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,
“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.)