Poetry

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Holy Eucharist

by Lionel E. Deimel

 

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.

 

Communion elements
 

These are the words to my latest hymn, one that has taken a long time to complete. I failed to record when I began to write the hymn, but its genesis was a line that came to me during a Sunday worship service at my church:

As we kneel before your altar

The line became the first line of the text, though, as you can see, I modified it along the way. As I developed the poem, I was reminded of this passage from Eucharistic Prayer C in the Episcopal prayer book (BCP, p. 372):

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.

Once I made that connection, I decided to use the passage to shape the text. The first five verses mirror the Prayer C text. The final verse is drawn from the dismissal that appears on page 366 of the BCP. That dismissal, of course, constitutes one possible ending for a service employing Eucharistic Prayer C.

The musical setting for the text (see below) was a long time in maturing. My first tune was, to put it gently, modest. It consisted only of quarter notes. In the process of imploring friends to help me produce a four-part choral arrangement, the tune became more interesting and, though it remained in the key of C major, the time signature underwent several changes.

The greatest influence on the musical arrangement was Bob Senay. Doug Starr helpfully encouraged my creativity, which resulted in a better tune for Bob to work with. Bob wrote an arrangement closely related to what turned out to be the final version, and, in so doing, caused me to make a number of revisions, primarily to achieve more satisfactory rhythms. Doug and John Murphy helped me tweak the resulting music, which then received its final revisions from me. I called the tune, for what should be obvious reasons, “Prayer C.”

“Holy Eucharist” is clearly a communion hymn. It is particularly appropriate for singing in the context of a service using Eucharistic Prayer C, though I see no reason not to use it with other Eucharistic prayers. Only after I finished “Holy Eucharist,” however, did I realize that not only does my new hymn work well with Eucharistic Prayer C, but so also does “Heavens and Earth, All of Creation.” Recall that that prayer contains this:

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.

This, of course, is more or less where “Heavens and Earth, All of Creation” begins.

Please contact me for permission if you would like to use “Holy Eucharist” in a worship service.

On February 23, 2014, my church choir sang “Holy Eucharist” as a communion anthem.

Below, you can view the sheet music for the hymn, hear the tune, or listen to the February 23 performance. (The recording might have been better. I was using the digital recorder of St. Paul’s for the first time.)

  Download   View Music (PDF)  
 
   Listen to Music
 
 
   Listen to First Performance
 

— LED, 11/21/2013, rev. 3/13/2014

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