Dear Friends in Christ,
Our final hymn writer that we will study this week is alive and well and living in Minnesota. I was first introduced to the music of Marty Haugen while attending weekly services at Lutheran Campus Ministry in Missoula, Montana. Personally, I find his music easy to sing and his moving text really speaks from the heart.
Haugen is both a writer and composer and has over 35 recordings and over 400 seperate printed editions through GIA publishing. Many of his pieces are well known among various denominations and there is a smattering of his work in our ELW including a communion liturgy and several hymns. One piece in particular from his repertory stood to out to me in the ELW and it was particularly appropriate for this week before Holy Week.
"O Sacred Head Now Wounded" (HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN) is a wonderful old German melody from the 1500's that was beautifully arranged by J.S. Bach. and is personally one of my favorite hymns. I can't imagine Good Friday without it. Haugen wrote his own poetry, set it to this wonderful tune and the new title is "O God, why are you silent" (#703). It was very curious to me because he is such a prolific writer of both tune and text and I wondered what inspired him to use this tune. I reached out to him directly and this is the response that I received:
"O God, Why Are You Silent?" was written as part of a project created
with my colleague and friend, Pastor Susan Briehl. We wanted the
project to reflect the movement in our lives from brokenness to
healing through faith.
I chose the hymn tune that is most powerfully associated with "O
Sacred Head" because I knew its deep and powerful resonance in the
Christian understanding of grief. Pastor Briehl actually cautioned me
about using a tune that was so closely connected to an existing text.
Still I thought it might be helpful for those in the midst of grief
and loss to find an echo in Christ's Passion.
In writing the text, I went back to both personal and communal
experiences of lament. The tune definitely helped me find the
emotional connections to those moments in my life, my family, our
nation and the world. In one sense it was a departure from my normal
practice, which is to work from text to music.
The tune name, HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN, translates to "I yearn from my heart". All of the composers we have studied so far had some yearning in their hearts and found consolation and strength through Faith. This is easier said than done but I think these wonderful hymns have taught us that it's ok to give your grief to God, that there is abundant healing in the simple act of writing a poem or humming a tune, that we are fine just as we are and that we creation a special connection to God, our friends, neighbors, and generations before us when we sing hymns.