Home Worship Planning Music Resources “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd” (“Christus Paradox”)

“You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd” (“Christus Paradox”)

TITLE:"You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd"
("Christus Paradox")
AUTHOR: Sylvia Dunstan
COMPOSER: French Carol
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3043
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 9:6-7; 52:7; 53:5; Matthew 5:44; 7:14; 17:1-9; 25:31; 27:28, 32-37; Mark 9:2-10; 15:20, 24; Luke 1:79; 2:14; 6:27; 9:28-36; 19:38; 22:69; 23:32, 34; 24:13-35; John 13:34; 14:21, 27; 15:12-13; 19:17-18, 21-26; 20:11-18; Romans 1:7; 5:1; 8:35; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 2:4; 3:19; 5:1; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2, 20; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Hebrews 1:3-13; Revelation 5:11-14; 7:15-17; 11:15
TOPIC: calm, conquer, cross, death, defeat, dying, glory, guidance, life, light, love, peace, presence, Redeemer/redemption, resurrection, serenity, servant, Transfiguration, Trinity, victory


Sylvia Dunstan (1955-1993) was early encouraged by her family in her love of music and song, and she began studying with Sister St. Gregory in St. Joseph's Convent near her home. She began writing songs in her teens, finding inspiration in the Catholic liturgical music of the early 1970s in the style of Ray Repp and the Medical Mission Sisters. One of the Mission Sisters, Sister Miriam Therese Winter, helped her learn how to write Scripture-based folk songs. Michael Hawn quotes Dunstan about these songs, "Most of these songs are now under a well-deserved and merciful curtain of oblivion," and Dunstan moved on to concentrate on composing hymn texts rather than music.

Dunstan earned a bachelor degree from York University and received graduate degrees in theology and divinity from Emmanuel College, Toronto. She was ordained by the United Church of Canada in 1980, served as a prison chaplain for ten years, as editor of the Canadian worship resource journal, Gathering, and went on to serve as minister at the Malvern Emmanuel United Church in Scarborough, Ontario.

At the 1990 summer conference of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, she was invited to lead a session exploring her hymnody. The Hymn Society released a collection of thirty-seven of her hymns and three gospel songs titled In Search of Hope and Grace in 1990. A second collection of seventeen hymns, Where the Promise Shines, was published posthumously by GIA Publications in 1995.

In March 1993 Sylvia Dunstan was diagnosed with liver cancer, and she died four months later on July 25 at the young age of thirty-eight. Her reputation continues to grow as one of the leading hymn writers of the twentieth century, and her work appears increasingly in published hymnals and choral works.

Michael Hawn offers this summary of her philosophy and contribution:

Dunstan realized that the structure of classic hymns with meter and rhyme "empowered" congregational singing. "I came to believe," she said, "that 'meaningful thoughts' in sloppy form are an impediment to the people's prayer, causing an undue focus on the work itself, rather than pointing to the worship of God." Thus she made a "transition from guitar-strumming, meter-mangling self-indulgence to form-following, tradition-loving classicism... from 1981-1983."

The PICARDY tune is a French melody, perhaps from the seventeeth century. Ralph Vaughan Williams used it as the setting for the text, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," and probably did the harmonization that appeared in The English Hymnal (1906) and in our United Methodist Hymnal (1989).


"You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd" is subtitled "Christus Paradox" by its author. The verses explore and powerfully portray the paradox of being both human and divine. The text presents paradoxical images of Christ as:

  • lamb and shepherd
  • prince and slave
  • peace-maker and sword bringer
  • taking and giving
  • "clothed in light" and "stripped of might"
  • "shining in glory" and "beggar'd by a soldier's toss"
  • walking daily with us and sitting in power at God's side
  • preaching the narrow way and having love that reaches wide
  • earthly Jesus and cosmic Christ
  • worthy in defeat and worthy in victory
  • worthy in peace and strife
  • one whom we both scorn and crave
  • both gift and cost
  • our death and life

The final phrase presents the memorable paradoxical image of Christ as "everlasting instant" as the conclusion to all four stanzas.

"Christus Paradox" is suitable for general use throughout most of the church year, but perhaps especially on Transfiguration Sunday and during Lent.


The unknown composer of PICARDY presents us with a melody that is often sung in the style of a chant; that is, not in strict meter with the notes taking their emphasis, length and volume and the phrases their shape from the sense of the text. Hymns set to this tune are thus often sung in a fluid, flowing and unmeasured style, often conveying a sense of mystery, awe and wonder, quite fitting to the "Christus Paradox" text. Note the exquisite musical depiction of the text at the end of each stanza, "everlasting instant," as the first syllable of "instant" is expanded and stretched out in a measure-long melisma.


See more Hymn Studies.