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:
- Heavenly King, Comforter – Carju Nebesnyj, Ut’išitel’u
- O Holy Spirit, mighty defender – Carju nebesnyj, Bože mohučij
- The Holy Spirit shall come upon you – Duch Svjatyj snidet na t’a
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?
- To make it clear that it can be sung on any day, not just Pentecost, and not just at the Divine Liturgy.
- To provide the setting in Slavonic, in which it is sometimes also sung.
- Because for us, it is used not just liturgically (when the services call for it), but at other times as well.
- 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!