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Tuesday, February 24, 2009 

Transfiguration Sunday Hymnody

I really wanted to get this up on Sunday but I’ve been sort of busy the last few days.

Last Monday I took some time to answer an email that where the writer complained among other things that I talked a lot about hymnody but never enough about Scripture. I guess this post is a continuation of my previous answer that looks at Transfiguration Sunday hymnody.

For those of us who follow a liturgical calendar this past Sunday we celebrated the Transfiguration of our Lord. Our gospel reading was from the gospel of St. Mark 9:2-9 :

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.

And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves.

Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

As I’ve said before our hymnody should confess our faith and by that all I mean is that our hymnody should repeat back to God what He gives us in his Holy Word. Our opening hymn certainly repeated back what would be our Gospel reading for the day. We opened our Divine Service with a beautiful Latin hymn from page 413 of the Lutheran Service Book;

O Wondrous Type! O vision Fair

O wondrous type! O vision fair
of glory that the Church may share,
which Christ upon the mountain shows,
where brighter than the sun he glows!

The law and prophets there have place,
the chosen witnesses of grace;
the Father's voice from our the cloud
proclaims his only Son aloud.

With shining face and bright array,
Christ deigns to manifest today
what glory shall be theirs above
who joy in God with perfect love.

And faithful hearts are raised on high
by this great vision's mystery;
for which in joyful strains we raise
the voice of prayer, the hymns of praise.

O Father, with the eternal Son,
and Holy Spirit, ever One,
vouchsafe to bring us by thy grace
to see thy glory face to face.

With this as the opening we got a foretaste of what be our Gospel reading and gave us the chance to repeat back to God the account of Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain. Both our sermon hymn as our closing hymn both focused on the transfiguration as well but not as strong theologically as our first hymn.

I certainly don’t mean to say that there was anything wrong or bad with the sermon or closing hymn, not at all. What do criteria do I use to determine which hymns are stronger theologically? Three simple points that I look for when critiquing any hymn are; is the Crucified and Risen Christ Jesus the indispensable center of the hymn, is the hymn grounded on a clear, Scriptural text and does the hymn inspire in us a hunger and thirst for the things of Christ Jesus and His Kingdom that is coming?

If we can look at a hymn and can answer the questions above in the affirmative, we are no doubt looking at a hymn that is a good strong sung confession of the Christian faith. O Wondrous Type! O vision Fair meets this simple standard of a sung confession so it is one I will forward to singing again and again.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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