Home History of Hymns: "Let Us Offer to the Father"

History of Hymns: "Let Us Offer to the Father"

"Let Us Offer to the Father" ("Te Ofrecemos Padre Nuestro")
From the Misa Popular Nicaragüense,
The Faith We Sing, No. 2262

Let us offer to the Father,
with the bread and with the wine,
all our joys and all our sorrows;
all are cares, Lord, all are thine.
As the growing wheat will ripen
let us show to all the world
we can grow and ripen also
in the living of the Word.*

As we prepare for the celebration of World Communion Sunday, one way to achieve a sense of the world church and its gifts to us is to sing music from other cultures.

A major shift has taken place from the 1950s when two-thirds of Christendom lived in Europe and North America. In the first decade of the 21st century, two-thirds of the Christian community resides in the southern hemisphere.

Rather than being threatened by this demographic shift in Christianity, there is cause to rejoice. Many of us grew up supporting “foreign” missions through our giving. The seeds that have been sown by faithful missionaries throughout the 19th and 20th centuries have come to full blossom and the church in the current century is the first to have the opportunity to receive the gifts from these cultures and appreciate their contributions to a broader, worldwide understanding of Christianity.

The composition and dissemination of music from cultures in the southern hemisphere began in earnest in the Roman Catholic Church in the late 1960s following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) whose documents acknowledged the “genius of all races” and encouraged congregational singing.

Compositions in vernacular musical styles followed. Early folk Masses paved the way for reinforcing cultural identity through congregational music. Even though the forms of the Mass are set, composers found ways to contextualize them for their own situations.
Spanish language Masses reflected the dance forms, musical instruments, and folkloric patterns of specific cultures throughout Central and South America as well as in the Caribbean.

Early Masses included Misa Criolla (Ariel Ramírez), an Argentine Mass based on indigenous folk rhythms, and several Central American Masses including the collaborations between martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917-1980) and composer Guillermo Cuéllar (b. 1955) in El Salvador resulting in La Nueva Misa Mesoamericana and Misa Popular Salvadoreña. Folk Masses from Nicaragua include Misa Popular Nicaragüense and Carlos Godoy’s Misa Campesina Nicaragüense.

These Central American Masses added entrance songs and other ritual music to the fixed parts of the Mass, several of which have been incorporated into recent hymnals. Beginning in the late 1980s, especially with the publication of The United Methodist Hymnal (1989), hymnal committees have made these riches available to Christians in the northern hemisphere.

“Let Us Offer to the Father,” an offertory song from one of the earliest of the Central American Masses, the Misa Popular Nicaragüense (c. 1968), is sung as the communion elements are brought (even danced) forward in preparation for the Eucharist. The dance-like cross rhythms give a sense of celebration (fiesta) as the people gather to receive communion. The people join in on the refrain (estribillo) accompanied by guitars and percussion. Usually soloists or a choir sing the stanzas.

The stanzas are full of agrarian references reminding us that the bread and wine represent a partnership between the Creator and those who cultivate the fields. Stanza two acknowledges that the table is open to even the “poor and heavy laden.”

In stanza three we find that people gather from everywhere—“from the country, from the city”—to feast here. The fourth stanza provides a context for our “offerings of love;” they are used in the pursuit of “liberty and peace.” The final stanza is a joyful Trinitarian doxology.

We have much to celebrate as the worldwide body of Christ. Each of our individual congregations is enriched by Christians around the world. Join in the Fiesta of the Faithful!

*Trans. © 1994 Abingdon Press, House (Administered by The Copyright Company, Nashville, TN). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology.

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