Hymn of the Week: August 28, 2022
by Ed Hanson, Director of Music and Choirmaster
Calvary Episcopal Church, Columbia
Hymn of Joy, #376
This hymn has long been one of my very favorites, and what a joy to find that I had chosen it as our processional hymn on one of my Hymn Article Sundays! The music is familiar to almost everyone: taken from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the tune is bright and uplifting. When Beethoven adds the choral voices to the orchestra, the listener feels the spirit soar.
So, I’ll focus more in today’s article about the author of the familiar words, Rev. Henry van Dyke, Jr. Born into privilege, Henry was educated at a prep school and then at Princeton, and later graduated from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1877. Well known as a liturgical scholar, he chaired the committee that produced the first Book of Common Worship (1906) for the Presbyterian Church. He later served, after the invitation from his college friend Woodrow Wilson, as Ambassador to the Netherlands and to Luxembourg (1913-1917).
It was during a visit to Williams College in Massachusetts in 1907 that Rev. van Dyke wrote the words to Hymn of Joy. He claimed that the beautiful setting of the college had inspired him. Here are those stirring lyrics:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee
God of glory, Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flow'rs before Thee
Op'ning to the Sun above
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
drive the dark of doubt away
Giver of immortal gladness
fill us with the light of day
All Thy works with joy surround Thee
Earth and heav'n reflect Thy rays
Stars and angels sing around Thee
center of unbroken praise
Field and forest, vale and mountain
Flow'ry meadow, flashing sea
chanting bird and flowing fountain
call us to rejoice in Thee
Thou art giving and forgiving
ever blessing, ever blest
well-spring of the joy of living
ocean-depth of happy rest
Thou the Father, Christ our Brother—
all who live in love are Thine
Teach us how to love each other
lift us to the Joy Divine
Mortals join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began
Father-love is reigning o'er us
brother-love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward
victors in the midst of strife
joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumph song of life.
Rev. van Dyke was also well respected as a writer of poetry, short stories, and essays. A portion of one of his poems, “Time Is”, was read at Princess Diana’s funeral. Here is that portion:
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not.
Hymn of Joy is considered by many to be one of the most joyous expressions of hymn lyrics in the English language. A perfect marriage of lyric and melody – don’t you agree?
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