Hymn of the Day for Lent 1B

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.

86.86.D. [CMD]

Suggested Hymn Tune: KINGSFOLD
Alternative Hymn Tune: THE CHURCH’S DESOLATION [H1982 #566]

Fr. Jan Michael Joncas
15 February 2012
Redemptorist House (Washington, DC)

68 comments

  1. If you are talking about the Mass, I do not understand the point of a hymn of the day, when the Church already has assigned to each day the proper chants. The introit is the “hymn” of the day in the sense that it sets the tone for the celebration, and is almost always taken from the Sacred Scriptures:
    “Invocabit me, et ego exaudiam eum…..” Psalm 90.
    This has been sung by the Church for at least 1400 years on the first Sunday of Lent.

    1. Actually, most of the Church probably didn’t sing the proper introits most of the time, given the level of their difficulty. In the Golden Age of monasticism the chant propers were sung in monasteries (and cathedrals and larger churches), but certainly not in most parishes. And of course even when they were sung, most of the Church didn’t understand Latin or have any idea what the introit was about.

      Sorry – couldn’t resist correcting the factual error. Fr. Joncas has rightly stated below that this isn’t the topic of the post, and I’ll do my best to hold everyone to that.

      awr

  2. Thanks, Fr. Joncas – am not a music minister but will enjoy reviewing your creative work and contribution to our liturgy. For years, our music minister used to introduce new hymns, chants using his version of a “chant/hymn of the month” so that all masses over time learned the “new” music and we were able to use these carefully chosen pieces at other key liturgies – now, we knew and had heard them sung and often used in homilies, sacraments during the eucharist, etc.

    Was waiting for someone to say what Victor just wrote. The usual, narrow and limited view of liturgy – sung by the “Church” for at least 1400 years – yes, and where would that be? doubt in the third world; doubt in US rural parishes; doubt even in US suburban parishes. Narrow reading of SC, GIRM, and a diminishment of the need to be pastoral in all liturgy.

    Ignores also the VII reforms that moved to a three year lectionary cycle and thus the “old” introits no longer echo (in a major of cases) the lectionary – we have a hard enough time trying to focus on the gospel and eucharistic prayers much less add introits, etc. that may have little connection to a three year cycle.

  3. Dear Victor,

    I specifically asked that this thread be devoted to critique of the given Hymn of the Day. If you would like to debate the propriety of using a Hymn of the Day in the context of Roman Rite Eucharist, please start your own thread on that topic. (BTW, Schalk suggests that the Hymn of the Day arose from the Gradual, not the Introit; I think it may also have some connection to the Sequence as well, but that would be material for another thread, not this one.)

  4. Do you think you repeated “God” enough times? It’s a fairly annoying trait in older hymns that have been neutered for polite modern society, but I am surprised to see this crutch in a new composition. The resulting sense is, of course, vague, impersonal, and extremely affected. The most obvious fix would be to rephrase it in the second person as an address to God — which would have the side benefit of actually making it a prayer (go figure) rather than just a set of facts that, for some reason, we have decided to inform each other about.

  5. If I understand Emily’s critique correctly, she would prefer a different progress of thought: that the first two stanzas not be descriptive with a final stanza devoted to prayer, but that all the stanzas be prayer addressed to God (the Father). The text would then read:

    From comfort to the desert plain
    Your Spirit drove Your 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
    Your Spirit gives us choice
    To spend these forty days in prayer
    Attending to your voice,
    To mark our lives with fasting, freed
    From food and foolishness,
    To give as lavishly as you
    Have 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.

    Would this be an improvement in other’s judgements as well?

    1. Yes!

      I love the concept. And what a fun idea to ask for people’s participation! Here’s my attempt (disclaimer: this is as a pew sitter who has no adult-level religious education but who loves to criticize everything anyway).

      He suffered still as one of us:
      Alone, unfed, beguiled.

      Being alone is not necessarily suffering; same with unfed. Why not replace “alone” by “lonely” (which is clearly a form of suffering) and “unfed” by “hungry” (idem)? Also, I’m not sure what “beguiled” is supposed to mean (the online dictionary says “charmed” or “tricked”, neither of which works in this context).

      To give as lavishly as you
      Have given unto us.

      Impossible. We cannot give as lavishly as God has given to us. That doesn’t work for me. If I was singing this, I’d have a mental reservation right there.

      And call on Christ to share his strength,
      His grace, his peace, his light.

      So we’re asking God (presumably the Holy Spirit) to help us ask Christ for strength etc.? That seems a little bit convoluted. I’d rather pray directly: “Christ, let us share your strength” or something like that.

  6. My apologies as I misread your instructions, thinking you did not want to discuss imports from the Lutherans.
    As for Bill de Hass, singing the Sacred Scriptures for me is very pastoral, more so than the words of man.

    1. Clearly you have a fundamentalist and literalist view of divine inspiration. While the scriptures are the Word of God they are not the words of God.

      To pour cold water on the project itself, as distinct from a critique of the lyrics, one would need a better series of arguments than that you have produced.

  7. I like the revised lyrics better, agree that it is more of a prayer.

    Maybe substitute “Christ” for “child” in verse 1? I know Child rhymes better with wiles, or perhaps find something to rhyme with Son?

    Great idea, and a terrific first fruits, Fr. Joncas!!

  8. Dear Michael Joncas, I read with great interest and much appreciation your Hymn of the Day for the first Sunday in Lent. Thank you for sharing your wordsmith talents with us. I have long felt that the Hymn of the Day gives an enormous opportunity to congregations to explore the day’s gospel through the medium of music and singing. It is one more way to bring the bible’s message and story to the congregation. I look forward with great anticipation to meeting you at St. Peder’s Luth. Church next month. I have a copy of “For You I Long”, and I am very impressed with the text.
    Thank you,
    Rita Juhl, Organist, St. Peder’s Lutheran Church

  9. Fr. Michael–I would agree that the “revised” version is much better, less affected and contrived. But I would also agree with Claire’s reservations as well. Most especially the examples in verses 2 and 3. As for verse 1, beguiled is not the right word but I can see the issue with trying to find an appropriate word to rhyme with “trial.”

    And finally, why concoct something “new” when there are at least 2 hymns, tested and well used, standards if you will, that it wouldn’t be Lent I (regardless of the lectionary cycle) without singing: “Lord Who throughout these forty days” and/or “Forty days and forty nights.” At least in my experience, they are well known and sung with much emotion and voice. Why reinvent the wheel? I know that these are over-used by Catholic parishes during Lent, but really, if you classify them as a “hymn of the day,” they should only be used on the First Sunday, thus avoiding over-kill.

  10. Thanks so much to those who have commented so far.

    A response to Claire: “Alone, unfed, beguiled” could be replaced by “lonely, hungry, tempted” at a conceptual level but the accentual patterns would then be problematic in relation to the hymn tune and I would also be forced to work through a different end rhyme (or slant rhyme as I presently have it.)

    Continuing with a response to John: I actually like the word “beguiled” not only because of its slant rhyme with “trial” but because it does have the connotation of tempting someone, although usually with a more playful range of meaning.

    Another response to Claire: I know that “to give as lavishly as God has given unto us” is literally impossible this side of eternity, but I find that kind of hyperbole not only allowable, but sometimes even called for in prayer. I’m trying to articulate the triumph of grace in us, the ideal, the goal toward which we strive under grace.

    A final response to Claire: Actually, I intended the third verse to address the Father throughout, asking his assistance (as you accurately note, throughout the Spirit) in calling on Christ when facing our “desert moments” of demonic temptation. It may seem convoluted, but I simply wanted to keep the focus on God the Father throughout the hymn, once I followed Emily’s suggestion to shift it to direct address throughout.

    I’m running out of room, so I’ll make a few further responses in another box.

    1. 1. I see. You’re right.
      2. Not sure. Obviously I didn’t catch that hyperbole. It’s a little strange to ask God for us to be as generous (or as strong, or as wise) as he is, as if we were keeping a tally. I would never pray that. If I’m going to try to imitate someone, it’ll be Christ, not God the Father. As far as giving is concerned, I’d be more inclined to relate it to the fact that everything we have comes from God anyway, and ask him to help us give to others what he has given us; or perhaps ask him to help us be his instrument so that he gives to others through us. But maybe I’m too literal-minded to be able to appropriate that hyperbole. To each their own style, I guess.
      3. yes, but when I see this kind of indirect prayers, it sometimes, when I am in a contrarian mood, makes me think of recursion: you know, as long as we’re at it, why not ask God to help us call on Christ to help us pray to the Father? Or ask God to help us ask Christ to help us ask God to help us ask Christ to help us pray to God? We can play that game of ping-pong as many times as we want to! (Of course, that would not be a problem here, because in singing I only understand phrases one fragment at a time, so I would not realize that this is indirect.)

      1. Correction: if it were about asking the son to help us pray the Father, of course I would have no problem with it. But it’s the reverse, and that’s odd. Why would we ask God the Father, who is distant, to help us call on Christ, who is close to us? Odd.

  11. A response to Lee: You think much as I do. I tried both “Son” and “Christ” to end the second line of stanza one but could not find a way to rework the fourth line of the stanza to have an acceptable rhyme or even slant rhyme. I also confess that I don’t especially like the child / wiles / trial / beguiled piling-up of “aisle” sounds in the first stanza, but it’s the best I could do so far.

    A response to John: What I’m trying to do with this Hymn of the Day is (I think) slightly different from what “These forty days of Lent” or “Forty days and forty nights” are trying to do. I’m specifically looking at the Marcan pericope for Cycle B as an inspiration: thus the references to the beasts, the angelic ministers, and the general reference to the demonic temptations rather than spelling out the particulars of the temptations as in Matthew’s Gospel (Cycle A) or Luke’s Gospel (Cycle C). I’ll try to make that clear by posting the Hymn of the Day I wrote for the First Sunday of Lent, Cycle C:

    Spirit-driven from the Jordan
    To the desert Jesus came,
    Making his his people’s passage
    Signed by pillared cloud and flame.
    Forty days and nights he fasted,
    Abba’s will his single aim.

    In the desert lurks the Tempter.
    “If you are God’s Son,” he said,
    “Claim your pow’r, assuage your hunger,
    Change these stones to loaves of bread.”
    “Not on bread alone,” cries Jesus,
    “On God’s Word our hearts are fed.”

    Through God’s city struts the Tempter.
    “If you are God’s Son,” he pressed,
    “Claim your pow’r, let angels bear you
    High above the Temple’s crest.”
    “Scripture teaches,” answers Jesus,
    “Do not put God to the test.”

    Mountain high, the Tempter shows him
    All earth’s beauty, wealth and store.
    “All this I bestow upon you
    If you claim me as your Lord.”
    “Silence! Leave this place, Deceiver!
    God alone must we adore.”

    I’ve run out of space, so the final stanza will be in the next box.

    1. Fr. Jan, while I like this hymn (and have a particular fondness for PICARDY), it seems a bit too much “a poetic paraphrase of the Gospel reading.” My personal preference would be for the hymn to take more the form of the final stanza, drawing on the Gospel events rather than simply retelling them.

      But it is a fine hymn. I might chuckle a bit mentally while singing “struts”, although that seems like the perfect word for the Tempter.

    2. Father, I have to agree with Jeffrey Pinyan that this one is pretty much a straightforward rehash of the Gospel text. Even so, a couple of short comments:

      A. “his his”: this is the sort of wordplay that I looks cool on paper, but is probably pretty bad for a sung text, particularly one that would be sung a maximum of once a year — i.e., everybody is reading it cold. It will sing like a stutter.

      B. “Signed by pillared cloud and flame” also will sing very badly — too many dense consonant clusters which are basically unpronounceable in metered hymnody, especially ndb and rdcl, but also dfl (and the vzl in the last line of the final stanza). Hard to imagine that this could ever be sung as anything but “Sime by pillar’ cloud an’ flame.” “Assuage” is also rare enough that I doubt very many people know it is pronounced with two syllables, as uh-SWAGE, instead of A$$-oo-age. (The dollar signs are just in case the filtering software here doesn’t allow that word 😉 )

      C. Doesn’t “Abba” mean “Father”? This chauvinist, male-dominated language really sticks out like a sore thumb here. No, just joshing with you; what stuck out was the obvious length you had to scramble to in order to avoid ever using a pronoun, “Father,” or “Lord” to refer to God the Father. Interesting that Satan gets a “he,” though.

      D. “When hope dies”: I would have thought that hope never dies. That line just rings way wrong to me. And if you were actually going for a bit of a shocker here, something jarring to make people sit up and pay attention a little, then the mission-statementey eco-stuff in the next lines comes as a major letdown.

  12. Christ who triumphed in the desert
    Help us face the Tempter’s lies.
    Keep us fasting, though we hunger.
    Keep us praying, when hope dies.
    Make us stewards of your bounty,
    As love’s logic makes us wise.

    87. 87. 87.
    Suggested hymn tune: PICARDY
    Alternative hymn tune: ST. THOMAS

    Fr. Jan Michael Joncas
    Tucson, AZ
    1 March 2011

  13. Could you delete my #10 above — I am usually able to edit a submitted box far more efficiently than typing into the original “submit comment” box, but today the site will not allow me to do that, and the comment that appears is highly incomplete! Thank you — I will try cutting and pasting instead.

  14. Dear Michael, I am so glad to see that you are continuing with this project – your texts that I have used have sung quite beautifully.
    A couple of comments:
    1. Normally, I am put off by the constant repetion of “God”, but there is something poetically compelling about the phrase “God’s Spirit drove God’s Child” I like the parallelism.
    2> I think that replacing “alone” with lonely and/or “unfed” with hungry removes a level of the poetic, to say nothing of losing the rhythmic structure and the assonance.
    3. I like the word “beguiled” The demon is nothing if he/she is not beguiling.
    4. The fact that each stanza begins with the same phrase is very appealing and ties the piece together.
    5. I love the image of “…. that perfect love
    That drives the beasts away;” and the juxtaposition of “demons” and “angels” in stanza one.
    Lastly, we have Lent every year and have used neither “Lord Who Throughout These 40 Days” nor “40 Days and 40 nights” 🙂
    The poetry of the text is not only beautiful, but it is faithful to the sparse Marcan imagery. Thank you for sharing these texts and I look forward to more.

  15. Fr. Joncas —

    I’m quite pleased with the revised version of this text that’s coming through in the comment box here. In retrospect I felt a little bad telling the great Joncas that I found his text “extremely affected,” but I really do think it works much better this way. As a couple of specific comments, though, I would want to note:

    A. “That perfect love / that drives the beasts away”: with all due respect to Linda’s opinion, this seems very obscure. I assume I’m forgetting some place in scripture where this comes from (right?), but it’s pretty tough to imagine what it even means to talk about love driving beasts away. What’s the idea, that animals would see how perfect our love was and go running in terror? (Was that how it worked with St. Francis?) If anything, love might make the lion to lie down with the lamb, not send it fleeing in panic. And even then, the connection of this theme to the rest of the hymntext escapes me. P.S., perhaps any retouching of this section could also find something to replace the bland, weak petitions “guide,” “help,” and “help.”

    B. The big problem in the current text is the reference to “the demons . . . / That whisper in the night, / And call on Christ.” I’m sure that by putting it that way you will immediately recognize the enormous flaw here, which cannot possibly stand as is.

  16. Responses to Ms. Kloster at #25: Who is “the great Joncas”? Is there something I have written in this blog to suggest that I have an exalted opinion of myself, am arrogant, or am incapable of receiving criticism of my work? I have addressed you with an honorific since you have chosen to address me that way, but I would be just as pleased if you called me “Mike” (which is what my family and friends call me).

    As for perfect love driving beasts away, the poetic leap in my mind was from the Marcan narrative of Christ dwelling with the beasts in his temptations to the monks of the patristic era who conquered demonic forces ranged against them by means of their desert ascetic practices. Here the demons were frequently imaged by wild beasts driven away by the invocation of Christ and his power. The most famous account is probably Athanasius’ _Life of Antony_.

    I find it curious that the verbs of petition here (“guide”, “help”) are perceived as “bland” and “weak” when you clearly dislike the more vivid “assuage” in my other hymn text. Perhaps you’d prefer a phrase like “We crave your succor, sovereign King” so that we could have both vivid verbs of petition and clearly gendered references to God. (That was meant to be a joke.)

    Since I’m running out of room in this comment box, I’ll respond to 25. B. below.

    1. Oh no, I really meant, “the great Joncas.” Like, really! I deeply respect your work and have been inspired by it many times. I just happen to write my comments bluntly, I guess . . . what can I say, it’s the internet. Although I have also received the Eucharist from you personally, at Notre Dame maybe seven or eight years ago, at the FOG chapel. You seemed very nice; I was sad we didn’t sing any Joncas. Oh, and please call me Emily!

      As to “assuage,” the word is fine, but I wanted to point it out as the type of word that may not be very conducive to doing a cold sight-reading of a hymntext. “Guide” and “help,” by contrast, are on the vague side, in addition to being way overplayed. Especially “help” — it just doesn’t say anything concrete. Help how? Do what? Given the concreteness of the images against which it is being juxtaposed, the beasts and all, “help us” doesn’t really have any oomph.

      And if there are wild beasts prowling around, then it seems like I shouldn’t want a guide so much as an armed escort, doesn’t it? I can envision how, as you relate, and invocation of Christ’s power might drive beasts away, but not perfect love. Sure, I know that in one sense we can say that true power of Christ is his love, but by that point I think we’ve stretched the imagery beyond what it’ll bear. A sentence like “Well, love drove them away” just wouldn’t mean anything very comprehensible to me, I suppose.

  17. Response to Ms. Kloster at 25.B: Contrary to your assertion, were you to read correctly what I actually wrote, there is no “enormous flaw, which cannot possibly stand as it is.”

    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.

    You might choose to construe the sentence as stating that the demons call on Christ, but “Help us to” controls both “face the demons down” and “call on Christ”. The omission of “to” before “call” is simple poetic ellipsis. However, I have no objection to replacing “And call” with “To call” so that your mis-reading of the text can be avoided.

    A final comment to Ms. Kloster and Jeffrey: I presented the Lent 1C text NOT for critique, but simply to illustrate the difference between a Hymn of the Day based on the Marcan pericope and one based on the Lukan pericope. As for not enjoying hymns paraphrasing Gospel texts, de gustibus non disputandum est. I happen to like them a great deal (as in many texts by Tom Troeger). In this regard I ca guarantee that you will dislike my hymn text for Lent 2B :-)!

    1. As to the first point, the flaw was the ambiguity. I read the lyric correctly, but if even a third or only a quarter of people read it the other way (again, people will almost certainly be singing this text cold), that means it would come across very bizarrely to a sizable proportion of folks. At minimum, the couple of seconds needed to think back and re-parse the sentence would be quite distracting.

      And I have no personal problem with paraphrase-hymns (well, except that they usually represent a missed opportunity in the liturgy — something new and thought-provoking could have been said, but instead, something we’ve just heard already is being said again), but I think Jeffrey and I were both responding in light of your prefatory remark that “The Hymn of the Day . . . is never merely a poetic paraphrase of the Gospel reading.” Well then, either this one isn’t a Hymn of the Day, or else “never” means “sometimes.”

      By the way, isn’t Year C the Lucan narrative? Because you have the temptations in the order from Matthew. In Luke, “worship me” comes before “cast yourself down.”

      All the best —

      Emily.

  18. “A. “That perfect love / that drives the beasts away”: with all due respect to Linda’s opinion, this seems very obscure.”

    Emily, I think our opinions are formed from differing points of view. I like poetic imagery in hymn texts. I think that texts, coupled with a beautiful tune should not be merely expository or prosaic.

    1. (Sorry for 2 boxes – it won’t let me edit
      my comments.)
      …..but a poetic interpretation of the gospel/readings!
      There is time in the liturgy for the didactic and, Lord knows, there is plenty of prose.

    2. I like it too. The beasts are evil creatures, of course: maybe snakes?… They come, perhaps on the attack, but see radiating love, are overpowered and go away. They’re not merely natural wild animals to be tamed, but representations of evil; at least that’s what I imagine. It seems clear to me!

  19. With the exception of two words (drove, and beasts) there wasn’t very much to suggest Year B here. This was a disappointment.

    But my greater concern is that by focussing entirely on the gospel reading, one neglects the hermeneutic key to the Year B lectionary for Lent — which is found in the first reading.

    I know I am a voice crying in the wilderness here, but the theme of covenant and renewal of covenant is absolutely central to the Year B Lenten lectionary. Furthermore, the theme is carried principally by the Old Testament readings, which refer to a different covenant each week, leading up to the promise of a new covenant in Jeremiah.

    Does the tendency to give priority to the gospel reading mean that we can never attend to the first or second reading unless it is easily and obviously harmonized with the gospel reading? As much as I love Mark, and would welcome a dozen hymns about his account of the temptations in the desert, I fear the “hymn of the day” here has taken the wrong point of departure.

    I realize this comment can hardly be of practical help, now that the hymn is written (and evidently the rest of the season’s hymns as well) but I believe this is an important issue. It is important for preaching as well. We never, ever, hear about covenant. Yet it’s extremely important to the biblical witness. And it’s structured into the lectionary.

  20. Response to Rita: I’m aware of the covenant thematic running through the first readings, but chose to focus on the Gospels for the Hymn of the Day. In some of my later Lenten Hymns of the Day I incorporate material from the second reading, but left the covenant thematic to be treated by another Lenten hymn text writer. Feel free to construct your own Lenten Hymns of the Day based on the first readings. (I mean that sincerely: I would welcome others laboring in this field.)

  21. Hello, Mike. This is an excellent project. Thanks for sharing it.

    You say: “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’.”

    How then do you propose to use it in a liturgical context?

  22. Fr. Joncas, I admire your ambition to write a hymn of the day (HOD) for every Sunday in the three-year lectionary.

    Several hymnwriters, of course, have already produced their 150+ offerings: Troeger, Grindal, Forster, Hudson, to name a few of the more important collections, each of which were scrutinized by the editors of Worship, fourth edition. But our editors found among those collections no suitable HOD for Lent 1B.

    Lent 1B is so very challenging because it is so short. Mark uses only two verses to recount Jesus’ forty days in the desert. The nature of the temptations is not given by Mark, as it is by Matthew and Luke. That’s why a hymn like Herman Stuempfle’s “Jesus, Tempted in the Desert” – which is suggested in Worship IV as the HOD for both Lent 1A and 1C – does not work for Lent 1B.

    But I miss your not referencing at all the last two verses of this Sunday’s gospel periscope in your hymn: Mk 1:14-15. “Forty Days and Forty Nights” actually is a quite good HOD for Mk 1:12-13 since it makes no reference to the Matthean or Lukan temptations. But Worship IV chose to go with Bryn Rees’ “The Kingdom of God” because of Mk 1:14-15.

    As to some specific “nits” I might pick at in your text: stanza 1’s lack of perfect rhymes. True, slant rhymes are occasionally used in metrical hymn texts, but it is not the practice to have mostly perfect rhymes with a few imperfect ones.

    Metrical hymnody rarely would use a repeated “hook” such as “from comfort to the desert plain.” In fact the usual practice is to avoid even repeating single words as much as possible, especially not repeating them in the same stanza. Having “Help us” twice in stanza 3 especially sticks out for me.

    (continued on nex combox)

  23. (continued from previous combox)

    You stated that you intended not to be influenced by the Matthean and Lukan temptations (Mt 4:1-11 and Lk 4:1-13) in your hymn. But is that even possible, since Mark says so little? None of these words/phrases in stanza 1 seem to find their justification in the two verses of Mk 1:12-15: from comfort, demon (Mark says it was “Satan” not a “demon”), suffered, as one of us, unfed, beguiled.

    And some syntactical problems for me: “in wilderness” with no article or adjective after the preposition; “gives us choice” with no article (also “choice” in this context implies an alternative, yet none is given).

  24. Responses to Emily at ##28 and 30: Thanks for your on-going clarifications. 1) You have EXACTLY presented my thought on “perfect love = power of Christ driving out beasts = demonic forces”, but I will take your critique that the leaps are too stretched. 2) I actually don’t think of the other hymn text SIMPLY as a Gospel paraphrase because it turns to direct prayer at the end. While I appreciate the desire for hymn texts to “do something else,” perhaps my experience of the general scriptural illiteracy of the congregations with which I work prompts me to seek to reinforce the proclamation with paraphrase. I would hope that the preaching would offer at least some biblical information as well. 3) You are completely correct: the other hymn text was intended for the First Sunday of Lent, Cycle A (not Cycle C), thus the Matthean pericope (not the Lucan). I mis-read my own file.

  25. Response to John at #36: According to Carl Schalk, Lutheran hymnals gave various placements to the Hymn of the Day: 1) Gospel / Creed / Hymn / Sermon; 2) Gospel / Sermon / Creed / Hymn; 3) Gospel / Sermon / Hymn / Creed; 4) Gospel / Hymn / Sermon / Creed. In Roman Catholic Eucharistic worship, I would see the Hymn of the Day as a praeter legem addition to the Order of Mass, either treating it as a Sequence sung prior to the proclamation of the Gospel (following some medieval practices of adorning the Liturgy of the Word with this kind of meditative Word-based chant) or as a congregational hymn arising from the preaching and leading into the Creed . I suspect some might program it as a hymn during the Preparation of the Gifts as a way to meditate on the Word proclaimed and preached while we transition focus to the Lord’s Table. Others might program it post-Communion much like those Communion antiphons that repeat texts from the Gospel during the procession to Communion. But it is clearly an “import” into the present Order of Mass structure.

  26. Response to Ron at ##37 and 38: Thanks for your thoughtful and telling critique. 1) I confess that the major way I tried to make the text for Cycle B reflect the Marcan pericope was by refusing to articulate the three temptations that appear in the other synoptics’ accounts. I did think of changing line 4 of stanza one to “And face satanic wiles,” but it sounded too much like William Blake for me to feel comfortable with the line. I suppose I also extrapolated from the angels ministering to Jesus the notion that he was in need of care, i.e., suffering. 2) I simply disagree with your observation about repeated lines in metrical hymnody. While they are not often in evidence, they can, in my opinion, serve as very effective ways of signaling the progress of thought. Fair warning: I use the device in my HOD for Lent 2B. 3) I agree that I should not repeat “help” (unless I were to employ it in a litanic pattern for the hymn, and that would not be appropriate here). 4) I also accept your concerns about “in wilderness” (I wondered about that myself) and “give a choice” with no stated alternative (I assume that the reader/singer will supply the alternative, but perhaps I shouldn’t.)

  27. These comments have been very helpful. I would summarize them by saying: 1) There is some consensus that if the hymn text for Lent 1B should be retained, it should appear addressed to God throughout all 3 stanzas; there is some dispute about whether or not there should be a shift in address in the final stanza. 2) There is further consensus that this is not a Hymn of the Day (at least as Carl Schalk defines it) but a Gospel paraphrase of the Marcan temptation account. 3) It is therefore inadequate because: a) it doesn’t take into account the other readings appointed for the day and b) it doesn’t even paraphrase the entire Marcan pericope. 4) It is further inadequate because: a) it should either display perfect end rhymes or no end rhymes in its stated metrical scheme; b) it uses bland terms to request assistance from the Deity; and c) it asks readers/singers to make too stretched leaps of thought.

    My debate is whether or not to try to “fix” the text to take account of all these objections (as it was relatively easy to fix the text to respond to Emily’s desire that it be addressed to God the Father throughout) or to simply scrap it and start over. I’m leaning toward the latter. Fortunately even experiments that fail can advance knowledge.

  28. “It is therefore inadequate because: ”
    The “inadequacies” that you cite are people’s opinions. As the author/wordsmith/poet, your opinions and observations may differ. My observations are contrary to some of the stated opinions, as I LIKE the poetic devices that some find objectionable. I wouldn’t scrap the whole text because people want a different one or want it expressed in a different way, and I would hardly call it a failure……just sayin’ my 2¢ worth….. 🙂

  29. What Linda said. We wouldn’t want to sing a committee-produced hymn, and neither does anyone wish you to address each and every criticism raised by everybody and his cousin. The result would be awful.

    Then what is the point? It’s for us to have a little fun, and perhaps for you to know a little more on how some of your words will be perceived by some of the people. But it’s not reason to scrap it! Had I thought that might be your conclusion, instead of indulging in picking the text apart I would carefully have said: “Very nice. Thank you for working for us!”

  30. Thanks to Linda and Claire. The great advantage of this experiment is I get to have more sets of eyes looking at the text before I consider publication. I knew going into it that the critiques would come from a variety of positions, some of which I would accept and some of which I would reject (e.g., while Emily finds my avoidance of masculine pronouns for God affected, both my work with particular communities and Brian Wren’s book _What Language Should I Borrow?_ have convinced me that I cannot simply exclusively employ Father and Son language with corresponding masculine pronouns and imagery in my own hymn texts [although the hymn text you will see for Lent 4B does]). I’m actually delighted to see that many of the critiques echoed difficulties I faced as I crafted the text, knowing that the decisions I make are always the best I can do at the time not perfection. But I think the most telling critique may be that unless I explicitly bring the other readings into play, I cannot claim to be crafting a Hymn of the Day. I had thought that it would be OK to do primarily a Gospel paraphrase with a reference here or there to one of the other readings, as long as the paraphrase moved to prayer. I know that that critique can be posed to some of the other hymn texts I will present for this Lent, but I’m committed to seeing the experiment through, so I hope future sets of critiques will be equally forthright.

  31. The last two lines could be reshaped into a request that Christ, his preaching, or the Gospel be set as a sign for us. Like Noah’s rainbow after the flood, we have Christ preaching after the desert

    Let the Gospel be our sign
    Of your mercy and light.

    Needs some work, but that is the idea.

  32. or to simply scrap it and start over. I’m leaning toward the latter.

    I like to sing but I do not read music, so I am NOT looking forward to 156 plus new hymns that I will sing only once every three years!!! Why not use that day’s liturgy to help 1) introduce a hymn that might be used for the rest of Lent, or 2) a hymn that might be used for the entire Year B because it contains a fundamental theme of Mark. Let me give examples.

    Our current observance of Lent is too far individualistic. That is also the problem with a lot of popular “desert” spirituality with its emphasis upon loneliness, and psychological “beasts” and “demons.”

    The “desert” or “wilderness” was a place without civilization, i.e. both the benefits and limitations of culture and social institutions. The desert was a place where God through covenant renewal challenged his people to renew not just their lives but their civilization, e.g. in the Life of Anthony, “the monks made of the desert a city.”

    From the “uncivilized” desert where there are only “beasts” and “angels” Jesus comes forth as the new humanity of the Kingdom. The temptation is not only that man might become less than human, a beast, but that we might become evil angels (Satan).

    The key of this Gospel’s desert experience for Jesus is that he chose to “serve” others like the good angels who were his company and models in the desert. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mar 10:45 NAB). In Mark, the only other persons besides Jesus and the angels who served (the Greek word from which we get deacon) were Peter’s mother-in-law and the women of Galilee.

    We need a great hymn of Jesus who chose in the desert to be a servant that we can sing again and again not only during Lent but during the year of Mark since Jesus as servant is essential to the Gospel of Mark.

  33. or to simply scrap it and start over. I’m leaning toward the latter.

    I like to sing but I do not read music, so I am NOT looking forward to 156 plus new hymns that I will sing only once every three years!!! Why not use that day’s liturgy to help 1) introduce a hymn that might be used for the rest of Lent, or 2) a hymn that might be used for the entire Year B because it contains a fundamental theme of Mark. Let me give examples.

    Our current observance of Lent is too far individualistic. That is also the problem with a lot of popular “desert” spirituality with its emphasis upon loneliness, and psychological “beasts” and “demons.”

    The “desert” or “wilderness” was a place without civilization, i.e. both the benefits and limitations of culture and social institutions. The desert was a place where God through covenant renewal challenged his people to renew not just their lives but their civilization, e.g. in the Life of Anthony, “the monks made of the desert a city.”

    From the “uncivilized” desert where there are only “beasts” and “angels” Jesus comes forth as the new humanity of the Kingdom. The temptation is not only that man might become less than human, a beast, but that we might become evil angels (Satan).

    The key of this Gospel’s desert experience for Jesus is that he chose to “serve” others like the good angels who were his company and models in the desert. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mar 10:45 NAB). In Mark, the only other persons besides Jesus and the angels who served (the Greek word from which we get deacon) were Peter’s mother-in-law and the women of Galilee.

    We need a great hymn of Jesus who chose in the desert to be a servant that we can sing again and again not only during Lent but during the year of Mark since Jesus as servant is essential to the Gospel of Mark.

  34. What a wonderful project–I would find this collection very helpful in my parish.

    A suggestion: this collection would be the most helpful if you stick to very well-known meters found across Catholic hymnals: CM, CMD, LM, 8787D, etc. I have many volumes of hymns by the other composers mentioned above, but I often find that their meters only fit relatively unknown tunes.

    For example, Rendez a Dieu is a lovely tune, but only a small of the general Catholic population know it. Some hymn aficionados may argue that it’s found three times in Worship III, so everyone must know it! Not so. If a hymn is not found in Breaking Bread & Gather, it’s hard to consider it mainstream.

    My rule of thumb: just when I am tired of a piece of music, that’s when most the congregation has heard it enough to actually sing it. Just when I’ve become -sick and tired- of that same piece, that’s when they can sing it and pray it.

  35. I realize I am coming late into this, but here is my take, FWIW:

    The first stanza is unripe. It feels noticeably more artificial than the other two. And the second half of the second stanza is not “there” yet.

  36. I will say I appreciate Fr Joncas’ experiment here. Precisely because it is easy to publish new versifications and music these days, I am finding that “unripeness” is a common affliction.

    Older music has the advantage of having been sifted through and worn over by time; the common practice of adjusting texts over decades helped in many cases to ripen them properly. Which is why most of us don’t sing about welkins on Christmas anymore. Getting many perspectives on a proposed text and/or tune can help jumpstart the process, though it still takes time.

  37. I’m truly amazed and in awe at Fr. Joncas’s bravery in putting out his own work for public comment, critique, and alas, at times, attack. He deserves tons of praise. I have benefitted much from the discussion, and especially from his amazing graciousness in responding to commenters.

    It’s easier to critique than to develop one’s own artistic work, I’ve found. I hope we all keep that in mind as we comment on Michael’s and others’ work here.

    Peace,

    Fr. Anthony

    1. Agreed. But the editing perspective is not the same as the creative; while they are ideally aligned in common mission, it’s the very difference in perspectives that provides the synergy. I know that, as good an editor as I can be (and I have been an editor), I can’t be the best editor of my own creative work.

    2. YES! I emphatically agree with your entire post, Fr. Anthony. It is very easy to say what some one “should have done” when the critic is not doing it! And it is very difficult to respond to (sometimes not so nicely put) criticism with a gracious attitude!

  38. Response to Jack at ##47 and 49: I understand your desire for either a Lenten hymn with Marcan thematics that could be sung through the season or a Cycle B hymn with Marcan thematics that could be sung through the year, but that is not my project. I’m trying to create a Hymn of the Day, much as I would try to create a homily for the particular set of readings given for that day (i.e., not just create a “one size fits all” homily that would be preached throughout Lent or every Sunday of Year B). Whether or not it would be pastorally wise for a given community to use a different hymn each Sunday is a separate question. As I wrote in response to John Ainslie, I do realize that this is something that Lutherans (and I believe, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Presbyterians) have more experience with than Roman Catholics, so it may never catch on.

    Response to Karl at #53: Thanks for your critique, but it’s less helpful to me than the more concrete suggestions of Emily, Jeffrey, and Fr. Ron. On the other hand, it could be helpful in suggesting that I scrap this hymn text and start over.

    Response to Fr. Anthony at #55: Thanks for your intervention. So far I’ve found the critiques helpful (when they stay on point) and I’m grateful that so many people would try to help me craft something worthy of people’s sung prayer.

    1. Fr Joncas

      I was trying to give a metaview editorial perspective, as you already had received a number of line by line critiques.

      In terms of particular problems, I would start with the first line you use to link each verse. In the case of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark does not depict his being driven by the Spirit from comfort to the desert plain. Rather, he is driven immediately (the Marcan leitmotif, of course) from the Jordan River into the wilderness (not so sure the desert plain that wilderness; while Americans tend to think of a desert as a vast expanse, that’s not necessarily the case in the Holy Land). So, I would not try to have each verse be a literal repetition; theme and variation would seem more appropriate a device if you want the rhetorical linkage between verses.

      Secondly, I think the overly obvious effort to avoid “Son” creates more problems than it solves. I applaud the feedback to make this addressed to God, but it is now rather odd that we address God so indirectly.

      An additional inspirational thought: for the Marcan account of the Temptation, I heard a wonderful homily 6 years ago that discussed that wild beasts and angels (unlike fallen humanity) act in accord with their created natures – Scripture is elsewhere full of examples where beasts and angels do whatever they are told to do by God or his agents – and so are implied models in this pericope of the harmony of the new creation that is coming into being.

  39. Well, friends, here’s the result of your helpful critiques: a new hymn text. I already know Emily won’t like the fact that I have returned to two descriptive stanza followed by a prayer stanza and Fr. Ron and Karl may not like the new repeated opening, but I think I have crafted something that takes into account the critiques. Of course, there will be new problems with this texts as well. I guarantee that I won’t afflict you with any more versions of a hymn text for Lent 1B after this:

    Faithful to the Spirit’s prompting,
    Noah and his kinsfolk sailed
    On an ark through threat’ning waters
    Till in safety they prevailed.
    When the killing flood receded
    Stretched across the radiant sky
    Glowed the rainbow of God’s promise:
    Nevermore would all life die.

    Faithful to the Spirit’s prompting,
    Jesus left his home behind,
    Journeyed deep into the desert
    Forty days and forty nights.
    There he faced the wiles of Satan.
    There he dwelt with feral beasts.
    There he chose to preach the Kingdom
    Till his life on earth would cease.

    Faithful to the Spirit’s prompting
    We have gathered here to pray.
    Teach us, Lord of flood and desert,
    How to hear what you may say
    Then to act your will in practice,
    Fasting from excess and greed,
    Following our Master’s model
    Bearing love to those in need.

    87.87.D.

    Suggested Hymn Tune: HOLY MANNA (H1982 #238, 580)
    Alternative Hymn Tune: TON-Y-BOTEL (H1982 #381)

    Fr. Jan Michael Joncas
    St. Paul, MN
    21 February 2012

    1. I love the first two stanzas. So rich! And those feral beasts, I can almost hear them growl!

      There he chose to preach the Kingdom
      Till his life on earth would cease.

      Yes! So concise. Beautiful!

      Ok. Now. Criticisms – I never tire of criticizing. “kinsfolk”? Isn’t that artificially gender-neutral (I’m not sure)? “in practice”? I hear those two words all the time at work; they’re weak. And what happened to the memorable “freed from food and foolishness”? Wouldn’t it be great if the third stanza were as strong and full of energy as the previous two. Instead, we come across as wimps, compared to Noah and Jesus. Maybe a little hyperbole would help us look better…

      1. How’s something like that, for more energy?
        Teach us, Lord of flood and desert,
        To give everything away,
        To love our bitter enemies,
        To repent from mortal sins.
        We believe in the Gospel,
        From death to life it will lead.

  40. Brilliant!
    Bravissimo. THIS is a hymn of the day.
    Tweak if you like, but it’s there.
    Congratulations on seeing this through.

  41. Thank you, Michael. I completely agree with Rita. I plan to use this in my prayer on Sunday.

    In reading some comments by others about a broader approach to Lent, I thought about a recent liturgy team meeting and the our experience of finding a theme in a different place.

    We came across a suggestion that seasonal planning might begin by looking at the Entrance Antiphons and asking ourselves: What mood or tone is being set at the beginning of Mass? We did this at our parish, and the messages we found in the Lenten antiphons were: God is with us, reaches out to us, and rescues us. God doesn’t hide from us, even when we hide from God. We are called to turn trustfully to God. God will not disappoint; He will comfort us.

    The antiphons express a yearning and seeking for God; this is much different from the tone of sinfulness and unworthiness and doing penance that is so often tied to Lent. The Palm Sunday antiphon – that God is so big that the doors of Great Temple aren’t big enough – perhaps reminds us why David voiced the words of the other antiphons: God’s great love overwhelms our shortcomings.

  42. Fr. Joncas,

    Yes to your new text! And, BTW, the repetition of “faithful to the Spirit’s prompting” works very well.

    Your new text, along with your summary statements in nos. 42 and 45, prompt me to ask: should we uncritically accept Carl Schalk’s definition of “Hymn of the Day”? Schalk’s booklet, The Hymn of the Day and Its Use in Lutheran Worship,” was published in 1983, five years after the appearance of the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW). And so, his understanding of the HOD as somehow reflecting all three readings of a given Sunday was not the guiding principle for the LBW’s selection of HOD’s. But neither does it appear to be the guiding principle in the more recent Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006).

    Of the four hymn writers I previously mentioned (no. 37) who have created HOD’s for all the Sundays of the three-year lectionary, only Michael Forster attempts to reflect the three readings of a given Sunday in his texts. (IMO they are not very good hymns.) The other three writers for the most part are concerned only with a particular Sunday’s gospel reading.

    Another concern of mine. I don’t think you are suggesting that Roman Catholics would sing a HOD at Mass before or after the gospel reading or before or after the creed, as Lutherans do. It seems to me that in the Mass a HOD would most likely be sung at the beginning or conclusion of the celebration, occasionally at the presentation and preparation of the offerings, and rarely as a communion processional (e.g., when the day’s readings/gospel have/has a eucharistic theme.)

  43. I hope that these texts are collected and published for us to use. They would be a great addition, especially for choirs and cantors.

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