Thursday, February 23, 2017

Welseyan Eucharistic Hymns

As some of you may recall, I make it a practice to include singing three hymns in the midst of my personal devotion when praying the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.  -  For the first time, I have been singing (I have previously read) through the Eucharistic hymns of John and Charles Wesley as found in J. Ernest Rattenbury's book by the same name.  Below, I have printed copies of three of those hymns which have stood out to me in my recent singing.  They provide wonderful expressions of Wesleyan Eucharistic theology and spiritual practice.

The first one is listed as number 42.  I sang this one a few days ago.  It is actually a hymn that we have used a number of times in the various churches where I have served.  It is a great explication of the Eucharist as the chief means of grace.  I love it!

1. Glory to Him who freely spent
His blood, that we might live,
And through this choicest instrument
Doth all His blessings give.
2.  Fasting He doth, and hearing bless,
And prayer can much avail,
Good vessels all to draw the grace
Out of salvation's well.
3.  But none, like this mysterious rite
Which dying mercy gave,
Can draw forth all His promised might
And all His will to save.
4.  This is the richest legacy
Thou hast on man bestow'd:
Here chiefly, Lord, we feed on Thee,
And drink Thy precious blood.
5.  Here all Thy blessings we receive,
Here all Thy gifts are given,
To those that would in Thee believe,
Pardon, and grace, and heaven.

6.  Thus may we still in Thee be blest,
Till all from earth remove,
And share with Thee the marriage feast,
And drink the wine above.
Hymn 54 is not one that I have ever used during worship with the congregation, but it is a very good hymn.
1.  Why did my dying Lord ordain
This dear memorial of His love?
Might we not all by faith obtain,
By faith the mountain sin remove,
Enjoy the sense of sins forgiven,
And holiness, the taste of heaven?
2.  It seem'd to my Redeemer good
That faith should here His coming wait
Should here receive immortal food,
Grow up in Him Divinely great,
And, fill'd with holy violence, seize
The glorious crown of righteousness.
3.  Saviour, Thou didst the mystery give
That I Thy nature might partake
Thou bidd'st me outward signs receive,
One with Thyself my soul to make;
My body, soul, and spirit to join
Inseparably one with Thine.
4.  The prayer, the fast, the word conveys,
When mix'd with faith, Thy life to me;
In all the channels of Thy grace
I still have fellowship with Thee:
But chiefly here my soul is fed
With fullness of immortal bread.
5.  Communion closer far I feel
And deeper drink the' atoning blood;
The joy is more unspeakable,
And yields me large draughts of God,
Till nature faints beneath the power,
And faith fill'd up can hold no more.
The final hymn that I'm going to share in this post is actually in the United Methodist Hymnal, as well.  In fact, we just sang it this past Sunday at the United Methodist Church where I serve.  In the Eucharistic hymns it is number 57.
1.  O the depth of love Divine,
Th' unfathomable grace!
Who shall say how bread and wine
God into man conveys!
How the bread His flesh impart,
How the wine transmits His blood,
Fills His faithful people's hearts
With all the life of God!
2.  Let the wisest mortal show
How we the grace receive,
Feeble elements bestow
A power not theirs to give.
Who explains the wondrous way,
How through these the virtue came?
These the virtue did convey,
Yet still remain the same.
3.  How can heavenly spirits rise,
By earthly matter fed,
Drink herewith Divine supplies,
And eat immortal bread?
Ask the Father's Wisdom how;
Him that did the means ordain!
Angels round our altars bow
To search it out in vain.
4.  Sure and real is the grace,
The manner be unknown;
Only meet us in Thy ways,
And perfect us in one.
Let us taste the heavenly powers;
Lord, we ask for nothing more:
Thine to bless, 'tis only ours
To wonder and adore.

I trust that these hymns have been both a blessing and a great, poetic explanation of the Eucharist in the Wesleyan understanding.  -  And they are singable! 
Though there is no music printed with these, above, one can easily find music that fits.  If one counts out the syllables in each line of the verse, this forms the metric.  Many hymnals include a metrical index.  The UM Hymnal and the Nazarene hymnal (Sing to the Lord), both contain a metrical index.  Just go to that index, match the metric with a hymn tune that is familiar, and you can sing it!  This, by the way, can also be used for hymns that you like, but you or your congregation are unfamiliar with the given tune.  You can often find an alternative tune that is familiar.  (There are, of course, a few of these hymns for which there may not be a metric listed in the index, or the tune listed may not be familiar.)

My prayer is that these hymns might be used in such a way as to enrich the observance of the Lord's Supper in your church!