426. O Holy Spirit, by Whose Breath

Text Information
First Line: O Holy Spirit, by whose breath
Title: O Holy Spirit, by Whose Breath
Translator: John W. Grant (1968, alt.)
Meter: LM
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Topic: Doxologies; Commitment & Dedication; Pentecost and Holy Spirit (4 more...)
Source: Latin hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, 9th cent.
Copyright: Translation © John W. Grant
Tune Information
Composer: Melchior Vulpius (1609)
Harmonizer: Johann S. Bach (1724)
Meter: LM
Key: d minor

Text Information:

Scripture References:
all st. = John 15:26

Like 425, this text is based on the Latin hymn "Veni, Creator Spiritus" (see PHH 425). More a translation than the paraphrase at 425, this text by John W. Grant was written in 1968 and published in the Canadian Anglican and United Hymn Book (1971). Stanley L. Osborne (PHH 395) writes, “The vividness and freshness of its expression combined with its faithfulness to the spirit of the original text marks it as one of the finest translations ever to come out of this century” (If Such Holy Song 246).

Although the ancient text acquires a modern face with the freshness of Grant's translation, the ancient and biblical images are still very much present: we sing of the Spirit as "breath" and "fire" (st. 1); as "giver and Lord of life" (st. 2); as "energy" and giver of gifts (st. 3); as source of light and love (st. 4); and as bringer of peace, fullness, and unity (st. 5). The text concludes with a fine Trinitarian doxology (st. 6).

John Webster Grant (b. Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1919) received his education at Dalhousie University and Pine Hill Divinity Hall in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Ordained in the United Church of Canada in 1943, he became a Rhodes Scholar after World War II and earned a doctoral degree at Oxford. He taught church history at Union College, British Columbia, Vancouver, (1949-1959); served as editor in chief of Ryerson Press (1959-1963); and from 1963-1984 taught church history at Emmanuel College, Victoria University, Toronto. Grant served as a member of the committee that produced The Hymn Book (1971), published by the United Church and the Anglican Church. His writings include Free Churchmanship in England, 1870-1940 (1955), The Canadian Experience of Church Union (1967), The Church in the Canadian Era (1972), and Moon of Wintertime (1984).

Liturgical Use:
See PHH 425; because 426 is a more precise and detailed translation of the original Latin, it is preferred for ordination, baptism, and profession of faith services. Try using an alternate tune such as WINCHESTER NEW (593) for ecumenical services.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Also known as JENA, DAS NEUGEBORNE KINDELEIN was originally a chorale melody for Cyriacus Schneegass' text "Das neugeborne Kindelein." Composed by Melchior Vulpius (PHH 397) and published in his Ein Schön Geistlich Gesangbuch (Jena, 1609), the tune was introduced to English congregations primarily because of its inclusion in George R. Woodward's (PHH 403) Cowley Carol Book (1901 ed.). The harmony is simplified from a setting by Johann S. Bach (PHH 7) in his Cantata 122.

DAS NEUGEBORNE KINDELEIN is a beautiful carol tune that allows contemplation of this vibrant text on the Spirit's work. Sing stanza 1 in unison and stanzas 2-5 in parts, possibly with some antiphonal singing. Return to unison singing for stanza 6 with strong accompaniment. Use lighter accompaniment on stanzas 1-5; maintain one pulse per bar. Note how stanza 5 propels into stanza 6!

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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