PBEH Discussion: Lo, He Comes
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,486
    I LOVE this hymn, especially to HELMSLEY. It's vigorous, rousing, and the way the text plays with time is both bold and true.

    He comes (present)
    Every eye at last shall (future) see Him
    Yea, amen, let all adore thee (present, future)


    However, there is one verse that deals with the past in a way that is controversial, dangerously consequential, and, if recent magisterial teaching is to be believed, questionable.

    Every eye shall now behold Him
    Robed in dreadful majesty;
    Those who set at naught and sold Him,
    Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
    Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
    Shall the true Messiah see.

    I think that it is possible to read this verse, which is admirably poetic, as condemnatory of the Jewish people. According to the Gospel of John, the Jews (literally "His own, [Gr: to idion) did not accept Him. They set Him "at naught." And now, according to the hymn, they are "deeply wailing" as they see "the true Messiah." Are they condemned or repenting? It is not entirely clear.

    In addition to the 4 verses in common usage, there are several others of similar quality that are not liable to the same misunderstandings, and one of these also deals strongly enough with the idea of condemnation to be, I think, an apt substitute.

    Every island, sea, and mountain,
    Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
    All who hate Him must, confounded,
    Hear the trump proclaim the day:
    Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
    Come to judgment! Come away!

    This verse has few concrete images, no reference to the Cross--serious losses of theology and poetry. It doesn't involve the past, which is so beautifully done in the "Ev'ry eye" verse. But it does directly derive from Scripture in several aspects.

    I think the substitution, while a compromise, is worth considering.
  • I never thought of that verse as exclusively anti-Jewish. It was the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the tree, after all. But, boy, I love this hymn. In fact, I am ordering the Rutter arr. of it today. Helmsley, I mean. That soprano descant on the final verse gives me the chills! LOL

  • This is a spectacular hymn: the real spirit of Advent (and other times).
    The musical text given here is the 'American' version.
    In (most) British hymnals, the first two beats of the penultimate measure are: dotted-quarter/16th/16th, rather than quarter/8th/8th.
  • Both Holy Scripture and poetry are open to current interpretations. I think it does an injustice to point out the possible negative connotations while ignoring the positive ones. And that pertains to all hymn-texts. If there is a definite problem with a text, then we should probably drop that verse, or skip the hymn. I really hate "adjusted" poetry.

    Musically, Helmsley is a gem hiding in The Hymnal 1940 and elsewhere. It is often instructed, in print, to sing in unison. But it works VERY well in SATB, right off the organ accompaniment.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    "Every eye shall now behold Him
    Robed in dreadful majesty;
    Those who set at naught and sold Him...."

    I thought this verse was supposed to refer to everone who doesn't repent, Gentile or Jew, since according to Catholic teaching all are in some way responsible for His cruxificion. I've never seen anything anti-Semitic about it.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,486
    Paul, I would probably take it as general too, except for the reference to "the true Messiah" in the last line.

    I hope I made the case for this stanza's beauty, poetry, and admirable use of Scripture. If it weren't for this connotation I would be all for it. As it is I can only be partially for it and partially against it.
  • Thank you , Jeffrey.

    I printed that out and sat right down to the piano to sing through it. What a truly great hymn.

  • To be clear, I did not typeset this. This is Noel/Jonathan. This is only one of hundreds of gems that will soon be released from captivity.
  • G
    Posts: 1,396
    Excellent choice of typefaces.
    (It's a superb hymn I have never been able to interest my choir in)

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,900
    The Jewish political and religious leaders had as much to do with the crucifixion as the Romans. Both groups were involved. I have no doubt the high priest would have had Christ crucified if he had the authority. The Romans carried it out because the power to do so had been taken away from the Jewish civil and religious authorities.

    Some of us have lived through at least a couple of politically correct pontificates which, at the drop of a hat, would almost apologize for the sun rising. Leave the *@%) hymn text alone. If anyone is offended, so be it!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,486
    Oh, I just meant to suggest that since the ORIGINAL text has multiple stanzas, most of which are completely unobjectionable, why do we have to choose the same 4 as we're used to--particularly if one of those four could be problematic.

    It's not a question of rewriting, but of picking and choosing, for reasons other than common usage.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,900
    That's true. Of course, in the Catholic church we seem to not sing more than the first three or four verses most of the time. Some excellent verses are never heard because they come after the first three.
  • Can we include what I consider one of the very very greatest of all hymns- Saint Patrick's Breastplate- and that is 8 verses long! We have sung that at the last two ordinations here. I used brass with it- not of course on the 4 part vss, but it was truly spine-tingling for entrance . I know, I know, it wasn't chant. But still.

  • "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." Revelation 1