October 24, 2013

A New Hymn: Holy Eucharist

A few months ago, during a service at my church, I thought of the line
As we kneel before your altar
 This was the beginning of my hymn below, which I call “Holy Eucharist.” The hymn has had a long gestation period, and I cannot recall all the steps that led to the final version of it. The text remained stable for a long time as I developed a tune and a four-part arrangement. I made the final changes to the text a few days ago and finished the arrangement today.

Somewhere along the line, I began thinking of Eucharist Prayer C. Most of the hymn is inspired by this text from page 372 of the Book of Common Prayer:
Lord God of our Fathers; God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.
Of course, the final verse is inspired by the dismissal that appears on pages 340 and 366 of the BCP.

If it is hard for me to remember just how the text came to be, I completely lost track of all the versions my tune “Prayer C” went through. My first tune was made up of only quarter notes. A later version was in 3/4 time, and one version was partly in common time and partly in 3/4 time. The final version is in 4/4, but I’ve considered so many variations, I cannot be confident that my “final” version is really final.

I am posting the hymn here in the hope that people will try it out and give me feedback. At some point, I will call it done and put it on my Web site. For now, the music is here, and a sound file is here. The text is below.

Holy Eucharist

As we gather round your table,
And we wait for wine and bread,
Make us grateful for the solace
That attends us as we’re fed.

Though beset by daily trials
And distressed when things go wrong,
We have come to you for patience;
Precious Savior, make us strong.

We acknowledge all our failures—
Things we’ve done and left undone—
So we ask you for your pardon,
Through the victory you’ve won.

Though our creature needs are many,
And our virtues sometimes few,
Yet we come before your table
That our lives you might renew.

With assembled friends and neighbors
’Neath the mystic witness cloud,
May we be one holy body
With Communion’s grace endowed.

And now, we, refreshed and strengthened,
From your banquet must depart,
Going forth in love and peace to
Serve with joy in every heart.


Update 10/25/2013: In my initial post, I neglected to thank the people who helped with the arrangement of this hymn. Without them, I would only have a melody, and even that would be worse than the current one. So, thanks to Bob Senay, Doug Starr, and John Murphy.

2 comments:

  1. Lionel, Thanks for creating and sharing this wonderful hymn. We at Redeemer (Morristown) are always looking for poetry and hymns that are at once traditional, contemporary, and intimate. If you don't mind, I'd like to share this with the rest of our Worship Committee. Blessings, Joan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joan,

      I apologize for being slow to respond to your comment. By all means share it. In case you have not seen them, you might want to consider my other hymns as well: “O Lord the Invisible,” “Authorities,” and “Heavens and Earth, All of Creation.” “Authorities” is probably my favorite, as it fills a niche in Anglican hymnody that is largely empty.

      Delete

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