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History of Hymns: "The King of Glory Comes"

"The King of Glory Comes"
Willard F. Jabusch
The Faith We Sing, No. 2091

Willard F. Jabusch

The King of glory comes,
the nation rejoices.
Open the gates before him,
lift up your voices.*

A Catholic priest, Willard Francis Jabusch (b. 1930) was educated at Mundelein Seminary, Loyola University and Northwestern University (Ph.D., 1968). His education was enhanced at the University of London, and as a composer, at the Chicago Conservatory. He was ordained in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1956.

Fr. Jabusch served as priest at Old St. James parish, a predominantly African-American parish in Chicago, and has taught at several institutions including the Chicago-area schools Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary (disbanded in 2007) and Mundelein Seminary, as well as Notre Dame University and the American College at the University of Louvain in Belgium. More recently he served as chaplain and director of Calvert House at the University of Chicago (1990-2001).

He described his call to ministry in a 2005 interview for the Maroon, the student newspaper of the University of Chicago: “When my grandmother was dying, . . . we called a Benedictine priest from St. Procopius Abbey. I was in seventh grade. The priest brought Holy Communion and administered the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. He did this with great devotion and reverence and I was very impressed. I thought to myself, ‘This is something very important, and I want to do this, too.’”

The author of several books including City on the Tiber, Walk Where Jesus Walked, The Person in the Pulpit and The Spoken Christ, Fr. Jabusch has also written plays including Francesco, Vincent and the Kingdom and No Other Gods.

In the same Maroon article, the composer explains what he has been doing since 2001: “I’ve been doing a lot of music. I got involved in music a long time ago and we’ve been making CDs of different songs that I’ve written. It’s church music, but in a very modern and contemporary style.

“I’ve always written the lyrics, but sometimes I’ve written the music and used folk melodies from other countries—from Haiti to Slovakia to the Ukraine. One of the most popular songs I’ve written, ‘The King of Glory,’ was based on an Israeli folk tune that I’d learned when I was studying in Israel.”

Fr. Jabusch is known for singable hymns. The two most popular, “The King of Glory” and “Whatsoever You Do,” based on Matthew 25, have been translated into many languages including recent versions in Vietnamese and Latvian.

These songs reflect the 1960s guitar style that was so prominent in the years following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), during which congregations were finding their voice and singing in the vernacular language and musical idioms of the day. The accessibility of the folk style contributed to the popularity of these songs among Catholic worshippers who were not accustomed to singing in the liturgy to the same degree that many Protestants were.

The text was written in 1965 for a parish folk-music ensemble at St. Celestine’s Roman Catholic Church in Elmwood Park, Ill. It was published in Hymnal for Young Christians (1966), one of the first post-Vatican II Roman Catholic collections published in the United States in the English language.

The refrain and first stanza are based on an Advent psalm (Psalm 24:7-8). Stanzas two and three recall Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 4:23: In all of Galilee, in city or village / he goes among his people, curing their illness. / Sing then of David’s son, our Savior and brother; / in all of Galilee, was never another.

The Israeli folk tune adds energy to the text. One way to sing the song is to start more slowly as in the popular Israeli Horah dance and gradually increase the speed at the end.

* © 1966, 1982 Willard F. Jabusch. Administered by OCP Publications. Reprinted with permission.

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