Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not Your Grandmother's--or Your Mother's--Eucharistic Hymn

Save for the occasional Pange lingua or O Salutaris, most Eucharistic hymns that come to my mind which enjoy widespread popularity seem to epitomize either the 1940's or the 1970's. Alas, even the aforementioned Latin hymns can be given a kind of saccharine, "Sweet and Low" sort of flavor, depending upon the rendition.

It is little wonder that many weary of this time-bound musicianship. Maybe you have as well. Are you looking for a good Eucharistic hymn to sing? Well, besides the wonderful chant hymns, of which there are many, there is another you might like to know about, one that was introduced to me by my friends at St. Clement's here in Philadelphia--When the Patriarch Was Returning. This is sung to the tune All Saints, which can be found in The Hymnal 1982. I'm not sure if this tune is in any Catholic hymnal, but just call your local Episcopalian organist and ask for a copy of this fair melody. Then, apply the text below. A video of this hymn, from the dvd of Corpus Christi at S. Clement's, follows. You might wish to stay tuned also for the Introit for this Feast.

When the Patriarch was returning
Crowned with triumph from the fray,
Him the peaceful king of Salem
Came to meet upon his way;
Meekly bearing bread and wine,
Holy Priesthood's aweful sign.

On the truth thus dimly shadowed
Later days a luster shed;
When the great high-Priest eternal,
Under form of wine and bread,
For the world's immortal food
Gave his flesh and gave his blood.

Wondrous Gift! The Word who fashioned
All things by his might divine,
Bread into his body changes,
Into his own blood the wine;
What though sense no change perceives,
Faith admires, adores, believes.

He who once to die a Victim
On the cross did not refuse,
Day by day upon our altars,
That same Sacrifice renews;
Through his holy priesthood's hands,
Faithful to his last commands.

While the people all uniting
In the sacrifice sublime
Offer Christ to his high Father,
Offer up themselves with him;
Then together with the priest
On the living Victim feast.

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