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“Christ, We Are Blest”

TITLE: "Christ, We Are Blest"
AUTHOR: Steve Garnaas-Holmes
TUNE: SLANE
COMPOSER: Irish folk melody
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3174
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20
TOPIC: blessing; bread; compassion; Eucharist; gathering; Holy Communion; new life; offertory; power and might; Resurrection; sending; sharing; table; wine

Background

Steve Garnaas-Holmes. The Rev. Steve Garnaas-Holmes is a poet, composer, and pastor of St. Matthew's UMC in Acton, MA. He has also served in New Hampshire and Montana. He writes music and liturgical materials for his congregation's worship: songs, hymns, service music, anthems, prayers, creeds, Eucharistic prayers, and so on. He is the author/composer of several pieces in The United Methodist Book of Worship, The Faith We Sing, Worship & Song, and several articles on the Discipleship Ministries website. He produces a daily e-mail reflection called Unfolding Light. He also writes and performs with the Montana Logging and Ballet Company, a quartet that has been performing music and comedy around the country, and occasionally on NPR, since 1975. The Montana Logging and Ballet Company has appeared at many annual and General Conferences.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes' Contributions to The Faith We Sing (TFWS) and Worship & Song (W&S):

  • TFWS 2117, "Spirit of God" (words and music)
  • W&S 6, "Gracious God, your servant Mary discovered new life" (prayer)
  • W&S 17, "A wilderness beckons us" (prayer)
  • W&S 32, "God of life, your risen son has gathered us" (prayer)
  • W&S 79, "We belong to God" (prayer)
  • W&S 81, "Creator God, how lovely is the dwelling" (prayer)
  • W&S92, "God of truth" (prayer)
  • W&S 93, "Renewing God, trusting in your infinite grace" (prayer)
  • W&S 181, "O God, our sacred source" (prayer)
  • W&S 199, "O God of the crucified Christ" (prayer)
  • W&S 212, "Deep, flowing mystery of God" (prayer)
  • W&S 3133, "Kyrie" (liturgical music)
  • W&S 3169, "You feed us, gentle savior" (hymn)
  • W&S 3174, "Christ, we are blest" (hymn)

Words

Despite its inclusion in Worship & Song in the section of hymns for Holy Communion, this hymn is really much more about the nature of the risen Christ than about the sacrament. While certainly appropriate as a Communion hymn, it is much more than that.

Stanza 1: In the sacrament, in the act of eating the bread we are, indeed, consuming the body of Christ, and in so doing we are strengthened for love by the indwelling of Christ's miraculous power.

Stanza 2: The crucified and buried Christ is likened to the planting of a seed. Both have been placed in the earth. Just as a seed of wheat will rise in the warmth of the sun to grow, so does Christ rise in new life.

Stanza 3: The risen Christ has not left us. He survives and lives in us in each act of love and deed of compassion that we perform in his name. We see Christ as we see ourselves performing those deeds.

Stanza 4: In short phrases, the text provides a resurrection theology of salvation and mission:

  • Christ feeds us in the sacrament…
  • Then sends us out…
  • To share the love we have received with others…
  • To be the body of Christ…
  • Sent by Christ's command…
  • In our actions and deeds to make love as real as the bread we share in Holy Communion.

The author writes of this hymn, "'Christ We are Blest' is a reflection on resurrection and what it means to be the Body of Christ, particularly as experienced in the sacrament of communion."

Music

Slane (Irish: Baile Shláine, meaning "homestead of fullness") is a village in County Meath, in northeastern Ireland. The village stands on a steep hillside on the left bank of the River Boyne. The music is the Irish folk song, SLANE, often attributed to Saint Dallán Forgaill (ca. 530–598), an early Christian Irish poet. The folk song is about Slane Hill, where in A.D. 433 St. Patrick defied the pagan High King Lóegaire of Tara by lighting candles on Easter Eve. Besides this general connection to Christianity, the folk song has little prior connection to the text. The tune in our hymnal comes from Patrice Weston Joyce's Old Irish Folk Music and Songs: A Collection of 842 Irish Airs and Songs hitherto unpublished, 1909. There is disagreement as to when the SLANE tune was first set to "Be Thou My Vision." Some sources claim it was by Welsh composer David Evans in the 1927 edition of the Church of Scotland's Church Hymnary. Carlton Young states that it was in the Irish Church Hymnal of 1919. The harmonization in our hymnal and in Worship & Song is adapted by Carlton Young from Erik Routley's harmonization in Congregational Praise, 1951.

With the exception of two notes, both of which appear in the third phrase, the melody in our hymnal is pentatonic, a quality that gives much folk music, including Irish, its sound. The melody has an unusually large range for most hymn tunes, but perhaps because of its comfortable tessitura, singers do not complain.

Sources

See more Hymn Studies.

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