For some time now, I have been working on a project of creating a hymn text reflecting the readings assigned for each Sunday and Solemnity in the Roman Catholic 3-year Sunday lectionary. As Carl Schalk wrote in The Hymn of the Day and Its Use in Lutheran Worship: “The Hymn of the Day is ‘the name given to the chief hymn in the service on every Sunday and festival, so called because it fits the specific day and season in the church year. It is the hymn which responds most intimately to the dominant theme of the day, which is usually contained in the Gospel for the day.’ As the chief hymn in the service, it reflects the central thrust of the proclamation for the day…. The Hymn of the Day is never merely a ‘sermon hymn’ (although it certainly reinforces the message of liturgical preaching). It is never merely a poetic paraphrase of the Gospel reading (although it is certainly related to the Gospel). It is rather a ‘musical and poetic commentary on all of the lessons and chiefly on the meaning of theme to be communicated by the service.'”
In the past I would have offered these texts for critique to a relatively limited number of friends and colleagues, some of whose suggestions I would incorporate into the final form of my hymn text. I thought, as an experiment, that I would invite those readers of Pray Tell who wished to help me with this project to offer their critique as well. To that end, I plan to post my “Hymn of the Day” one week before the Sunday on which it would be used through this season of Lent. Folks would be free to reproduce the text for use with their congregations as long as they indicate that The Jan Michael Joncas Trust retains the copyright. Even if they do not use the hymn with their worship communities, they might find the text a source of reflection or meditation on the lectionary readings for the day. I would appreciate any feedback from Pray Tell‘s readers: suggestions for different word choices or rhyme schemes, critiques of the progress of thought, recommendations for different hymn tune pairings. I will not publicly acknowledge or respond to every suggestion, but if this project sees the light of day as a publication, I will try to give credit to my Pray Tell collaborators.
Finally, there are those who might object to “importing” the concept of the Hymn of the Day from Lutheran worship structure into Roman Catholic worship structures. I would ask that we NOT debate that here, although I would be interested in that debate if it could be raised in a separate blog line.
Hymn of the Day for the First Sunday of Lent (Cycle B)
From comfort to the desert plain
God’s Spirit drove God’s Child
To dwell with beasts in wilderness,
And face the demon’s wiles.
Though angels served the Holy One
Throughout his desert trial
He suffered still as one of us:
Alone, unfed, beguiled.
From comfort to the desert plain
God’s Spirit gives us choice
To spend these forty days in prayer
Attending to God’s voice,
To mark our lives with fasting, freed
From food and foolishness,
To give as lavishly as God
Has given unto us.
From comfort to the desert plain,
God, guide us on our way.
Help us to find that perfect love
That drives the beasts away;
Help us to face the demons down
That whisper in the night,
And call on Christ to share his strength,
His grace, his peace, his light.
Suggested Hymn Tune: KINGSFOLD
Alternative Hymn Tune: THE CHURCH’S DESOLATION [H1982 #566]
Fr. Jan Michael Joncas
15 February 2012
Redemptorist House (Washington, DC)