More signs of life returning?

Now on land and sea descending, brings the night its peace profound;
let our vesper hymn be blending with the holy calm around.

Jubilate! Jubilate! Jubilate! Amen.
Jubilate! Jubilate! Jubilate! Amen.

Soon as dies the sunset glory, stars of heav’n shine out above,
telling still the ancient story — their Creator’s changeless love. (Chorus)

Now, our wants and burdens leaving, to the Care that cares for all,
cease we fearing, cease we grieving; quietly our burdens fall. (Chorus)

As the darkness deepens o’er us, lo, eternal stars arise;
hope and faith and love rise glorious, shining in the spirit’s skies. (Chorus)

My first thought was “huh, this is an awfully cheerful song for an evening song.” But that thought soon passed as thought about a vespers service… I heard in my head the hymn sung by a choir, in a round, perhaps accompanied by a hand bell choir, echoing in a grand cathedral as day gives way to night. I longed for a space to hold such services with such performances. I added it to a mental checklist of worship experiences I wish to create for others – one of joy at a day’s work well done, with the ringing of bells and voices weaving together in joy.

My next thought was “wow, there’s a little bit of your creative spark returning.”

A few days ago, I attended a webinar led by my friend the Reverend Julie Taylor, the president of the UU Trauma Response Ministry (a group I hold dear to my heart, having availed myself of their services after a tragic accident a decade ago). In it, Julie talked about how our physiological response to traumatic events swings us into feeling over thinking, and in fact, that is part of why it feels abnormal; even when we feel strong emotion normally, our cognitive functioning far outweighs our emotional functioning. Julie suggested to us to find ways to get the thinking back. I didn’t really know what tasks to put on that side of the ledger… but I realize now that creating is one of those ways. And imagining a vespers service in a big space with a big musical presence and a spirit of jubilance – that’s a creative thing that is more thinking than feeling, even if the feelings are what propelled me.

I’m seeing glimmers now of my Self returning.

That feels like a bit of a relief.

Thank you, Sister Act.

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, God of love;
hearts unfold like flowers before thee, hail thee as the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the pain of doubt away;
giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the joy of day.

All thy works with joy surround thee, earth and heav’n reflect thy rays,
stars and planets sing around thee, center of unbroken praise;
field and forest, vale and mountain, blossoming meadow, flashing sea,
chanting 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.
Ever singing march we onward, victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumph song of life.

I was about to go on another rant regarding lyric changes – how some of them made sense, but at what point are we taking the teeth out of another person’s song, and is it okay to do it when the words are from an dead white guy, and what does that mean… and at where is the line – is it okay to change ‘dark’ to ‘pain’ (I think so) and ‘Lord’ to “God’ (works for me) and ‘angel’ to ‘planet’ (less comfortable).

But the truth is, I could obsess about only this throughout the hymnal and miss the point of this practice – to sing every hymn, to start my day with music, to feel the power of song as a way to awaken and ground my spirit, to find meaning.

Because despite my stumbling through singing this as printed in STLT – this is indeed a joyful hymn.

The joy starts in the mastery of Beethoven – especially that early entrance in the final couplet – like joy is bursting through and can’t wait to be expressed. Brilliant.

And of course, the lyrics are joy-filled. I love the line “wellspring of the joy of living, ocean-depth of happy rest” – I talk a lot about the unimaginable expansiveness of God, and this captures it for me lusciously.

And then, of course, I start singing what I can remember of the contemporary gospel setting as we first saw in the film Sister Act II, featuring the incomparable Lauryn Hill…

How can you hear this and not be filled with joy? Barring the incredibly-90s outfits (the appearance of which causes a continuity issue for me – who thought that minor plot point made sense?) – this rendition is joy personified. It brings me to tears every time, tears from deep in the well of my soul, tears that tell me underneath the pain and sorrow, the stress and concern – my soul is ultimately made of and made for joy.

We are made for joy. And with music like this, we get to celebrate all the joy that is found above, around, and within us. Joyful, we humans adore thee – all that thee might be.