Sunday, June 18, 2006

There, dear Lord, we shall receive thee in the solemn sacrament

On Thursday, which was Corpus Christi, we sang All for Jesus, All for Jesus.

It's a splendid catholic hymn (or was), which comes from Stainer's Crucifixion. The words are (or were) by W.J. Sparrow-Simpson. It wasn't in the English Hymnal, but a version of it is in the New English Hymnal.

Here's how it should go:

All for Jesus—all for Jesus,
this our song shall ever be;
for we have no hope, nor Saviour,
if we have not hope in thee.

All for Jesus—thou wilt give us
strength to serve thee, hour by hour,
none can move us from thy presence,
while we trust thy love and power.

All for Jesus—at thine altar
thou wilt give us sweet content;
there, dear Lord, we shall receive thee
in the solemn sacrament.

All for Jesus—thou hast loved us;
all for Jesus—thou hast died;
all for Jesus—thou art with us;
all for Jesus crucified.

All for Jesus—all for Jesus--
this the Church's song must be;
till, at last, her sons are gathered
one in love and one in thee.

It's a pity that the editors of the NEH can't leave a good piece of sentimental slush alone. It's fine as it stands. But they've been unable to resist two or three destructive interventions.

First, in verse three they've rewritten the verse in the present tense instead of the future. So instead of "thou wilt give us sweet content" we have "thou dost give us sweet content", and in order to change "we shall receive thee" to "we receive thee" they've had to change "Lord" to "Saviour" to fill out the metre. So we have "There, dear Saviour, we receive thee" instead of "There dear Lord we shall receive thee."

I presume the idea is to adjust the tenses so that the hymn can be used in the communion slot at a Eucharistic service. It would, doubtless, be a little odd to sing "There dear Lord we shall receive thee" on one's way back from the altar. But does that make it okay just to muck it all up? Why not just put a note on it to say that it's a hymn for earlier in the service or for benediction?

But what is perhaps even worse is the last line of that verse, where, for no apparent reason "In the solemn sacrament" (nice) has become "In thy holy sacrament" (boring!).

Finally, there is the last verse. Here, alas, the editors have made one of their rare forays into political correctness (at least I suppose it's that). "Till at last her sons are gathered" has become "Till at last the flock is gathered". "Her sons" was "the Church's sons" (that is all of us). I rather like it when we remember to think of the church as our mother, and to refer to her in the feminine, so I must say I deeply lament the passing of that nice thought, that the Church is a she and we are her sons. I can't say I've ever had any difficulty identifying myself as one of those sons. It has, in fact, a rather nice inclusive feel, because it is clear that one's gender is quite irrelevant to one's status as a "son" in this context. So I think it would be more inclusive to keep that than to eliminate it.
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