If you're tuning in late, flip back through this thread for the background of this ongoing sneer at the hymn selection of a recent major addition to anglophone Lutheran hymnals: Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Augsburg, 2006), recommended for use in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America and Canada.
403 "Like the murmur of the dove's song" is Carl Daw's original text, set to the modern hymn-tune BRIDEGROOM by Peter Cutts (b. 1937). Its three four-line stanzas all end with the refrain "Come, Holy Spirit, come." The first iteration of this follows a string of similes describing the manner of the Spirit's coming (the dove's song, the dove's flight, the wind, the flame). Stanza 2 is mostly devoted to specifying the destination the Spirit is to aim for ("To the members of Christ's body, to the branches of the vine, to the church in faith assembled"). Then it adds the odd touch, "to our midst as gift and sign." Sign! Sign? Of what is the Spirit a sign?! Finally in Stanza 3, Daw gets around to stating what the Spirit is desired to do: healing division, prompting prayer, enabling us to "love and witness," giving us peace. What ever happened to the emphasis, so typical of classic Christian Pentecost hymns and especially of the Lutheran Reformation's doctrine of the Holy Spirit? Where is Luther's own emphasis on the Spirit's gift of faith in Christ, on His giving life to the spiritually dead, on His shining the light of blessing on all our daily pursuits, on His operating on us through Word and Sacrament and, finally, on His leading us through the valley of the shadow of death to life eternal? Eh? Where??? In a stanza, maybe, that got squeezed off the bottom of the page below a 2.75-stanza-long simile and metaphor extravaganza?
406 "Veni Sancte Spiritus" (Holy Spirit, come to us) is Jacques Berthier's setting of the Taizé Community's Pentecost sequence. It provides the option of singing it in English, but (here's the unusual touch) the Latin version is presented as the main event, and the vernacular translation as the sop to cultural diversity. While it's actually fun to see this book's theme of multiculturalism flipped upside-down, one has to marvel at the efficiency of a monastic community that can generate an entire sequence hymn out of one line (in either language), repeated twice to the same monotonous alternation between two chords. Moreover, the song's willingness to end on an unresolved dissonance (in music-theory terms, a last-inversion ii7 chord) will hit your organist, and anyone else who suffers from a bit of musical OCD, right where it hurts. Maybe the idea is to sing it over and over while everyone is leaving the church, so everyone can enjoy the fade-out effect. This seems to be the intention behind the performance note "Ostinato (repeated continuously)," the first confirmation I have seen of a theory about Taizé hymns that I have been toying with. They're not short; in fact, they're long—but their length is not like the length of a medieval sequence hymn, whose text leads you ever deeper into the meaning of (for example) Pentecost, but like the purring of a machine that becomes a sort of white-noise canvas against which some other content (an improvised solo, a melodramatic piece of oratory, an altered state of consciousness, etc.) can be projected. If that seems like a weird concept, even among all the weird developments in Christian worship since the 1950s, it may be simply because it goes against everything the liturgy is for.
remarks on AGPS #170). Stanza 1 admits that "the universe of space and time did not arise by chance," though in terms that leave the door open to the preposterous theory of theistic evolution; it also describes the Trinity as "Three" (but never "One") interweaving in the steps of "their" dance (never "His")—so it could be interpreted as teaching tritheism, three gods. Stanza 2 describes Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection with such economy of words that it has room for the bizarre observation that "the dance of Trinity is meant for human flesh and bone"—though the catholic faith stresses that only the Son, not the Father or the Spirit, was made man. Stanza 3, which depicts the evangelistic outreach made possible by the Holy Spirit since Pentecost, is really the high point of the hymn in faithful novelty of expression. But with two opportunities to rhyme with the phrase "Father, Spirit, Son," this originality (as exampled by avoiding the obvious rhyme with "One") has the side-effect that after four stanzas, the hymn still hasn't specifically confessed the Unity of God. This Unity (in paradox with His Trinity) is essential to the catholic faith to which we Lutherans re-pledge ourselves each Trinity Sunday. And though some preachers and writers today err on the side of confessing God's Unity without Trinity, it is no more correct to err in the other direction.
418 "Rejoice in God's saints" (today of all days) is Fred Pratt Green's (1903-2000) hymn for All Saints' Day, or for saints' days in general.2 I like much of what Green says in this hymn, including the oft-quoted line: "A world without saints forgets how to praise." While he makes a memorable and effective argument in favor of remembering past heroes of the faith, he overlooks a key reason, really the key reason, their example is worth following: namely, that they too received salvation by God's free grace, for Christ's sake, through the same holy means that even today pour God's gift on us. Everything this hymn says about saints is positive, true, and well-said if perhaps a bit prosy; but it is not complete, because without Christ (who is hardly mentioned in this hymn's four middling-long stanzas) there would be no saints.
419 "For all the Faithful Women" by Herman Stuempfle3 is a nice addition to the body of hymnody commemorating specific saints—in this case, specifically female ones. Between two unvarying stanzas, the hymnal allows you to insert one or more of nine alternate stanzas honoring (respectively) Miriam, Hannah, Ruth, Mary (mother of our Lord), Mary and Martha (of Bethany), the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, Dorcas (an early Christian lady mentioned in Acts 9), and Eunice and Lois (mother and grandmother of Timothy). There is also a "general" stanza that can be used instead of these. All this is very praiseworthy and whatnot, but one cannot help but ask when these commemorations are supposed to take place. The very hint that the church might expect to sing all these stanzas, sometime over a year or a handful of years, suggests in turn that the church's liturgical calendar is about to fill up with exceedingly fiddly little commemorations (which does seem likely based on this hymnal's already-remarked-on calendar, pp. 14ff). Or, alternatively, it may suggest that a long series of sermons and special services is in planning, perhaps for the summer months. Either of these possibilities could spell doom for catechetical preaching based on the liturgical cycle of Bible texts, and in my opinion, that's a serious reason to reconsider whether this hymn really serves any good purpose. If the commemmoration can be squeezed into a few minutes out of a Divine Service otherwise following the pericopal cycle, well. If not, then say goodbye to the Nth Sunday after Trinity; you may never meet again.
1Tune: the English folk tune KINGSFOLD, lately heard in the Missouri Synod to the text "No tramp of soldiers' marching feet."
2Tune: LAUDATE DOMINUM by C. H. H. Parry (1848-1918), a very respectable high-Anglican melody.
3Tune: the Finnish folk tune KUORTANE.
4Not the one you're thinking of. The other one. Tunes: English folk tune KING'S LYNN (420) and KUORTANE again (421).
5Cf. The Ambassador Hymnal Nos. 111, 449, 464, 469, and 557.