History of Hymns: 'Pelas Dores Deste Mundo'/'For the Troubles and the Sufferings of the World'
By Marcell Silva Steuernagel
Global Praise 3 (eds. Kimbrough, Jr., Young, GBGMusik, 2004), No. 162.
For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church (eds. Lockward, Heckert GBGMusik, 2008), No. 19.
Also in the following collections: Celebrating Grace, 691; Global Songs for Worship, 43; Glory to God, 764; Lift Up Your Hearts, 663; Livro de Canto IECLB Soli Deo Gloria, 56
Pelas dores deste mundo,
ó Senhor, imploramos piedade!
A um só tempo geme a criação.
Teus ouvidos se inclinam ao clamor
desta gente oprimida.
Apressa-te com tua salvação!
For the troubles and the sufferings of the world,
God, we call upon your mercy;
The whole creation’s laboring in pain!
Lend an ear to the rising cry for help from oppressed and hopeless people:
Come! Hasten your salvation, healing, love!
Words (Portuguese) and Music © Rodolfo Gaede Neto (1999). Used by permission.
Translation © 2004 General Board of Global Ministries, GBGMusik, 458 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta, GA 30308. [email protected]. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
“Pelas Dores Deste Mundo,” known in English as “For the Troubles and the Sufferings of the World” is a kyrie composed in 1999 according to correspondence with the composer Rodolfo Gaede Neto (b. 1951). It is also known as the “Brazilian Kyrie” (Daw 2016, 728). Neto composed the song in the context of a liturgy course he took during his graduate theological studies at the Escola Superior de Teologia, a Lutheran seminary in South Brazil. The class was discussing each portion of the liturgy and, when they focused on the kyrie, Neto realized that
when the Christian community gathers in worship, it does not close the doors behind itself, it does not pray for itself alone, and it does not revolve around itself. On the contrary, the Christian community reserves a special place in worship to cry out to God in favor of the pains of the whole world. (historical account provided via email by composer, November 2018).
Neto dwelled upon this profound realization and responded by writing a song that would inhabit the space between kyrie and diakonia; between intercession and service. He cites Matthew 20:29-34 as inspiration for the lyrics: “Lord, son of David, have mercy on us!” In addition, the text of the hymn “echoes the sense of urgency in the apostle Paul’s description of the world’s anticipation of salvation as being like the pains of a woman in labor (Romans 8:22)” (Daw 2016, 728).
The tune and lyrics came to Neto together, he recalls: “I can’t write music without lyrics, and I can’t write lyrics without music” (interview with author, November 2018). For him, theme and musical development are intertwined. In the same way, in the case of “Pelas Dores Deste Mundo,” theological reflection and compositional endeavor are closely connected, and can be considered a response to his understanding of the role of lament and intercession in Christian liturgy. Thus, “Pelas Dores Deste Mundo” can be considered a sung response to God’s grace as well as a clamor for his assistance.
Once the song was finished, Neto shared it with Nelson Kirst, the professor who taught the liturgy course that led him to write the piece. Kirst began using it in liturgy seminars elsewhere in Latin America. Growing interest in the song’s use led do it being translated to English by Simei Monteiro (b. 1943) and Jorge Lockward (b. 1965), who also harmonized it (Daw 2016, 728). Over the years, it has been also translated into Spanish (Juan Gattinoni, trans.), German (Bettina Lichtler, trans.), Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, French and Japanese.
The hymn was used at the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Porto Alegre, capital of South Brazil’s southernmost Rio Grande do Sul state, in 2006. The WCC has played an important role in helping to promote inclusive use of global hymnody in Christian worship, a role that is intimately connected with the WCC’s ecumenical role. In this context, “the diversity of the music from around the world became the primary means for embodying an ecumenical and global faith” (Hawn 2013, 222). At the assembly, more than 4,000 attendants sang “Pelas Dores Deste Mundo,” and the song appeared in the Assembly’s hymnal, Em Tua Graça (2006) in four languages: English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. The hymn was recently featured in an event in Brazil to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=99Sj1Lkc0sc.
In the wake of this gathering, the hymn spread to other denominational and geographical contexts, and appears today in several hymnals (see above), including the new hymnal of the IECLB (Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil), the Livro de Canto (2017). It is sung within the Lutheran context in Brazil and beyond, having found frequent use in North America. While Neto recognizes that all translation is problematic in the sense that it is impossible to preserve in its entirety the lyrical prose and meaning of the original language, he does think the English version of “Pelas Dores Deste Mundo” turned out particularly well, having preserved the spirit of his original composition (interview with author, 2018) instead of “padding it with extraneous phrases or imposing rhyme unnecessarily” (Daw 2016, 728).
“Pelas Dores Deste Mundo” is divided in two parts (A|B), and the text relies on a repetition of each of these in order. This dual structure appears in the melodic outline: in the first section, the melody tends towards a lower register and ends on the dominant chord. The second section soars towards the upper register, which also helps to underline the rise in hope of God’s church as it sings for God’s mercy. The form establishes a pattern of complementarity between the first section, which is a clamor to God based on the sufferings of the world, and the prayer-centered second section, which revolves around reiterations of peace, hope, power and justice as markers of God’s responses to the suffering of the world. The resulting whole holds in tension suffering and joy, struggle and peace, our vulnerability as humans and God’s loving grace towards us.
Rodolfo Gaede Neto is a pastor in the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IECLB) and professor of Practical Theology at the Escola Superior de Teologia (EST) in São Leopoldo, South Brazil. Born in Minas Gerais state, he went into pastoral ministry in 1979, and has taught at EST since 2003.
Daw, Carl P. Glory to God: A Companion. First edition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016.
Hawn, C. Michael, Ed. New Songs of Celebration Render: Congregational Song in the Twenty-First Century. Chicago, Ill: GIA Publications, 2013.
Rodolfo Gaede Neto, Biographical website www.luteranos.com.br/textos/rodolfo-gaede-neto-1951). The website includes other writings and compositions by Neto.
Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music Program, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.