Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Three Hymns in Three Hours

Today I had a three-hour window of time to mess around with my ongoing (i.e. neverending) hymnal project, and I decided to use it by writing a text to fill a hole in my set of hymns for feast days of the church year. That done, I had two hours left, so I wrote another. After that I had one hour left, so I wrote another. And so I give you...

170. Hymn for the Baptism of Jesus
This recent addition to the church year falls on either the First Sunday after the Epiphany (which makes my hymn about the boy Jesus among the doctors of religion useless) or exactly one week after Epiphany, Jan. 13, depending on your lectionary. I obviously prefer the latter. The idea behind this hymn is that Christian baptism is rooted in Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. I recommend one of two tunes for this hymn: Andreas Hammerschmidt's MEINEN JESUM LASS ICH NICHT (1658) or JESUS IST MEIN AUFENTHALT, a.k.a. MEINHOLD (L√ľneberg, 1686), respectively.
Father, whose beloved Son,
Being baptized for repentance,
You named Your accepted One,
Sent to bear the sinner’s sentence:
Speak Your blessing on this bath,
Cleansing us from guilt and wrath!

Jesus, perfect God and Man,
You, all righteousness completing,
Came as sacrificial Lamb,
For our sake the baptist meeting:
You made holy what he poured;
Therein wash us too, dear Lord!

Spirit, breath of heav’nly love
From both Son and Father blowing,
You descended as a dove,
Baptism’s pow’r and essence showing:
Stir the faith these waters give;
Blow in us, that we may live!

Father, Son, and Spirit, come!
Not in name alone uniting,
Make each baptized heart Your home,
On our mind Your sigil writing,
Till all things we say and do
Come from and return to You!


171. Hymn for the Conversion of St. Paul
This feast is traditionally celebrated Jan. 25 in the western church. This is the guy who persecuted Christians and then suddenly, after a blinding vision of Christ during a road trip, became its greatest missionary and the author of a bunch of books of the New Testament. I like the story as an opportunity to connect the efficacy of God's Word with Christian missions. The tune is DAS NEUGEBORNE KINDELEIN by Melchior Vulpius, 1609, though anyone familiar with the tune might notice I altered it slightly by changing the melismas in lines 1, 3, 5 and 6 into a straight syllabic setting.
Why, Saul? Why, Saul, do you persecute Me?—
Thus, Savior, did You sound the call
That turned an author of much misery
Into Your faithful servant Paul.
So may Your zeal for all people now burn
That from destruction to life they may turn!

Whom You will save, You will certainly save,
Christ, whose tongue neither forks nor lies;
For You called Lazarus out from the grave
And loosed the scales from dazzled eyes.
You would have all men be saved and believe;
Oh, that Your word they might somehow receive!

How will they trust You, who never have heard?
How will they hear, but one be sent?
Faith comes through hearing Your powerful word,
In Your time, by Your free intent.
Hasten, Lord! Lovely feet choose for the mount,
Carrying those who glad tidings recount!

Meanwhile let Paul be a pattern and guide:
Each humble as the least of saints,
Help us take captive all knowledge and pride
And put to death the flesh’s taints;
Feed us, Lord Jesus, Your body and blood
That we may, justified, stand before God!


172. Hymn for the Presentation of Jesus
This is that feast, usually celebrated Feb. 2 (significantly, 40 days after Christmas) sometimes described as the Purification of Mary, which ceremonially happened at the same time. As the firstborn, Jesus had to be presented to the priests and a sacrifice given by his family to redeem him. When Mary and Joseph did this, they met this really old dude named Simeon and this really old lady named Anna, etc., etc. Forgive the hymn for being a little syntactically convoluted; it sort of happened naturally when I put the material together in the shape of J. S. Bach's 1736 tune ICH STEH AN DEINER KRIPPEN.
Salvation unto Israel
Has come, said holy Anna,
Rejoicing that she had beheld
The long-desired, true Manna.
Such joy, in spite of looming death,
Rewarded, too, the patient faith
Of Sarah and of Hannah.

A light to lighten heathendom,
Said Simeon in Spirit,
And Jacob’s glory too has come,
Though some may loathe and fear it.
While sword may pierce and men oppose,
An Abraham or David glows
With ecstasy to hear it.

For so, by God’s eternal plan,
Must be, as Moses stated,
The firstborn son of beast or man
Redeemed or dedicated.
Would Moses not bow down in awe
To see submitted to this law
God’s Son, for slaughter fated?

Saints of Old Testament and New
Believe as one, repenting,
And Greek, barbarian or Jew,
Rejoice at Christ’s presenting.
For thus it pleased the Holy Ghost
To graft us in a mighty host,
One folk of God’s inventing.

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