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Funeral Songs (Part 6) – “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” by Henry van Dyke (and Ludwig van Beethoven)

Dear God, this will wrap up the funeral songs series I’ve been doing this week. It’s been a fun exercise to kind of go through the songs I would want played and my funeral and think through what the message is that I’m trying to send to the attendees. Frankly, I doubt any of them will get it anyway.

One thing I hope I’m accomplishing is some advice I received from a friend who was widowed much too early in life. She told me that her husband had some very common funeral songs at his funeral, and now it can be hard to go to funerals because at least one of the songs will remind her of her loss. So I’ve hopefully at least picked some songs that 1.) won’t hurt my wife should I die first and 2.) won’t bring up bad memories for others.

Regarding this song, this was also the recessional at our wedding. I think it was my choice, but I’m not positive. I know I at least had some input on it. I’ve always loved it as a song of joy, and if I’m going to have the brass quintet at my funeral, this song should sound pretty good for people as they leave.

Here are the words as written by Henry van Dyke in 1907

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” by Henry van Dyke

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.

I wonder what kind of worship state Mr. van Dyke was in when he wrote these words to accompany Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Was he listening to the German words and felt compelled to put his own worship of you to the tune?

The thing about this song is that it acknowledges that EVERYTHING either is worshiping or will worship you–Earth, heaven, stars, angels, fields, forests, mountains, vales, meadows, seas, birds, fountains, and mortals. And there is so much to worship! Your love for us and our love for you melts the clouds of sin and sadness. It drives the dark of doubt away. And the last verse is just great. We get to join the chorus that the stars began. You reign over us, and our love binds us to you and each other. We are victors in the midst of strife (how great is that?).

Father, I’m not sure if this week did anything to edify me or increase my relationship with you, but I do feel like I was able to look at some of these songs in a new way and understand why they mean so much to me. I was also able to get in some good worship. So I end this series with the simple statement that I love you and I hope that I honor you and bring you glory in my life and in my death.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 

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Emails to God – Two Songs, a Wedding, and a Funeral

I went to a Mass of Resurrection (funeral) yesterday for a woman who was beautiful in every sense of the word, Cynthia Pedregon. The two highlights for me were two of her granddaughters singing and the eulogy given by a local pastor. The eulogy was a collection of quotes from her friends and family about her. It was a tribute unlike any I have ever heard. Every word spoken about her was consistent with the woman I knew in only a small way. It was remarkable.

There was one other thing I noticed about the program for the Mass. The last song they played before the service began was “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris (music only). The recessional was “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You”. Both of these songs were in our wedding nearly twenty years ago. My wife’s aunt say “How Beautiful” during the service, and we picked “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” as our recessional as well. So here are the lyrics for both songs. I wonder what each one has to say about the birth of a marriage and the end of a life well-lived.

“How Beautiful” By Twila Paris

How beautiful the hands that served
the wine and the bread and the sons of the earth.
How beautiful the feet that walked
the long dusty roads and the hills to  the cross.
How beautiful, how beautiful,
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

How beautiful the heart that bled
that took all my sin and bore it instead.
How beautiful the tender eyes
that chose to forgiveand never despise.
How beautiful,how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

And  as He laid down His life we offer this sacrifice
that we will live just as he died willing to pay the  price,willing to pay the  price.

How beautiful the radiant Bride
who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes.
How beautiful when humble hearts give
the fruit of pure lives so that others may live.
How beautiful, how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

How beautiful the feet that bring
the sound of good news and the love of  the King.
How beautiful the hands that serve
the wine and the bread and the sons of the earth.
How beautiful,how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

When I read this song and imagine what Mrs. Paris must have been thinking as she wrote it, I think that she was just struck by the beauty of God and what He brings to life. First verse: That Jesus came and lived like us was beautiful. Second verse: Jesus’ death and sacrifice for us was a different kind of beautiful. Third verse: The life submitted to God is beautiful. Fourth verse: The life lived out in submission to God is beautiful. Well, those four verses really do speak to the life that begins with to people joining in marriage, and, in Cynthia’s case, they are descriptive of the life she lived.

“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” Lyrics by Henry van Dyke
Set to “Ode to Joy” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

Count this one as my favorite hymn. Here is a quote from Mr. van Dyke (according to Wikipedia–so it must be true) about his intentions for this song:

These verses are simple expressions of common Christian feelings and desires in this present time—hymns of today that may be sung together by people who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy religion, or any revolution on earth overthrow the kingdom of heaven. Therefore this is a hymn of trust and joy and hope.

While I didn’t know of this quote when I chose this (yes, I picked this one for the wedding ceremony) as our recessional, and I doubt Cynthia knew of it when she chose it as the recessional for her funeral, I think we both chose it because the song accomplishes exactly what Mr. van Dyke intended: “…this is a hymn of trust and joy and hope.” For me, the beginning of my married life in God was about trust, joy, and hope. I’m sure Cynthia felt like the end of her earthy life in God was about trust, joy, and hope. Finally, I think for her family, the beginning of their lives without her in God will be about trust, joy, and hope.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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