Hymn of the Week: #455 – O Love of God, how strong and true

March 5, 2015 Comments Off on Hymn of the Week: #455 – O Love of God, how strong and true

The text of this hymn, which we’ll sing this Sunday at the 11:15 (and at the 9:15, to a different tune), was written in the nineteenth century by a Scottish Free Church clergyman named Horatius Bonar. It’s written in Long Meter (four lines of eight syllables each) in pairs of rhyming couplets. When the text is read aloud without music, it seems almost trite, but lifted into melody it has a pleasing symmetry and rhythm that make the text easy to remember. It is a hymn of praise to the Love of God, and even more, to the wonder of that Love’s revelation to God’s creatures. In creation, and especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we are able to “read” the scope and breadth and depth of that Love, as if we were reading text from a page.

At 11:15, the tune is Dunedin, written by the late contemporary New Zealand composer, Vernon Griffiths. I confess that though I like Dunedin, I prefer to sing the text to Calvin Hampton’s de Tar, as we will do at the 9:15. It’s always interesting to me how we become attached to particular tunes with particular texts because we are familiar with them or have internalized them in some way. In my case, we sang Hampton’s tune often at General Seminary. Calvin Hampton served as Organist and Choirmaster at Calvary Church here in Manhattan for twenty years from 1963 to 1983. In the early 80s, he was diagnosed with AIDS and died of complications from the disease in 1984. As I sing these words, I think of Calvin Hampton, and quietly remember and mourn him and all those who were lost to the epidemic, as well as those who still live and die with it all over the world to this day.

“We read thy power to bless and save e’en in the darkness of the grave;

Still more in resurrection light we read the fullness of thy might.”

– The Rev. Gabriel Lamazares

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