Monday, July 30, 2012

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Here is hymn # 6!

Hymn Title: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Tune: Hyfrydol

Numeric Outline:

     This hymn is traditionally an advent hymn being sung to ask Jesus to hurry up and get here. The advent season is all about waiting to see the long expected arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The author of the text is none other than Charles Wesley, of whom I had written about in an earlier blog (see And Can It Be). Published in the 1744 Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord, the text has two stanzas, the first of which explains the anticipation for the arrival of Jesus created by the prophecies that will be fulfilled. The second stanza regards the excitement and amazement that followed the actual birth of Jesus. It says he was only born  a baby, but he is still a King. As is typical with Charles Wesley's hymns, the text displays two messages at once: Christ is coming to fulfill the prophecies of old, and Christ will return again one day as is promised in the scripture.
     The tune Hyfrydol was first published in 1830 by Rowland H. Prichard. He was a welsh composer born in 1811 just outside of Bala, North Wales (Graenyn, North Wales to be exact), where he lived for most of his life serving as a loom tender's assistant in Holywell, North Wales where he eventually would pass away in 1887. It wasn't until 1844 that Prichard published his only known work Cyfaill Y Cantorion (The Singer's Friend). His most famous tune was Hyfrydol, which is most commonly used with "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus," which the best known arrangement came from none other than English Composer Ralph Vaughn Williams. Vaughn Williams was known for his adaptations on several original hymn tunes, creating new arrangements for wind bands and for bras bands all across England.

The Text:

(1) Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

(2) Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious thron

The Hymn:

My take on the Hymn:
     The first verse is a statement of how excited the world is to see Jesus come to us as promised. The verse praises Jesus for the things that he hasn't done yet, but is prophesied to do. The text calls Jesus our strength, our hope, and our dear desire, which is only a small way of explaining how we really feel about Jesus and his birth. The second verse is all about what happens when Jesus finally does arrive into the world. The verse is broken up into two parts: praise for Christ being born, and a prayer for Christ to be born into our hearts. The new born baby who was given to the world in a lowly manger was a King. This is one of the greatest things that God could have given the world, not just because our savior was born, but because he was born in the most humble of places, a manger. The second half talks about Jesus coming into our hearts to show us that all we need is Christ, and we will eventually rise to be upon a glorious throne in Heaven. 
     Lets talk for a second about what God could have meant by bringing Jesus to us in a manger. I see two particular meanings in this, the first being God wanted to show us that Jesus came to be with the common people and the people who were not righteous and holy, but the people who needed to be saved, which leads into the second meaning, mangers are dirty places, filled with animals and with hay for the animals, as well as waste from the animals. This is one of the greatest symbols that God gave us in the bible (may I stress the emphasis of one, not the, greatest symbols). To understand the symbolism of this, we must look at why God gave us Jesus. Jesus was given to the world because the world was full of sin and needed to be saved. Jesus being born in a manger was summing up the actual task of Jesus in a small form. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

All Creatures of our God and King

This one goes out to a good friend of mine, Father Tim Biren.

Hymn Title: All Creatures of our God and King

Tune: Lasst Uns Erfreuen

Numeric Outline: with refrain.

     This is one of the few tunes that is played consistently at the Saint Thomas More Newman Center at Minnesota State University Mankato, where I accompany masses with regularity on Sunday evenings. It was written by a man by the name of Francesco Di Bernardone, or otherwise known as Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. Born as the son of a wealthy merchant in Assisi in 1181, Saint Francis eventually had a vision and gave up his wealth to live in poverty and become a preacher in 1204. In 1210, the Catholic Church recognized the following that Saint Francis had built up and called it the Franciscan order. In 1224, he was considered to have had one of the first experiences of Stigmata (the wounds of Christ appearing on a person) ever recorded on a human. Finally in 1226 St. Francis passed away and was eventually canonized in  1228. St. Francis had a saying, "if you have men that will exclude any of gods creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men." 
     Written just before his death, "All Creatures of our God and King," was written to reflect St. Francis's thoughts on Psalm 145, but was not actually published until nearly 400 years later. The first known tune to the text was composed in 1623 (Cologne), but is most prominently known by the setting written by the English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams. He was the first one to take the hymn and publish is in an English Hymnal in 1906 under the title "Lasst Uns Erfreuen." In 1910, William Henry Draper translated the text of the hymn from Italian to English for a Children's festival in England. Though Draper had actually written over 60 different hymns, this was his only translation, and today it remains as one of his most popular. It wasn't until nine years later (1919), however, that Draper's translation made it into a hymnal. 

The Text:

(1) All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! 

(2) Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

(3) Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

(4) Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

(5) And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

(6) And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

(7) Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

The Hymn:

My take on the Hymn:

     I believe this hymn is one of the most praise-filled hymns I have ever seen. The text implies not that we should praise God, but that everything on the Earth praises God no matter what. God instructs us to give everything back to Him, but how can things with out a voice give God praise? This hymn serves to show us that no matter what, whether it be a flowing river, a cloudy sky, or even just a simple sleeping animal, everything praises God because everything was created by God for that very purpose. Our purpose in life is to use our gifts that were given to us to praise God and to spread his Word.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Reading the Meter

     In each hymn, there is a numerical outline, also known as the meter of the text. This refers to how many syllables there are in a given phrase. Though this helps to identify which hymn is being sung, sometimes it is very difficult to decipher what exactly the little letters next to the "Meter" tab actually mean. This post is all about identifying which meter is which. First and foremost, hymns like to have a general Iambic outline, which makes it very easy to break down. Often times anything written in Iambic Meter will have either one, two, three or four Iambic feet (at least in the world of Hymns). Each Iambic foot consists of two syllables which in tern means that most meters will have either two, for, six, or eight syllables in a phrase. The common labeling of the meters is as follows:

CM (Common Metering):

     Common Metering is as it sounds, the most common form of metering used in hymns. The meter consists of four Iambic feet in lines one and three of the verse, and three Iambic feet in lines two and four. This can be written as 86. 86. On occasion with Common Metering, the author of the text may wish to double the phrase. This can be labeled as When the meter is simply doubled, it is labeled as CMD (Common Metering Double).

LM (Long Metering):
     Long metering is said to be used to give the author more room to create a meaningful text. The metering consists of four lines of text, each consisting of four Iambic feet. This is labeled as Because Long Metering has more syllables than Common Metering, it not only allows the author to expand their meanings, but it also allows them to use bigger words. As it is with Common Metering, Long Metering can be doubled, which is simply adding a line of text with four Iambic feet to the ends of each phrase. This is Labeled as and titled LMD (Long Metering Double).

SM (Short Metering):

     Short metering is the most difficult metering and is in tern the least common. The numeric outline is 66.86 which leaves the author only 12 syllables to states the point of the verse, and only 14 syllables to resolve the verse, leaving the author with an extraordinary challenge. Though the metering was originally used as a two line metering, in modern day hymns it is used in a four line metering. Again as with Common Metering and Long Metering, an author can double the Shot Metering labeled as entitled SMD (Short Metering Double).

HM (Hallelujah Metering):

     This metering offers the author a short and sweet opening four lines, but gives them a long ending to give a big finale to the verse. The numerical outline is labeled as 66.66.88 or 66.66.86. Unlike the Common Metering, Long Metering, and Short Metering, Hallelujah Metering cannot be doubled, but can be put into a different form of metering which is labeled 886.886, and is entitled CHM (Common Meter Hallelujah).

PM (Particular Metering):

     This metering is used to describe texts that may require "Particular," tunes to go along with them. Using any combination of two, three, or four Iambic feet, the meter does not have a set pattern, making it very flexible with the text, but not so flexible with the tunes that it will have to be set to.

     Now that the labels for meters have been cleared up some, I hope that it is easier for you to open up a hymnal and understand what you can expect in terms of the phrases in the hymns.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

And Can It Be

Sorry for the delay, but here is Hymn #4. This one goes out to my surrogate mother, Julie.

Hymn Title: And Can it Be

Tune: Sagina

Numeric Outline: 88, 88, 88, 88 (LMD)

Author: Charles Wesley

Composer: Thomas Campbell

     Known as a hymn of adoration, "And Can It Be" was written in 1738, just a few days after the composer found God once again, and put all of his trust in God. The composer, Charles Wesley, was said to have written at least 10 lines of verse every day for at least 50 years. If my math is correct, that amounts to 182,500 lines of verse, all of which were used by Wesley to write just shy of 9,000 hymns (8,989 to be exact). In his life of 81 years, Wesley wrote nearly 10 times the volume of hymns than any other writer of note in his time. Even though Charles Wesley has this claim to fame and is known for his hymns all over the world, he is still known as the "forgotten Wesley," and why? Because Charles Wesley was the younger brother of John Wesley, the man who is considered to be the organizing force behind the Methodist Church. Though both John and Charles Wesley grew up to become ordained Ministers in the Church of England, both of them would have to find religious conversions before they could become the men they are known as today.
     Born prematurely in December 1707, Charles Wesley was thought to be dead upon arriving in this world. For weeks he would do nothing but lay in his wool blankets for weeks before he began to move and show signs of life. He was the 18th child of Samuel and Susannah  Wesley, but only 10 of those 18 children grew to maturity. As Charles grew old enough to learn, his mother, who was fluent in Greek, French and Latin, began to teach Charles very methodically for nearly 6 hours a day. This would prove useful to Charles when he began school at Westminster School, where the only language allowed in public was Latin. After 13 years of study at Westminster, Charles moved on to Oxford where he eventually earned his Masters degree and was said to be able to recite Latin poets fluently and with ease.
     The next step in the journey for Charles was Oxford University. Because of the lack of religiousness in the other schools, Charles formed a group called the Holy Club. This club would meet regularly to partake in communion and have scholarly discussions about the Bible. Eventually the group moved past its small routes and became very methodical about how they would do things. The groups regimen included early rising, prison ministry, and spiritual Bible studies, which would eventually earn them the title of "Methodists." Shortly after the title was given to them, Charles' older brother John joined the group and would eventually become known for his ability to do missionary works for the church. In 1735 Charles became an ordained member of the Church of England, but he was not pleased with the state that the church was in. As his ministry continued, Charles and John (who was also an ordained minister) began to do missionary work in the colony of Georgia. While they were in Georgia, they were shot at, slandered, and generally not welcome in the colony at all. Upon leaving Georgian, Charles had said "I went to America to convert the Indians, but, oh, who will convert me?" In 1738, it became clear to Charles who it would be to convert him, the Moravians.
     John and Charles had met a group of Moravian men, who upon meeting with them found their spirituality to be refreshing. The Moravians encouraged the Wesley brothers to look deeper at their souls in order to find the peace they were looking for. In may of 1738, Charles began to read Martin Luther's volume on Galatians, which would eventually lead him to write about his struggles to find who would make him happy. Shortly after finishing the book, Charles found that he had a renewed faith in God and two days after began work on writing a hymn celebrating his conversion. "And Can It Be," was first published in John Wesley's book Psalms and Hymns in 1738 and was eventually published again under the subtitle of "Free Grace," in John and Charles' book Hymns and Sacred Poems published in 1739. After preaching for several years within the walls of the Church, Charles and John were encouraged to begin preaching outside of the walls and in public. It was estimated that Charles preached to nearly 150,00 people in only 5 sermons given. 

     The Composer, Thomas Campbell, never actually published more than one collection of tunes in his career entitled The Bouquet, which each tune published in the collection was given a Horticultural name. The tune used almost exclusively with the text for "And Can It Be," is a tune called Sagina, which is a genus of the pink family of herbs, which includes Baby's Breath and Carnations. Though little is actually known of Thomas Campbell, this tune is one that can be sung with passion and with vigor, and thanks to the singing instructions written by John Wesley (which are still printed in the front of each Methodist Hymnal), will continue to be sung for many years to come.

The Text:

(1) And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

(2) ’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

(3) He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

(4)Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

(5) Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

(6) No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

The Hymn:

My take on the hymn:

     This hymn is entirely meant to praise God and his saving grace. The hymn serves to remind us of how amazing and omnipotent God really is, and that even a man who is deeply religious can find a new depth of faith in God. God's love is never ending, never ceasing, and never failing no matter how hard life gets. This hymn praises God for finding the voice of the text in the darkest possible places, chained, and imprisoned. Even in the darkest hour of the voice, God has come to save and to resurrect the life within someone. Christ isn't the only one who rose from the dead, we all have. We all were once dead and now we have risen from the ashes of our sins and have begun life anew! This hymn is a great way of turning our praise to God and saying thank you for bringing us back to life and giving us a new day. Live each day as if it is the biggest blessing that Christ has given you, and you will find life is a lot happier and less anxious!


Galli, Mark. "Charles Wesley | Christian History." Christianity Today. B&H Publishing Group,
               8 Aug. 2008. Web. 22 July 2012.         

Brink, Emily R. "And Can It Be." Psalter Hymnal Handbook. Ed. Bertus F. Polman. Grand Rapids,      
     Michigan: CRC Publications, 1998. N. pag. Print.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound

Here comes Hymn #3!

Hymn Title: Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound 

Tune: New Britain

Numeric Outline: Common Meter (8, 6, 8, 6)

     This hymn may be one of the most popular hymns in the United States of America today. Though many people know the familiar tune and the first few lines of the hymn, not many people recognize that the text is basically an autobiography for the man who penned the poem over 200 years ago. John Newton (1725-1807) penned the poem in 1773, only nine short years after he was ordained by the Church of England where he became a Curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire. Though Newton eventually found his way to the church, he wasn't raised with any kind of religious convictions. It was only through a series of many different events that Newton discovered where he truly belonged, the Church.
     John Newton was born in Wapping, a small district in London located near the river Thames. His father was raised Catholic while his mother was a strong Independent unaffiliated with the Anglican Church. From the day he was born, Newtons mother had always hoped he would become a Clergyman, but unfortunately for Newton, she passed away from Tuberculosis when he was only six years old. Soon after Newton's mother passed away, his father remarried and he was raised in large part by his step-mother while his father was away at sea working as a shipping merchant. Eventually Newton was sent off to a boarding school where he was treated poorly, forcing him to leave the school and join his father at sea when he was only 11 years old. Newton's career at sea would be marked because of his strong disobedience. 
     Throughout his career at sea, Newton had numerous brushes with death, causing him to constantly re-examine his relationship with God. Eventually Newton came to the point where he renounced his faith after discussing the book Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, with one of his shipmates. In a letter he wrote, he described his reasoning for leaving the faith, "Like an unwary sailor who quits his port just before a rising storm, I have renounced the hopes and comforts of the gospel at the very time when every other comfort was about to fail me." Eventually, because of his disobedience, Newton was forced to join the Royal Navy where his disobedience did not stop, but actually became worse. While on leave, he took every advantage he had to overstay his allowance, and eventually he deserted the Navy all together to go and visit a family friend Mary "Polly" Catlett, with whom he had fallen in love with. After the shame that followed deserting the Navy, Newton was transferred from the Navy into a ship that was being used for slave trading. 
     While on this ship, Newton mocked the captain, initiated scuffles with shipmates, and would write poems that were so profane but so wildly popular that the crew would often times join in. Newton still hadn't learned his lesson in obedience so was often times chained up with the slaves that were being transported, he would often be starved for weeks on the ship, and eventually he was put into slavery on a plantation in Sierra Leone. It wasn't until Newton wrote home to his father that anyone knew what had happened to him as well as the kind of conditions he was working in. Only by chance did the ship "Greyhound," come across Newton to take him back to London. Little did Newton know that this ship would come to play a major role in his faith in God.
     While aboard the ship, Newton became known as one of the most profane people the captain had ever met. In times when sailors would often take oaths and swear, Newton would take it one step farther and often times create new words to go beyond the already vulgar language on the ship. In 1748 while in the North Atlantic, the ship was caught in the middle of a violent storm which caused one of Newton's shipmates to fall overboard from a spot where Newton had been standing only moments before. While wading the storm, the crew worked for hours to try and bail water from the ship and stay afloat, even though many of the crew thought the ship would capsize at any moment. During the storm Newton offered up a desperate suggestion to the captain, after which he said "If this will not do, then Lord have mercy on us." Eventually the tattered ship ended up on the shores of Ireland with a crew where Newton was haunted by the words that he had uttered. It was here that he began to wonder if he was worth God's grace and what he was really meant for. 
     Several years had passed and eventually Newton began to give in to authority, but only because he was seeking to appease Mary "Polly" Catlett's parents in order for them to bless his request for Mary's hand in 1750 he earned the right to marry Polly and became captain of a ship, where he had three shipping experiences with the slave trade before he was offered the position of captain on a ship with cargo unrelated to the slave trade. Unfortunately for Newton, he became ill and never sailed again. Eventually Newton became a customs worker in Liverpool in 1756 where he and Polly began to immerse themselves into the church community. Many people saw the passion that Newton showed for church and began to encourage him to become a Priest. After he was turned down by the Bishop of York in 1758, he was encourage by his friends to write about his experiences in the slave trade. Later, in 1764, the Earl of Dartmouth was so impressed by the writings of Newton, that the Earl offered him the position of Curate in Olney, Buckinghamshire. In Olney, Newton began to write hymns with a friend by the name of William Cowper. Though many people preferred Cowper's poetry of Newton's, he still wrote many poems largely based off the themes of faith through redemption. 

     Though the text of the hymn was published in 1773, it was not known whether there was music to accompany the text at that time. It wasn't until over 30 years later that the text was actually set to a tune, though there were nearly 20 different variations of tunes that Common Meter hymns such as "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound," could be set to. It wasn't until 1835 that the text was set to the tune of  "New Britain," which is the tune the hymn is widely known by today. Though the hymn was published over in England, it never really gained popularity in the church. The hymn really became popular in America in the early part of the 19th century, which marked the beginning of the 2nd Great Revival. The hymn fit perfectly in the simplistic origins of the new church, which was based largely off of repetition of words and hymns making it easier for the rural areas to understand the message being preached. The tune "New Britain," was in itself a combination of two popular tunes, "Gallaher," and "St. Marys," which was first published in the 1829 publication of Columbian Harmonies, written by Charles Spillman and Benjamin Shaw. Spillman and Shaw published this collection to appease "the wants of the church in her triumphal march." Because the two tunes were written down as being passed on aurally, it is assumed that both of them are of British origin. Eventually in the 1852 anti-slavery  publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, written by Harriet Beacher Stowe, a new verse was written while "Tom," sang "Amazing Grace," in his hour of deepest trouble. The final verse was not originally written by John Newton, but was rather passed down from an African American hymn entitled "Jerusalem, My Happy Home," which was said to have anywhere between 50-70 verses, this final verse of "Amazing Grace" being one of them.

The Text:

(1) Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

(2) T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

(3) Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

(4) The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

(5) Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

(6) When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

The Hymn:

My Take on the Hymn

     This is another one of my favorite hymns for several reasons, one of which is the tune will get stuck in your head for days on end. I really like the fact that this hymn discusses life before finding God, which admits that we sometimes aren't always good before we come to God to be saved. One of the most important messages that we can learn from this hymn is that no matter what we have done before god, and no matter what we do while we are with god, he will still love us. It says in Ephesians 2:8 "for it is through grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of god." God loves us and wants us to be with him and to love him the way he loves us. God understands that we will not always be perfect, but because he has given us the gift of Grace, we understand that we are allowed to slip up and not be perfect, as long as we come back to God and admit where we went wrong.
     The story of the Prodigal Son is another reminder (Luke 15: 11-32) that even though we were once in the good graces, if we come back humbly to God, he will accept us and love us for what we will become, not what we once were. Sometimes we forget that the church is the place where people who have sinned come to find solace. I am guilty of seeing some people and passing judgement on them because of past mistakes, but as I grow in my faith, I am learning that we all have a past that we may not be proud of, but God knows that and is willing to give us a second chance.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Children of the Heavenly Father

This one is for my Mother, Jill,
Hymn Title: Children of the Heavenly Father

Tune: Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara (Swedish Folk Song)

Meter: Long Meter (8, 8, 8, 8)

     This traditional hymn was written by a women named Caroline V. Sandell Berg (1832-1903). Growing up, most people knew Caroline (Karolina in Swedish) as Lina, when she was a member of a there Pietist wing of Swedish Lutherans. Throughout her years growing up, she grew to be very close with her father who was a minister. Her father was adamant about Lina growing up with an education far beyond what was typically expected out of women in that given time. Lina began writing poems early on in her life when she would write for Sunday school classes. Over her short life time Lina is said to have written over 1,700 different texts. Her most famous text, however, is still Children of the Heavenly Father.
     There are two different takes on when this hymn was actually written, but between many different sources, it was about 50/50 for which story was actually true. The first story was that Lina was such a "Daddy's Girl," that she wrote the hymn to honor her father and to say thank you to him for raising her and protecting her. The second story presents a potentially accurate take on when the hymn was written as well, but it does take a bit of a darker tone. When Lina was at the age of 26 (1858), her life quickly became filled with adversity. Her year started off with a few of her distant relatives falling ill to numerous different diseases and eventually passing away. Still, none of those deaths would shake her foundation nearly as much as the death of her Father did. Lina and her Father were said to have been on a boat, when the boat suddenly lurched forward because of a wave throwing her father over board. Before anyone was able to lead a rescue out to her Father, it was too late. It was said that the profound effect that watching her Father drown was what caused Lina to write the text to this hymn.
     Regardless of how the text came about, it wasn't until 1925 that the text was actually translated from the original Swedish into the English Lutheran version by a man named Ernst W. Olson.

The Hymn:
(1) Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

(2) God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

(3) Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

(4) Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

(5) Lo, their very hairs He numbers,
And no daily care encumbers
Them that share His ev’ry blessing
And His help in woes distressing.

(6) Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Ev’ry foeman must surrender.

The Hymn:

My Take On The Hymn:

     This hymn seems to have come at a great time for me. When things get hard, it is easy to forget that we have people around us who love us unconditionally. When we are at a low point it is very easy (at least it is for me) to say that I am alone in this and I have no one else, but its not true. No matter what we have going on in our lives, God is there with us. God sometimes has to give us tough love, he isn't always subtle about telling his children when they are headed down the wrong path, but as it is stated in verse four, his only goal is to keep us safe and to keep us in his love. God loves us no matter what, just like our parents do on Earth. Although I may not always see eye-to-eye on things with my Mother, I know she loves me no matter what, and for that I am forever thankful.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Be Thou My Vision

Here goes the first hymn!
Hymn Title: Be Thou My Vision

Tune: Slane

Numerical Outline: 10 10 10 10

     Yet again, the history of a Christian tradition has been influence by the Pagans. The tune "Slane," is originally an Irish folk tune that was created to honor St. Patrick. Back in 433 AD, on the eve of Bealtine, a Druidic Holiday that lines up directly with Easter as well as the spring equinox, it was declared by the King, Leoghaire (Leary) Mac Neill, that no fires were to be lit until the fire atop of Tara Hill was lit. Going against the kings wishes, St. Patrick went out to Slane Hill and lit a candle to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The king was so impressed by the courage that St. Patrick had shown, Leoghaire let him continue his missionary work throughout Ireland. 
     It wasn't until more than 100 years had passed that anyone took an interest in writing words to commemorate what had happened that day. Considered to be one of the top poets in Ireland at the time, Dallan Forgaill (CA 530-598 AD), who was said to have spent so much time studying that he went blind, took it upon himself to write a poem about the events. The poem was entitled "Rop tu mo Baile," and was written in old Irish. It wasn't until the year 1905 that Mary E. Byrne translated the text into English Prose. After the translation, another writer by the name of Eleanor H. Hull took the translation and put it into verse in her 1913 publication of Poem Book of Gael.
     The Tune "Slane," was not published until 1909 in a book entitled, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, written by Patrick W. Joyce. The tune was not published under the name "Slane," originally, but was rather named "By the Banks of the Bann." It wasn't until 1919 that Eleanor H. Hull's translation of the text was paired with the tune by Leopold Dix. The tune was first published in the Irish Church Hymnal. although many different versions of the hymn exist, the most widely accepted text is as follows: 
(1) Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

(2) Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word;
I ever with Thee, and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

(3) Be Thou my battle shield, sword for my fight,
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight.
Thou my soul's shelter, Thou my high tower.
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

(4) Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.

(5) High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

 What the Hymn means to me:

This hymn is very important to me because it is one of the first that I have ever played on the piano (excluding Christmas song). I take this hymn to mean that we are asking God to be our guide no matter what. The text praises God as well as asks God for something. We can always find a healthy balance of this if we take the time when we are praying to say "thank you," before we ask God for something. Some nights it is easy to forget that what we have with God is a gift, but this hymn serves as a reminder that we need to thank God for the things that we have and for being our guide through the trials and tribulations that make up what we call "Life."

The Hymn:

McCabe, Sarah. ""Be Thou My Vision": 
     The History of a Christian Hymn." N.p., 16 June 2010. Web. 09 July 2012.         <>.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Introduction to Etymology of Hymns

Hello everyone,
     I am creating this blog to explore one of my many interests, church hymns. I have been fascinated by the hymns that we sing in church, but where do they come from? How did these songs come about? What is the   history behind these hymns? I have always wanted to learn the answer to these questions and I believe others share the same feeling as well. My goal of this blog is to take a few hymns a week and explore the origins of the tunes as well as the texts. Being that I am a musician (piano and trumpet), hymns have been a big part of my life in the church, but just recently I have discovered some new ways to identify which hymn is being sung.
     When it comes to identifying which hymn is being sung, there are three ways in which one can narrow it down. The first is the broadest way to identify which hymn is being sung. You can identify the hymn by the number of syllables in each line. In the numerical index of the hymnal, you will find that every song that has a particular syllabic outline will be listed under a given numeric sequence. For example the hymn" Oh Worship the King," has a numerical outline of 10 10 11 11 11. This means that the first two lines of text have ten syllables each and the next three lines of text have 11 syllables each. A few other hymns that have the same numerical outline are "You Servants of God", and "Rejoice in God's Saints." 
     The second way to identify a hymn is even more specific. The name of the tune that the text is set to. In some hymns, there are two different texts that can be set to the same tune making it difficult sometimes to identify the hymn simply by the tune. A specific reason why sometimes the hymns are labeled by the tune can be traced back to the Shaker times. Back in the early times of america (late 18th century early 19th century), many people did not know how to read music. To keep things simple, Hymnals would not have any music printed in them, but rather only the text of the hymn, as well as the name of the tune that the text would be set to. Because music was not a common practice back then, members of a community would be taught different tunes by family members or other members of their church. An example of a tune that has two different texts is the hymns "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," as well as the hymn "Praise the  One Who Breaks the Darkness." Both of these hymns will sound the same if played on a piano with no text because they are both set to the tune "Nettleton."
     The third and final way to identify the hymn that is being sung is the most specific. You can identify which hymn is being sung by simply looking at the title of the hymn. Each numbered hymn in the hymnal has a different title which allows one to tell not only which hymn is being sung, but sometimes it can tell you the 
"season," for which that hymn is meant. Certain hymns are grouped together in such a manner as they should be sung in a given church "season," (I.E. Christmas hymns, Easter hymns, Pentecost etc.), which gives an even more specific way of grouping the hymns. Most people, however, do not pay attention to which "season," the hymn belongs to.
     Hymns are a very important part of the church service and can add so much to the experience of church. I hope to be able to shed some light on some of the hymns that we as Christians hear on Sunday mornings, but we may not know exactly where they came from or what they mean. I am always open to suggestions of hymns to write on!