It is always interesting (to me, at least) to come across a lesser-known work of a famous composer or author. Many people immediately recognize Beethoven’s so-called ‘Moonlight’ sonata for piano, but may not be familiar with his 31 other piano sonatas. Likewise, many classical music lovers know Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ symphony for orchestra, but may not realize that he wrote a total of 106 symphonies. Such is the case with the author of the text of a new hymn we will sing this Sunday, The Rev. Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847). The Rev. Lyte was born in Scotland, and after studying at Trinity College, Dublin, took Anglican holy orders in 1815.
I’m calling this a ‘new’ hymn because, to my knowledge, we have not sung it in my five years here at St. Alban’s. Hopefully, some of you may have heard and sung it in the past. The hymn is #538 in The Hymnal 1982: “God of Mercy, God of Grace”, and is sung to a beautiful tune by David Evans (1874-1948), a Welsh musician, academic and composer who wrote or adapted the music for several other hymns in our hymnal. Although you may not be familiar with the text of this ‘new’ hymn by the Rev. Lyte, most likely, you already know the other two hymn texts of his that can be found in our hymnal. These two other hymn texts-- which always make it on lists of favorite hymns-- are #410 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” and #662 “Abide with Me: Fast Falls the Eventide”. Below are the words of this new hymn, and I will be playing the melody of it during the Prelude time. May this prayer for God’s light be an encouragement to all in these uncertain times in the world.
God of Mercy, God of Grace
God of mercy, God of grace, show the brightness of thy face. Shine upon us, Savior, shine, fill thy church with light divine, and thy saving health extend unto earth’s remotest end.
Let thy people praise thee, Lord; be by all that live adored. Let the nations shout and sing glory to their Savior King; let all be, below, above, one in joy, and light, and love.