22. My God! O My God!

Text Information
First Line: My God! O my God! Have you left me alone?
Title: My God! O My God!
Versifier: Calvin Seerveld (1985)
Meter: 11 11 11 11
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Topic: Laments; Return of Christ; Suffering of Christ (4 more...)
Copyright: © Calvin Seerveld
Tune Information
Meter: 11 11 11 11
Key: g minor

Text Information:

The anguished prayer of the godly when apparently abandoned by God to the fierce attacks of determined and powerful enemies.a,

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 3-5
st. 3 = vv. 6-8
st. 4 = vv. 9-11
st. 5 = vv. 12-15
st. 6 = vv. 16-18
st. 7 = vv. 19-21
st. 8 = vv. 22-24
st. 9 = vv. 26-29
st. 10 = vv. 25, 30-31

One of the two psalms most frequently evoked in the gospel accounts of Jesus' death (the other is Ps. 69), Psalm 22 is one of the most poignant prayers in the Psalms. Beset by a host of powerful enemies determined to bring him down to a disgraceful death (st. 3, 5-6), the psalmist feels abandoned by God (st. 1), the God on whom he has relied since birth (st. 4) and who never failed his ancestors whenever they cried to him (st. 2). Yet to God he lifts his anguished prayer, pleading his lifelong trust and desperate need (st. 1, 7). The prayer shifts suddenly to exuberant praise: God will save, and all generations will hear, and all humankind, the high and the humble, will take up the praise (st. 8-10).

The original occasion for this prayer is not known (yet see Ps. 18), but its circumstances foreshadow Christ's suffering at Calvary. Calvin George Seerveld (b. Bayshore, NY, 1930) wrote this paraphrase of Psalm 22 in 1985. Portions of the final verses of the psalm (vv. 22-31) are often sung (160, 239, 240, 542), but Seerveld versified the entire psalm in order to place those verses in context. He said, "I believe Christ quoted this psalm on the cross (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34) because Christ knew the last paragraph of the psalm was a triumphant section, and this Scripture … gave him courage to undergo the terrible ordeal."

Seerveld was professor of aesthetics at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto from 1972 until he retired in 1995. Educated at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan; the University of Michigan; and the Free University of Amsterdam (Ph.D.), he also studied at Basel University in Switzerland, the University of Rome, and the University of Heidelberg. Seerveld began his career by teaching at Bellhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi (1958-1959), and at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois (1959-1972). A fine Christian scholar, fluent in various biblical and modern languages, he is published widely in aesthetics, biblical studies, and philosophy. His books include Take Hold of God and Pull (1966), The Greatest Song: In Critique of Solomon (1967), For God's Sake, Run with Joy (1972), Rainbows for the Fallen World: Aesthetic Life and Artistic Task (1980), and On Being Human (1988). He credits the Dutch musician Ina Lohr for influencing his compositions of hymn tunes. Most of his Bible versifications and hymns were written for the Psalter Hymnal (1987), on whose revision committee he ably served.

Liturgical Use:
Holy Week, especially Good Friday services. Stanzas 8 through 10, as the “vow to praise” part of this lament psalm, have many uses in Christian worship, especially at the beginning of services.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

MALDWYN, a personal name in Welsh, is a traditional Welsh tune thought to date from the seventeenth century. It was published in David Evan's (PHH 285) collection Moliant Cenedl Dinbych (1920). The tune consists of four long phrases, each of which has the same rhythmic scheme. In minor tonality, the melody is mostly stepwise; the strong music is a fitting vehicle for the powerful text. Seerveld chose this tune for this text. He writes, "MALDWYN has exactly the right tension to catch the complaint (st. 1-4), the expostulation (st. 5-7), and the exultation (st. 8-10) of the psalm." Antiphonal performance is suggested for the first seven stanzas, followed by strong unison singing on the final three; use a more majestic tempo for the final stanza.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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