Hymns to the Holy Spirit

This is the third and final set of hymns “to God” which are not connected with a particular feast – or at least, not always connected to a particular feast.

In this installment, we are looking at hymns to the Holy Spirit, of which three are well known in our parishes:

They illustrate a range of issues we face in finalizing the new hymnal.

Heavenly King, Comforter

This is a acually a liturgical piece: a sticheron or Vespers hymn from the feast of Pentecost, which was eventually sung before the Divine Liturgy on Pentecost Monday before moving to its present postion in many parishes, on Pentecost Sunday itself.  (See page 203 of our Divine Liturgies book, where it is titled Special Hymn.)

It is sung to the Tone 6 samohlasen melody, and is very often used as a general invocation of the Holy Spirit, before meals, at the start of meetings and so on.

So why include it in the hymnal if it is already in the Divine Liturgies book?

  1. To make it clear that it can be sung on any day, not just Pentecost, and not just at the Divine Liturgy.
  2. To provide the setting in Slavonic, in which it is sometimes also sung.
  3. Because for us, it is used not just liturgically (when the services call for it), but at other times as well.
  4. Because we don’t have many separate hymns to the Holy Spirit!

As we saw with Hymns to Our Lord Jesus Christ, there IS a small problem with titling it.  Do we label it HOLY SPIRIT?  Or PENTECOST? (That is, by the subject of the hymn or when it is used.)  Overall I think it would be easier to label it as a Hymn to the Holy Spirit, and put a note in the liturgical year section of the hymnal noting that it is particular appropriate on Pentecost.

O Holy Spirit, mighty defender

This IS a paraliturgical hymn;  sung to a regular metered melody, it used rhyme and pacing to provide for very strong congregational participation.

In Slavonic, the first two words are exactly that same as for the liturgical hymn looked at above, which is why in both English and Slavonic, I am titling many hymns by the entire first line rather than just the first few words.

Like some of the other hymns “to God”, it ended up appearing in collections of hymns for singing during Holy Communion.  Hymns like these, directed to other Persons of the Trinity, or hymns to Christ which have nothing to do with Holy Communion, would be much better sung before or after the Divine Liturgy, rather than as “communion hymns.”

The Holy Spirit shall come upon you

This very short piece is a THIRD kind of hymn in honor of the Holy Spirit: it consists of the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:35), which are also used in the Divine Liturgy (said by the deacon to the celebrant) as an invocation or calling-down of the Holy Spirit.

In our church, this was long used as a hymn “before the sermon”, asking God’s grace to rest upon the preacher. Because it is a scriptural text, it IS something allowed by our bishops’ guidelines for the singing of paraliturgical hymns during services – but consult your pastor first!

The melody is a simple one that should also sound familar: it is also used for the A settings of the hymn after Holy Communion (“May our mouth be filled with your praise”) and the invocation of the divine Name (“Blessed be the name of the Lord”).

I am still looking for a few more GOOD hymns to the Holy Spirit. Please post your thoughts below!

Hymns to our Lord Jesus Christ

Within the sacred liturgy (Vespers, Matins, the Divine Liturgies, and so on), our prayers are usually directed to God the Father – through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit – while most of our liturgical hymns are directed to Jesus Christ, our Savior and the visible “face” of the Trinity.

Our paraliturgical hymns, on the other hand, surround the liturgy and meet other needs. Many are directed to the Mother of God, and to particular saints, or are sung within the community to bolster one another’s faith. Of course, many hymns ARE directed to God through the liturgical year, but most of those fall in a particular liturgical season, and so are treated separately in the Hymnal Project.

As we saw in the last post, Hymns to the Holy Trinity, there remain a few frequently sung  hymns to the Trinity and its  Persons which are not tied to a liturgical season.  Today, we will look at the hymns directed to our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.  These fall into three basic categories. Continue reading “Hymns to our Lord Jesus Christ”

Hymns to the Holy Trinity

I’m trying something a little different with this installment of the Hymnal Project: instead of having a discussion article on the MCI website for each hymn, I’m going to create one only for spiritual songs which I know have issues (edit to be considered, or the question of whether to included it in the hymnal or not).  If you have comments, please post them here!

Hymns to the Holy Trinity

So far, we have looked at hymns grouped according to their place in the liturgical year: hymns for Christmas, the Great Fast, and so on.  We will also be looking at hymns to the Mother of God, and for saints and feasts throughout the rest of the year.

Next, I would like to look at hymns directed to God, starting with those we sing to the Holy Trinity, or simply to “God” (which in our tradition can mean God the Father, the source and fountainhead of divinity):

Follow the links for more information about each hymn!

The first is our primary spiritual song which praises the Trinity, and so it is most suitably sung at Pentecost; but it could also be sung before the Divine Liturgy on virtually any occasion.  The Slavonic original has several verses which name each of the groups praising the Trinity (cherubim and seraphim, archangels and angels, apostles and martyrs), and from these verses I had added three to the English text.

The second is known well outside our particular church, and has a long and somewhat checkered past, being used by others primarily on secular occasions. But for US, it remains a “churchly” hymn.  I have added the (English translation) of the second verse of “O Jesus Lord, we ask you to bless us” here, since it fits much better here.  This hymn has no particular “place” in the liturgical year, but could be sung before any Divine Liturgy that does not have a particular theme.

The third hymn is explicitly one of thanksgiving; the words “You have enlightened us” make it particular suitable for singing as a thanksgiving AFTER the Divine Liturgy, where we thank God for our enlightenment in the Eucharist, but it could also be sung on other occasions as well, where these same words become a general thankgiving for revelation, for holy Baptism, and so on. Unlike the other two hymns in this set, this one’s origin is somewhat mysterious  (Edit: FOUND – see comment below!), appearing in our recent collections of paraliturgical hymns without a clear source.

Titles, titles, titles

If you look at the PDFs of these hymns, you will see that each one has a “theme” or “title” in the upper right,  suggesting when it might be most appropriate to sing.  These were relatively easy for feasts like Christmas and Theophany.

Here, “Holy Trinity” is fairly obvious for Hosts of angels on high, but what do we do for So great is God?  Some of our books have simply labelled it as “Hymn to God”; I am included to title it “God the Father,” not meanly to absolutely exclude thought of the other Persons of the Trinity, but because we have so few non-liturgical hymns directed to this Person.

The case is a little different with “We thank you, God Most High.” This hymn could be labelled “Holy Trinity” or “God  the Father”, but it could also be labelled “Thanksgiving” so that cantors might select it for that purpose.

Please post your thoughts and comments below!

Music for Pascha, Part 3

Christ is risen! Christos voskrese!  Christos anesti! Al-Masīḥ qām!

As our final installment of Paschal music in the Hymnal Project, we have THREE spiritual songs:

The first is a bit of a standard, at least in some parishes.  See the discussion page for more about this hymn, AND the process we use for editing songs for the new hymnal.

The second is a lovely minor-key carol for Easter, which I would love to see widely sung.  It has additional verses (not yet translated into English) which praise the Resurrection, and include all the characters in the story of Pascha.

The third is better known as a choir piece, but (with a few flourishes simplified) works well for congregational singing.  It, too, has more verses in Slavonic, but these tell the Easter story in order: the myrrh-bearing women, the stone, the angel, and so on.

For convenience, all three have been added (in both English and Slavonic versions) to the MCI Paschal music supplement, which can also be printed as a booklet on legal size paper.  Please try them out, and post below with your comments and suggestions.

May God bless your celebration of the resurrection of his Son!

Music for Pascha, Part 2

As I mentioned in the previous post, we have very few paraliturgical hymns or “spiritual songs” for the time from Pascha to Pentecost, so I am considering the possibility of including new settings of liturgical hymns for this season in the forthcoming hymnal.

In the last post, we looked at some additional settings of the Paschal troparion (“Christ is risen from the dead”).  We might also want to provide a Paschal setting of the Cherubic Hymn or Cherubikon; here is one based on the Paschal hypakoje (“The women with Mary before the dawn”) which has been used for many years at Saint Elias Byzantine Catholic Church in Munhall, PA:

and after the commemorations:

I have also prepared matching versions of “We praise you, we bless you” and the four Communion Hymns which are always sung in the Paschal season (for Pascha, Thomas Sundays, other Sundays, and Mid-Pentecost).

Now, I think there are certainly some Cherubic Hymn settings out there which are sort of so-so, but there are also some that are quite good, and usable in English.  If you have one of your own, consider sending it in!  Years ago, the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission discussed the possibility of taking such settings, looking them over, perhaps making some tweaks as needed, and adding them gradually to our repertoire.  I am not sure if the new hymal is the best place to publish them, but the hymnal process may be a good place to start.

Similarly, we have one setting of the Our Father for use in the Paschal season, based on the Paschal canon (DL 167-168):

But here is another from St. Elias in Munhall, based on the Paschal hypakoje, “The women with Mary before the dawn):

This, too, is music we could probably use right away in some parishes. Especially if weekday Divine Liturgies are held, there are a lot of opportunities to sing the Lord’s prayer!

I have taken all this music and combined it with the Paschal troparion settings from yesterday into a music supplement for Pascha.  Tomorrow, we will look at our one real Paschal hymn, “Christ is risen!  Joy from heaven” and see how that might fit into the picture.

Please leave your thoughts about this music – or other liturgical settings we might like to have for the Paschal season – in a comment below!

Music for Pascha, Part 1

As we move into the final week of the Great Fast, it’s time to move the Hymnal Project forward and look seriously at music for the Great Fast.

Strangely, we don’t have nearly as many paraliturgical hymns or spiritual songs for Easter as we do for other seasons; instead, we tend to sing the Paschal troparion (Christ is risen from the dead) a LOT, in both chant and choral versions.

We do have one well-known spiritual song for Pascha (“Christ is risen / Joy from heaven”) which I will talk about later this week.  And I had hoped to delve into our choral tradition, such as the music of our Archieparchial choir, and the settings of the Sybertsvile Franciscans. But for better or worse, many of those don’t work nearly as well for ordinary congregational singing. (I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, and will circle back to consider a few next week!)

So instead, I’d like to do something which was discussed by the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission when the new Divine Liturgies book was printed, but never started: the proposal of some new settings for liturgical texts we already have, to supplement our existing official chant settings, choral music, and spiritual songs and hymns.

Check out the following article and tell me what you think!

Alternate melodies for Christ is risen

Later this week I will present some settings of other liturgical music for Pascha, before turning back to our own “spiritual songs” for singing before and after the Liturgy.

Please leave your comments below.  May God bless your Fast!

Songs of the Passion of Christ

We now come to one of the thornier problems in the hymnal project: those “Lenten hymns” which are really songs of the suffering of Christ on the Cross. These were often sung in connection with Stations of the Cross and other Lenten services which were imported from the Christian West, and replaced our own services such as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Lenten Vespers, and the Royal Hours on Great and Holy Friday.

In addition to those printed in our 1978 Divine Liturgy book, our “core” collection of these hymns is Father Levkulic’s Hymns for Great Lent. About half the context of this work is strictly liturgical: music for the Liturgy of Saint Basil, the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes, the troparion of Thursday, and the hymn, Beneath your compassion, which is sung at Vespers on fast days.  This music we already have in official versions, and need not concern us here.

There are also Lenten hymns in this  collection which are properly hymns of repentance, that could be sung at services throughout the Great Fast as well as our minor fasts.  We discussed those in a previous thread,  as well as a pair of songs for Palm Sunday.

The remaining hymns in this collection are very specifically about the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross. In our tradition, these would be most suitably sung during Great and Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday.

These should definitely be considered for the hymnal:

The ones marked with an asterisk could use a literal translation of the Slavonic to accompany the music, and also have additional verses we might want to consider. (One problem with some of our English hymns is that they take only the first few stanzas of a much longer composition, and so focus on only a small part of the whole drama of Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection. In these cases, more verses would be a good thing!)

This hymn, though popular in our church in the past, has a very complicated history, as regards both text and music. I am looking for someone who would be willing to do the work to establish a printable version of it in English and Slavonic.

The following hymns are more problematic.  If your parish sings these hymns and you want them included, let me know in the comments.

  • O my Jesus, suffering in pain (O Isuse, poranennyj)
  • O my people, my people (L’udi moje, l’udi)
  • O soul so sinful (Hl’an duše moja)
  • We venerate, O Christ (Poklanjajusja, moj Christe)

Please leave your comments below – as well as any additional Lenten hymns you would like to have us consider!


A Vesper Book for Priests and Deacons

One of the perennial issues with creating liturgical books here at the MCI is the whole question of how many  books per service, and what goes in them.  A book with everything for the cantor and people?  Cantor music in a separate book?  What about a book without music for parishes that want to reduce printing costs?  And of course, what about all the priest’s prayers and the detailed rubrics – where do those go? Continue reading “A Vesper Book for Priests and Deacons”

New books for Lenten Sunday Vespers!

I am pleased to announce updated versions of two books from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute:

The Order of Vespers on the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) and the Sundays of the Great Fast

This book (88 pages) contains the complete service of Vespers on Cheesefare Sunday afternoon and on the five Sundays of the Great Fast – everything but the saints’ stichera, which change from you to year.

The Order of Vespers for the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday)

This book (28 pages) contains ONLY the service for Vespers on the afternoon of Cheesefare Sunday, along with the service of mutual forgiveness (which is also in the larger book for the entire Fast). This smaller book does not include the stichera of repentance in the Eight Tones, or any saints’ stichera, so it is exactly the same from one year to the next.

What’s new about these books?

  • They use more current translations of Vespers, matching the Divine Liturgies and Presanctified books wherever appropriate – both text and music.
  • Music is provided for all psalm verses at the Lamp-lighting Psalms and aposticha, so there is no need for a second book, or large leaflets with this music.
  • The formatting has been vastly improved, and I intend to use the same style (perhaps with further improvements) for the other MCI Vespers books as they are revised.
  • Music has been smoothed out where necessary, and typos have been corrected.

For parishes that celebrate Sunday afternoon Vespers several times during the Great Fast, I recommend the larger book, while parishes that celebrate ONLY Forgiveness Vespers might want to stick to the smaller one. Both books are intended for printing in booklet form on legal size paper. Here the the prepared booklet versions:

The Order of Vespers on the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) and the Sundays of the Great Fast – camera ready version

The Order of Vespers for the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) – camera ready version

One thing these books do not include is the text of the prayers said privately by the priest, such as the Prayers of Light, as well as detailed rubrics for celebration. Rather than putting these in every single MCI book for Vespers (and having the cantor and congregation have to leaf past them), we have created a NEW book containing the priest’s and deacon’s parts of Vespers – both Great and daily Vespers, AND the rubrics for Vespers with the Divine Liturgy, the All-Night Vigil, and Great and Holy Friday.  Watch for a blog post coming soon!

Songs for Palm Sunday

In the previous post, we looked at hymns for the forty days of the Great Fast,  which ends on a Friday. The next day is Lazarus Saturday, and after that is Palm Sunday. These two days mark the transition from the Great Fast to the Great and Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion.

We have two traditional hymns for Palm Sunday – one newly composed in English, and one a translation of a Slavonic hymn (which is also used for our A setting of the Cherubic Hymn):

Both of these could use a bit of fine-tuning. Please read the discussion articles and add your thoughts below!