Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Thirst Was Quenched

 In many churches during Lent, the hymns are a bit quieter and gentler.  Some places go so far as to restrict the use of the organ during the season.  

Today's quieter and gentler hymn by Horatius Bonar, loved by many, depicts the words of Jesus bringing comfort in various circumstances.  Each stanza is based on a specific passage of scripture: the first, from Matthew 11:28; the second, from John 6:35; and the third, from John 8:12.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, 
"Come unto me and rest.
Lay down, O weary one, lay down
Your head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
And he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
Behold, I freely give
The living water, thirsty one,
Stoop down, and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am the living Light.
Look unto me, your morn shall rise,
And all your day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk,
Till traveling days are done.

Horatius Bonar, 1846; alt.
Thomas Tallis, 1567

This text has been matched with several different tunes over the years, but I like this one best for its contemplative mood (it should perhaps be played a bit slower than on the sound file here).  Two tunes often used in the nineteenth century which were written specifically for this text are VOX DILECTI by John Bacchus Dykes and AUDITE AUDIENTES ME by Arthur Sullivan.  Both of them change key from major to minor for the second half of each stanza which tells the result of hearing the voice of Jesus.  It's the kind of compositional trick that was once admired but is less popular today.

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