop, narrator; 2fl, 2cl; 3perc;
hp, pno (synth), org; 1vc, 1cb
world premiere: 18 September 2004
Providence Festival Chorus & Orchestra; Thomas Octave, conductor
Mimi Lerner (mezzo-soprano), Daniel Salera & Joseph Helinski (boy sopranos)
Paul Johnston (narrator) ♦ Mother of Divine Providence Chapel, Pittsburgh, PA
audio samples: 1. Blessed are the poor in spirit 6. Blessed are the merciful
  2. Blessed are they who mourn 7. Blessed are the pure in heart
  3. Praise the Lord, O My Soul 8. Blessed are the peacemakers
  4. Blessed are the meek 9. Blessed are [the] persecuted
  5. Blessed are they who hunger... 10. You are the light of the world
program notes:

"God of Justice" was commissioned in 2004 by Providence Connections Inc.—the parent company of the Providence Family Support Center in Pittsburgh—to celebrate the center's 10th year of service to struggling families in the city's North Side neighborhoods.

In 2008 the work was performed at St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, Illinois in a benefit concert for the Beit Benedict Peace Center in Jerusalem. The Benet Academy Chorus & Orchestra were conducted by Thomas Octave.

Galbraith's composition is inspired by writings from "The Gospel According to St. Matthew", the Central Conference of American Rabbis' "The Gates of Prayer", and the Catholic Bishops' pastoral letter "Economic Justice for All".

composer's notes:

"God of Justice" was initially conceived by selecting the ensemble for which it was to be written. This ensemble consisted of adult chorus, childrenís chorus, mezzo soprano, boy soprano, woodwinds, brass, percussion, cello, contrabass, harp, piano, and organ.

As the piece began unfolding, text selection was of critical concern. After visiting the Providence Family Support Center, I felt that the central theme for all of the texts should reflect the idea of compassion. Compassion is an idea which is universal to all religions, so I searched through many sources, including poetry and various religious and theological readings. I didnít want to string together random texts, but rather have a central text as the body into which other writings could be inserted. My solution was to use the Beatitudes of Christ, found in the Gospel According to St. Matthew, and insert prayers found in the Hebrew "Gates of Prayer." I selected prayers that would reflect upon the preceding Beatitude, e.g. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," followed by "The soul You have given me, O God, is a pure one." All of the narrations are taken from "Economic Justice for All," a pastoral letter on Catholic social teaching and the U.S. economy.

The children's voices often reflect a more innocent expression of deep emotional texts. A prime example of this treatment can be found in Movement 2, "Blessed are they who mourn," where a soulful duet for mezzo soprano and boy soprano is accompanied by the adult choir. This outpouring of emotion abruptly shifts to childlike innocence, introduced by harp, piano, and percussion accompaniment. The children enter with the same text stated with a simple, but pure, melody.

My heartfelt thanks goes to Mimi Lerner who guided me through the Gates of Prayer, and whose artistry is a wonderful source of inspiration. And to the Sisters of Divine Providence—thank you for your tireless efforts in providing to the world a beautiful mission.
N.G.


GOD OF JUSTICE — Nancy Galbraith
movement 1:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [1]

Hear our Voice, O Lord our God: have compassion upon us, and accept our prayer with favor and mercy, for You are a God who hears prayer and supplication. [2]

Narration: God is described as a "God of justice" who loves justice and delights in it. God demands justice from the whole people and executes justice for the needy. Central to the biblical presentation of justice is that the justice of a community is measured by its treatment of the powerless in society, most often described as the widow, the orphan, the poor and the stranger in the land. The Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament all show deep concern for the proper treatment of such people. What these groups of people have in common is their vulnerability and lack of power. They are often alone and have no protector or advocate. Therefore it is God who hears their cries. [3]

movement 2:

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. [1]

movement 3:

Praise the Lord, O My soul! O Lord my God, You are very great! Arrayed in glory and majesty, You wrap Yourself in light as with a garment, You stretch out the heavens like a curtain. [2]

Narration: The quest for justice arises from loving gratitude for the saving acts of God and manifests itself in wholehearted love of God and neighbor. These perspectives provide for a biblical vision of economic justice. Every human person is created as an image of God, and the denial of dignity to a person is a blot on this image. Creation is a gift to all men and women, not to be appropriated for the benefit of a few; its beauty is an object of joy and reverence. The same God who came to the aid of an oppressed people and formed them into a covenant community continues to hear the cries of the oppressed and to create communities which are responsive to Godís word. Godís love and life are present when people can live in a community of faith and hope. [3]

movement 4:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [1]

movement 5:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [1]

movement 6:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. [1]

Have mercy, O Lord our God, upon the righteous and faithful of all peoples, and upon all of us. Uphold all who faithfully put their trust in You, and grant that we may always be numbered among them. Blessed is the Lord, the Staff and Support of the righteous. [2]

Narration: The command for love that is at the basis of all morality is illustrated by the parable of a Samaritan who interrupts his journey to come to the aid of a dying man. Unlike the other wayfarers who look on the man and pass by, the Samaritan "was moved with compassion at the sight"; he stops, tends to the wounded man, and takes him to a place of safety. In this parable compassion is the bridge between mere seeing and action; love is made real through effective action. The blessed are those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned; the cursed are those who neglected these works of mercy and love. [3]

movement 7:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [1]

The soul that You have given me, O God, is a pure one! You have created and formed it, breathed it into me, and within me You sustain it. So long as I have breath, therefore, I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God and God of all ages, Master of all creation, Lord of every human spirit. [2]

movement 8:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Sons of God. [1]

Narration: The substance of prophetic faith is proclaimed by the prophet Micah: "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." [3]

movement 9:

Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousnessí sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [1]

Blessed are you when men revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets before you. [1]

Grant, O Eternal God, that we may lie down in peace, and raise us up, O Sovereign, to life renewed. Spread over us the shelter of your peace; guide us with Your good counsel. [2]

Narration: The task of the United States today is as demanding as that faced by our forebears. Abraham Lincolnís words at Gettysburg are a reminder that complacency today would be a betrayal of our nationís history: "It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work they have thus far nobly advanced." [LONG PAUSE] There is unfinished business in the American experiment in freedom and justice for all. [3]

movement 10:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do you light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before all, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [1]


credits:

[1] "The Gospel According to St. Matthew"; (various versions)
[2] "The Gates of Prayer"; 1975, Central Conference of American Rabbis, NY
[3] "Economic Justice for All"; A pasoral letter on Catholic social teaching and the U.S. economy. Approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 13, 1986