In The Musical Spotlight: Lutheran Hymnists
In celebration of Reformation at the end of October, I have chosen to highlight one hymn written by a Lutheran Hymnist for each Sunday this month. Every week, I will give a little background on the hymn's author and a little reflection on that hymn. This week's hymn is "Go My Children With My Blessing" by Jaroslav J. Vajda.
Jaroslav J. Vajda was born in Ohio in 1919. He was a Lutheran pastor until 1963 when he was hired as an editor at Concordia Publshing House's magazine This Day. When the magazine was discontinued, he continued to work for Concordia Publishing House. Vajda wrote more than 200 hymns, some of which he worked on with Carl Schalk. It was with Schalk that he wrote his first "hit," as I would put it, with the hymn "Now The Silence" in 1969. A few years later, Concordia approached Vajda to write a hymn to the tune of "Ar Hyd Y Nos," which you'll recognize as "All Through The Night." Concordia asked for Vajda to create a hymn for the daytime and Vajda created "Go My Children With My Blessing."
I can quote what other people say about the hymn or talk about what Vajda said about the hymn, but I find that living music - music that continues to resonate through generations - is still around because it resonates on an individual basis. Along with this hymn and "Now The Silence," Vajda also wrote "God of the Sparrow." In each of these hymns, certain words or imagery is repeated, creating a hypnotic and meditative feel to each piece. It's easy to get lost in the words, not because there are so many, but because there is a pattern. In "Now the silence," we keep singing the words "Now the..." with a rising melody before returning to where we began and beginning again. We contemplate creation and ask "How" over and over in "God of the Sparrow." Here in "Go My Children" those exact words are repeated at the beginning and end of each verse. Each verse focuses on a branch of the Trinity, first God the Father, then the Son and then the Holy Spirit. Written as though God is speaking directly to us, the hymn uses present verbs to describe God's presence in our daily lives, but also uses the past tense to remind us of the service we just experienced. It's a beautiful sending hymn to remind us that even as we leave the church, God is still with us present and strong.
I hope these spotlights will inspire you to take a second and read through the lyrics of these hymns, and maybe find a way in which it can be present and live in your life this week.